Hats off to scientists who surf

Knowledge is freedom. Faith takes over where knowledge leaves off. There are no Ph.D.'s in surfing - yet - but there are doctors who surf.

NBC’s “Today Show” will be airing a story on scientists and surfing. Not just any scientists, mind you, but some of the nation’s top biotech executives responsible for the research and development of future cures for deadly cancers and other illnesses plaguing mankind.

Parts of the show were filmed at La Jolla Shores and beautiful Del Mar’s 15th Street. What was supposed to be a rainy day was bright and blue with nary a cloud to be seen.

With 15 years surfing, Gary Firestein, professor and director of UCSD’s Clinical Investigation Institute, is perhaps the most experienced of all the participating surfers. Although Firestein may be the most experienced, he may have had the biggest scare.

Being filmed from every angle and feeling under pressure, Firestein nearly collided violently with Polly Murphy.

Fortunately, at the last second Murphy was able to get out of the way before being struck with the surfboard. Firestein’s eyes were as big as quarters as he narrowly avoided the accident. Murphy was flabbergasted.

Murphy, senior vice president for business and scientific services at Scripps Research, gave her all and more. Barely able to walk from an earlier knee injury, Murphy did not know beforehand if she even would be able to stand up to ride a wave. Limping into the water, she was determined to give it a try.

Fortunately for Murphy and the “Today Show,” she summoned the strength and did stand up catching wave after wave. Murphy may have surfed some of the longest waves using grace and poise to navigate her way all the way to the shore.

Kitty Mackey, Pfizer Global Research and Development vice-president at the company’s La Jolla Laboratories was the center of attention. The savvy Mackey stole the show with her movie star good looks and superior wave savvy. She was amazing under the pressure of national television and the Sunday surfing crowd.

Although Mackey will be interviewed for this upcoming episode of the “Today Show,” the Willis brothers are grateful she took a few minutes out of her very busy schedule to share a few of her words of wisdom with us.

Q: D you have a high-pressure job?

A: Yes, and that is why I like surfing so much, because it’s an outlet for stress and it helps me focus at work.

Q: Do you remember your first really legitimate ride where you really got the surfing feeling?

A: The first time I caught a wave on the outside and stood up and rode it was one of the best feelings in the world. I got hooked the moment I did it and knew I would have to come back for more.

Q: Which of your accomplishments makes you proudest?

A: Marrying Bill Carly. We will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary this summer. He is my soul mate.

Q: How about in surfing, who inspires you?

A: The Willis brothers.

Q: Any others?

A: It’s the Willis brothers. They taught me how to surf. Not just the technical aspects surfing but, you know, the spirit of surfing.

Q: What are your main passions in life?

A: Science and surfing.

Q: Where do you see yourself going from here?

A: I hope to have another 25 years of wonderful marriage. I hope to see more medicines come out of the pipeline from noble bio labs. And I hope to become a better surfer.

Q: What mark would you like to leave on the planet Earth?

A: New medicines for patients, better health, contributing to a healthier world.

Q: Any wise words for the youth?

A: Work hard, find a way to contribute and lead a balanced life.

E-mail surfing experts Michael and Milton Willis at