Interview: Jacob Venditti

posted by / Blogs / December 20, 2013

The night was as wild as a hare at Turtle Bay. It was a fundraiser for the Mauli Ola foundation — an organization that teaches kids with cystic fibrosis how to surf — and who doesn’t love a reason to party? Adult beverages were moving faster than the rip on a big day at Off The Wall and excitement was thick in the air. From Kala Alexander to John Florence, Donavon Frankenreiter to Eddie Rothman, the banquet hall was decorated with stars from all walks of surf. But glowing brighter than all of them was a 20-year-old kid from North Carolina, Jacob Venditti. Jacob has cystic fibrosis and he absolutely charges. He was the evening’s keynote speaker. While he was on stage, Jacob had to stop several times to in order to weather storms of standing ovations. And after his speech, upon returning back to the table and receiving proud hugs from his close friends and family, a stranger approached Jacob. “My son was just diagnosed with cystic fibrosis,” said the man, with a tear streaking down his face. “People like you give us hope.” —Brendan Buckley

SURFING Magazine: Can you explain a bit about cystic fibrosis? What is it and how does it affect you?

Jacob Venditti: Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease. Both my parents are carriers of the gene, so it was inevitable that I would have it. My lungs [and other organs] are incapable of regulating mucus with sodium chloride, and so the mucus builds up. As a result, I can only really use 60% of my lungs. That makes me easily susceptible to any type of infection or virus. And it makes it difficult for me to breathe. The best way to describe it is that it takes me the same amount of energy to run one mile as it would for a healthy person to run two. Basically, I have to work twice as hard at everything I do.

What are some good ways to cope with the disease?

Being in salt water and breathing in salt air is, in my opinion, the best thing you can do. I’m very fortunate to have grown up by the beach, because most kids with the disease are in the hospital two or three times a year and have to stay in for weeks at a time. But I’ve only been three times my whole life. So that shows the difference it makes growing up near the beach and around the ocean. One symptom of cystic fibrosis is really bad congestion, and going surfing alleviates that so much. It’s almost like physical therapy for me.

How did you get connected with the Mauli Ola foundation?

They came to my hometown of Wrightsville Beach to do a fund raiser and take kids with CF surfing. I had just released that edit [see above] from Mexico and my friends introduced me to the guys. They were so amazed when I told them that I have cystic fibrosis and I surf. It was such a cool experience and they decided they wanted to get me out here for the fundraiser, which has been so fun. I plan on helping out with the organization as much as I can.

What are some of your goals with surfing?

More than anything, I want to surf big waves. I’d really love to surf some of the outer reefs here on Oahu. I paddled out to one of them last year, but I got spooked and basically just hung in the channel — it was really big. This year, though, Kala is hooking me up with a Patagonia vest. So I just want to keep on pushing in that direction and hopefully I’ll be able to get a few bombs.

Learn more and to donate to the Mauli Ola Foundation.

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9 Responses to “Interview: Jacob Venditti”

  1. James Dunlop says:

    You’re a legend Jacob. Good man.

  2. Charles Fortenberry says:

    Jacob, you are an inspiration to many people. You always said you would ride the big waves, Now you are doing it. I like that focus..# your greatest cheerleader.

  3. Jeannette Curren-Cochran says:

    CONGRATULATIONS JACOB! GOOD JOB! YOU CAN REACH YOUR GOALS!

  4. Debbie Harbin says:

    So excited for you Jacob. You have overcome so much and are an inspiration to everyone. I am so impressed by your successes!!!

  5. Craig Klein says:

    While we are at it, lets never forget Matthew “Big Worm” Joyce, who lost his heroic struggle with CF a few years back. Matt lives on through his many friends and “Big Worm’s CF Foundation”. All the Boyz in PL and everywhere Matthew visited miss you, Brotha.

  6. Alex Venditti says:

    You should be so very proud of yourself Jacob with an attitude and dedication like this you can achieve anything in this world that you want.
    So very proud to be your Father!

  7. Merk says:

    you rule Jacob

  8. Mary Lou Miller says:

    wow……your the dude Jacob …..so proud and happy for you. love, Mary Lou

  9. Ryan says:

    Massive props to Jacob. But also to the whole organization they’ve got going on there. I like the idea that just because something goes wrong in ur life u shouldn’t just sit back and wait to die you should take advantage of every opportunity that you get all the same. Theres a bloke shredding in this video -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9b98UcLHyI <- he has lung cancer in its early stages but he's still out there charging and he surfed so well he made it into the video, massive props to him too

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