“Do not Panic” is a vital message in Kevin McCabe’s beach safety book. The Buxton writer and longtime surfer partnered with his wife and illustrator, Kim Mosher, to create “Surf Dog’s Beach Safety Tips.” Mosher, a nationally known colored pencil artist, already had created the Surf Dog character when McCabe decided to take on the project.
They thought the fun, colorful, and cool dog was the perfect choice to get their message out to kids about riptides and other dangers associated with the seashore.
With the annual number of deaths due to rip currents on our nation's beaches exceeding 100, according to the United States Lifesaving Association, the writer and artist hope they can make a difference. Already, “Surf Dog” has achieved nationwide interest. People as far away as California and Hawaii have expressed interest in marketing the book.
The Buxton Rescue Squad purchased large postcards featuring Mosher’s rip current illustration and safety tips. The cards will go out to Realty companies this winter, and Surf & Sound Realty is putting the book in their rental cottages.
“They have the ability to reach people; at least put it on their website,” McCabe said.
One North Carolina woman started a beach safety campaign on her own.
“She took them to Realty companies, the police and lifeguards,” said Mosher. “She was like an angel in our lives.”
The book caught the eye of Atlantic Beach Rescue and the Emerald Isle Police Department. Both purchased books. Emerald Isle Police Chief Tony Reese was looking for a unique way to teach beach safety to children. McCabe remembers him saying that kids could care less about a flyer or a sign, or even a flag.
“If you are 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, you are not looking at the NOAA chart,” McCabe said about the safety signs posted at beach accesses.
“When we hand them (illustrated postcards about rip tides featuring Surf Dog) out at art shows, they are really looking at them,” Mosher added. “The hardest piece I had to do was the rip current (chart), getting it right and balancing fun with seriousness.” The back cover of the book has rip currents tips, and the illustration that shows Surf Dog navigating one.
McCabe has seen firsthand what can happen within seconds at the hands rip currents and mother nature. Anyone who lives on the Outer Banks has heard the sorrowful stories of children and adults drowning annually, including trained swimmers. When such news hits the air waves, the community grieves.
Sitting at their dining room table, the beach safety warriors discussed the Outer Banks death of a small child who was swept away by a wave despite being under the guidance of a parent. Sorrow filled their eyes. Mosher remembers a woman who broke down at one of her art shows after seeing the book.
“She was aware of the 4-year-old’s death,” said Mosher, who, at the time of the tragedy, was under pressure to finish the book illustrations.
“I was heartbroken,” she said. “There was an outpouring from the community.”
Such memories, and those McCabe has stored away from experiences he’s had while surfing around the world for the last 53 years, fuel their efforts.
“I’ve seen some horrible things,” McCabe said. This includes surfers disappearing within seconds never to be seen again. McCabe, like others in the surfing community, has helped.
“I’ve saved well over 100 (people) over 50 years,” he said. “I believe every year in North Carolina there would be 100 more deaths if it wasn’t for the surfing community.”
Surf Dog is becoming their ally.
The hip pooch with sunglasses and a dog bone collar, talks about everything from wearing flipflops to avoid sand spurs and applying sunscreen to protect skin to surfing and boogie boarding tips, watching the tide, and dealing with rip currents. Before Surf Dog became a champion for beach safety, for 4-5 years he was appearing on T-shirts and stickers.
“He was just Surf Dog Cape Hatteras, and he was a hit,” Mosher said. “Then Kevin had been writing down some of the stories for years in relation to rip currents.”
McCabe remembers thinking “I am really tired of the old rip current charts, and nothing relates to kids.”
In his own words, “Surf Dog, he’s the one talking. He is confident. He is humorous. He is dead serious. He is going to tell it just the way it is, and he isn’t going to back down!”
Let’s hope communities and safety folk nationwide help Surf Dog share his vital message.
Mosher does approximately 50 art shows annually where she sells her art, the beach safety book and mailable postcards featuring the rip current illustration. Kids can study it then mail it to a friend. The book also is available at Hatteras Island shops and bookstores including Buxton Village Books, Lee Robinson’s General Store, Conner’s Supermarket, Blue Pelican Gallery and the gift store at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
You also can contact Mosher at kimmosherdesigns.com or by calling 252-995-4788.