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Through the past decade, Melissa has had the support and mentorship of so many amazing individuals in the surf industry. Through her introduction to surfing with the Mauli Ola Foundation, she has had the privilege to go surfing with many legendary watermen. Over the years she has had the opportunity to surf with Sunny Garcia, Kala Alexander, Gavin Beschen and many more. The strongest relationship she developed was with Shawn "Barney" Barron, who took her under his wing and coached Melissa in his unconventional style of surfing. She credits Barney for teaching her how to navigate the water with her CF lungs and the strength she gained from surfing.  More importantly, teaching her many lessons that kept her alive during her time in the ICU. 


Following her transplant and Barney's passing, Joey stepped in as Melissa's protector in the water. The two have worked together to develop their own methods of surfing while being tethered together with oxygen tanks and tubing. Many iconic companies like O'Neill and Pearson Arrow have come together to help Melissa and Joey in their efforts to surf safely in the water.  


The surf community as a whole is jumping behind Melissa and Joey in their efforts to keep them on the water as long as possible. Sink or Surf hopes to highlight the ever-changing factors that Melissa has worked through during her first double lung transplant and looking towards a second.  Continuing to rebuild the strength required with the hopes of surfing independently again. 




Melissa was born and raised next to the ocean but it wasn't until she went surfing with the Mauli Ola Foundation that she discovered its healing properties for her disease.  Born with Cystic Fibrosis, at the age of 24 her lungs continued to deteriorate due to lung infections and damage her lung capacity was below 40% and she was hospitalized several times a year. 

As her passion for surfing grew and she began surfing regualrly with local Santa Cruz legend, Shawn "Barney" Barron, the health benefits were solidified as she stayed hospital free for 2 1/2 years.

Following her double lung transplant in 2015, Melissa's main drive and motivation for rehab was to be able to get back on a surfboard. Through her post-transplant health challenges, Melissa and her partner Joey have made the decision to find their way around many medical roadblocks, even taking an oxygen tank out into the surf with them.


Just three years after her first transplant, Melissa has been told she will need to be relisted for another double lung & kidney transplant. Her goal is to continue pushing forward and to stay as strong as possible for surgery with hopes of living a happy and healthy by the beach again.

'Sebi' Lee

Lee is an Emmy® Award winning creative storyteller. She has produced, directed and written documentaries, short stories, news, commercials, music videos since 1999. Her documentaries have featured in national PBS.


Lee also produced award winning art shows and several hundred short stories for the daily news magazine at Arizona Public Media, the PBS affiliate in Tucson, Arizona.


She has also worked for the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) in Los Angeles since 2002 as a consultant, producer, program coordinator, mentor and lecturer.



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