The Surfer Bio Project Teaser from Cliff Kapono.
Courtesy of Do Seas Make Us Sick? Surfers May Have the Answer, New York Times.

Cliff Kapono is a surfing biochemist earning his doctorate at the University of California San Diego who runs the Surfer Biome Project.

The native Hawaiian surfer wants to learn if regular exposure to the ocean alters the microbial communities of the human body.

Through the Surfer Biome Project, Kapono has swabbed more than 500 heads, mouths, navels and other body parts and surfboard of surfers from Ireland to Chile in order to obtain samples that he puts through a mass spectrometer that identifies the chemicals found in each sample. “We have the ability to see the molecular world, whether it’s bacteria or a fungus or the chemical molecules,” the 29-year-old scientist told the New York Times.

At the university’s Center for Microbiome Innovation, Kapono sequences and maps the microbes found on the surfers in order to find antibiotic-resistant organisms. In essence, the premise of this project is the belief and understanding that the oceans makes humans better.

The Surfer Biome Project is a part of the American Gut Project, supported by the University of California San Diego Global Health Institute in collaboration with the European Center for Environment and Human Health.

For more information on the Surfer Biome Project, visit here.

Kapono is certainly conducting a fascinating project. It would be very interesting to see if (1) surfers and ocean swimmers had any differences in their microbial maps, and (2) if ocean swimmers could participate in this program. This is especially true because the swimmers spend much more time with their head (and mouth and ears) in the water compared to surfers.

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