When Travis Suit’s daughter Piper was 4 years old, she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a severe, incurable genetic disease affecting the lungs, sinuses, pancreas, liver and intestines. Instead of teaching his little girl about life, in 2011 Suits began an ongoing quest to save her life. And through his research, he’s uncovered scientific evidence that salt water offers life-extending benefits on her fragile lungs.
Four years ago, Suit and three of his friends created Crossing For A Cure, a 50-mile endurance stand-up paddle from Bimini, Bahamas to the Florida mainland. The crossing of the Gulfstream on paddleboards could be considered dangerous, but Suit explains that people living with cystic fibrosis face life-threatening fears daily—like not being able to breathe and constantly contemplating an impending transplant or death.
“It is our responsibility, or ability, to respond in a way that honors their path,” Suit says. “If one day of suffering on the ocean is how we can help people with a lifetime of fear, pain and struggle, then it’s a simple choice and a valiant crusade.” The event is an opportunity for paddlers to be bold in the face of fear.
This year’s event, which took place in June, inspired more than 30 men and women to join Suit as he crossed the ocean to bring awareness to cystic fibrosis and raised funds for his non-profit, Piper’s Angels Foundation. The non-profit supports families affected by the disease and provides a platform for Piper to become her own advocate.
The paddlers braved disorienting darkness, multiple swell directions, monstrous thunderstorms, lightning, waterspouts, steady winds, whitecaps, fatigue, summer heat, sea sickness and large predatory animals. Suit says they all faced anxiety, fear, distraction, adrenaline and frustration, and “yet became witness to the depth of Mother Nature’s beauty and power of her fierceness. We found a natural rhythm and became a unified force of purpose and passion. We became a family of brothers and sisters.”
It’s easy to understand how Suit inspired the participants who joined him on the epic adventure. To him, “the event couldn’t take place without the staff, the staff couldn’t execute without the resources, the resources wouldn’t exist without the sponsors and partners, the mission of helping couldn’t happen without the donors and all of it would be impossible without the ocean and Mother Nature, of which we are a small part.”
This year more than $130,000 was raised for Piper’s Angels Foundation. Additionally, the non-profit will be setting up a surf and paddle program for cystic fibrosis patients that allows them access to the most vital environment they can be exposed to and inspires every breath.