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Surf and Breathe

Laid-back advice from surfer and rare disease advocate Arran Strong

Surfer Arran Strong surfs in Portugal
Photo by Reinaldo Andrade

It’s one thing to have a surfer’s mentality when life is easy-breezy. The last few months have been anything but and yet Arran Strong continues to channel a seaside vibe and meet the world with an open, surfer’s heart.

If he wanted to be glum, he’d have good reason. In recent years, Strong, 22, has competed on the professional surfing circuit, traveling from his home in Portugal to Morocco, South Africa, Mexico and Hawaii. (CSL Behring sponsors him.)

This year, due to the global pandemic, he’ll be sticking closer to home.

Born with the rare disease Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, Strong has paired his surfing career with a message of hope and solidarity with those who have respiratory illnesses. People who have the genetic disease Alpha 1 lack an important blood protein that protects the lungs from inflammation and infection. 

By Reinaldo Andrade
Headshot of Arran Strong on the beach
Arran Strong photographed by Reinaldo Andrade

Strong’s mother, Shane Fitch, founded Fundación Lovexair, an advocacy group in Europe for people who live with respiratory diseases. Strong serves as a “HappyAir” ambassador for the organization.

He surfs for the love of the sport, but also because of the health benefits, especially for those who have lung problems. Like Alpha 1 athlete, Karen Skalvoll, Strong encourages people to make physical activity part of their routine.

“When I’m in contact with the ocean, it makes me feel free and that everything is possible,” he said.

Now with some time on his hands, Strong started training for Portugal’s national triathlon. He’s also at work on a documentary that chronicles some recent health challenges.

“It’s not just about competition,” Strong said. “I want to motivate, not just other Alphas, but anyone who feels like their weaknesses are bringing them down.”