Ohana – by John Hughes


In the Hawaiian language the word “Ohana” is steeped in significance and purpose. The simple definition of Ohana is family, or clan. But for Hawaiians the word symbolizes the importance of shared sacrifice and caring that holds families and communities together and strengthens their culture against the pressures of history.

This is certainly not a concept unique to Hawaiian culture, but this, along with their intense relationship with the ocean and their love of surfing, resonates within the surfing community here and around the world. This sense of community was demonstrated recently when my wife, Marie, was contacted by JoJo Braddock, the manager of Joe Nuzzo’s Suncoast Surf Shop of Treasure Island. JoJo’s daughter, Bailey, is one of the top competitive paddlers in the state. We know them through the CBSM event The Florida State Paddleboard Championship, which we organize as a fundraiser for the museum.

Another top Florida paddler, Mark Shen, and his son Gabe save money each year to purchase a surfboard, which they then donate to a deserving young person who would not otherwise be able to afford one. Mark and his son are friends with JoJo and she contacted us to see if we knew of someone.

When we mentioned this to CBSM Vice-President Melody DeCarlo, she quickly found a candidate: Manny, a thirteen year old who has faced many challenges in his young life. His parents divorced many years ago and his father recently regained custody of him. Manny now lives with his father, Ryan, and grandfather, Rod, in Cape Canaveral. Being so close the beach, Manny spends much of his time there. His grandfather is a longtime surfer and was interested in getting Manny involved with surfing.

Manny’s dad, Ryan, was born with just one kidney, which makes him susceptible to kidney disease. Because of this Rod became acquainted with local surfers and National Kidney Foundation founders, Rich and Phil Salick. Rod has been an NKF volunteer for many years. When we contacted him about the surfboard donation he was thrilled to be a part of it, as this reinforced the sense of Ohana that pervades the surfing community.

We made arrangements to meet with Manny and Rod at the Cocoa Beach Surf Museum to present Manny with his prize. JoJo brought the surfboard from Treasure Island with her daughter Bailey. In addition to the surfboard, JoJo also brought a surfing wetsuit, surf leash, surf wax and t-shirt, all donated by Suncoast Surf Shop. Also present was Brian Walton, a professional surf instructor who is donating three surf lessons to Manny. Manny is a polite and quiet young man who seemed thrilled and maybe a bit overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity, but he will certainly put the surfboard to good use. He also has an uncle who surfs so he can look forward to having a built in “Ohana” within the surfing community for the rest of his life.

Comments Are Closed