UCSD Student, Surfer Using Passion to Find Answers to Health Questions Surrounding Sport

Kapano and his colleagues have been to six different surf spots around the world to collect samples.

One University of California, San Diego (UCSD) student's passion for surfing has turned into a quest to better understand the sport's effects on surfers. 

Cliff Kapano, a doctoral student at UCSD and avid surfer, heads up the Surfer Biome Project. He is using his passion for surfing to find answers to health questions. 

“We want to see if the bacteria and the chemistry on surfers are different from each other, or maybe from someone who doesn’t surf, and if they are, then maybe we can start to ask the question why," Kapano said. 

Kapano and his colleagues have been to six different surf spots around the world and have collected approximately 500 samples from 50 to 60 surfers. 

They have been using Q-tips to swab surfer's skin, in part. They test the nose, eyes, mouth, ear, stomach, hands and feet. Kapano and his colleagues then ask the surfers to do their own fecal sampling. 

“The bacteria on your skin are just as important as having a healthy heart or a healthy liver," he said. "These make up what it means to be healthy.”

Kapono added that, in the future, this could “potentially lead to medicines, it can help us understand more about anti-body resistant bacteria and it can help us understand more about human health by looking at this unique demographic of people.”

Though the prospects of the research are unclear, some surfers think there may be something left to be discovered. 

“Everyone who comes out of the water always comes out glowing, they say," said surfer Kelly Cantner. "What if they could manufacture that glow, right?”

You can follow more of Cliff Kapono’s adventures on Instagram. 

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