North Shore-based pro surfer Gavin Beschen doesn’t remember if he’s been to Northeast Florida before. Which is surprising, given that judging by the way the 42-year old’s spry enthusiasm for the small, playful waves around Jax Beach the past couple of days, the Pipe-charging Hellman must have taken at least one dip in St. Augustine’s Fountain of the Youth.
Beschen’s in town as part of a Hawaiin and Californian contingent raising awareness and funds for the Mauli Ola Foundation—a non-profit organization that aside from supporting advocacy organizations for genetic disorders, gets kids with Cystic Fibrosis into the ocean for therapeutic surf sessions with professional surf stars. Tonight Surfer the Bar in Jax Beach hosts Beschen and company for a fundraising event, one of a dozen or so the group undertakes each year on both coasts.
Beschen stopped by the Void office where asked him to shed some light on Mauli Ola and the therapeutic properties of the ocean. We also took the opportunity to ask about a few of his favorite things.
Tell us what brings you to Jax.
I’ve been on the road for eight days now on this east coast run, just taking children surfing. We started in North Carolina and took the children surfing up there. We’ve been really fortunate with waves for this trip. We’ve had great windows of waves and good weather. And the turnouts have been incredible. It’s been so good seeing the families come together. The expressions and the feelings the families have, watching their children forgetting their day to day worries, leaving them on shore and go surfing, that’s what matters. It’s been spiritual, cleansing. To see them fall in love with surfing has been so great.
How’d you get involved with Mauli Ola?
They brought me on a long time ago. I took the kids surfing for the first time in Hawaii. For me it was just easy. I love taking kids surfing and sharing the joy. This has been such a great way for me to give back.
Can you talk about the ways in which the ocean, more than being a fun thing for kids to enjoy, can be therapeutic for kids with Cystic Fibrosis?
The children with Cystic Fibrosis have a very low lung capacity and they don’t have an off switch for their mucus build up. It’s hard for their bodies to digest enzymes and proteins. They have to take medicine to do that. So what the ocean does is, when we’re sick the ocean flushes us out. It’s a natural treatment for the kids. A proven treatment.
Beyond that it’s just happiness through a positive experience. By the end of the surf days the kids are little wave warriors and [surfing] is all they want to do.
With Mauli Ola we also go to hospitals and visit kids. We bring them surf posters and coloring books and other fun stuff. We just try to keep it positive so they can get better and get in the water with us later on.
Alright. Unrelated questions. What’s your favorite wave in the world?
Well, I live in Oahu on the north shore. Those waves are my favorite. But I love all the waves int he world. They are all special. The ocean is my favorite place to be.
You’re a regular footer, but who is the best goofy footer surfing pipe today?
That’s a really tough question. There’s legends like Derek Ho still pushing the envelope. He and his brother are some of the greatest influences in my life. I’m getting older, too, so that’s something I want to be able to emulate. But there are so many young guys surfing so good. East Coast guys like Cam Richards. That guy is surfing so focused. It’s a really special wave and so cool to see guys surf it at such a high level.
You’re a pretty shredding guitarist, yourself. But who is your favorite guitarist?
There’s a family in Hawaii called the Artis Family. They are touring the east coast right now. As far as living legends and just unreal humans, and of course guitarists, they are the best in my mind. They are my favorite for sure.
What’s the best thing you’ve eaten in Jacksonville so far?
Oh, I had shrimp tacos at the place next to the ferry yesterday.
Yep. That place is great!