If you’ve spent time in the Outer Banks, you may have encountered a dog with a heart-shaped nose, stylish sunglasses, a bone collar and a shiny red surfboard.
Well, he’s not a real dog, he’s SURF DOG, the fictional star of “SURF DOG’S BEACH SAFETY TIPS,” a book for all ages written and illustrated by husband-and-wife team and Hatteras Island residents, Kevin McCabe and Kim Mosher.
Kevin is a veteran surfer, waterman and woodworker and Kim is a well-known color pencil artist who illustrated the internationally popular children’s book, “Pelican and Pelicant.”
Please tell us a little bit about yourselves. What brought you to the Outer Banks and why have you chosen to stay?
Kevin: I came to the Outer Banks back in the early 70s to surf. I found the waves and fishing better than any place else in North Carolina and loved the wide-open spaces between the villages, the endless miles to explore for two of my favorite activities. That same reason is why I decided to eventually make the Outer Banks my home.
Kim: I met Kevin surfing at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The ocean brought us together that day in May 1985. Kevin opened up my eyes to a beach culture that I fell in love with. The beauty and simplicity of the Outer Banks lifestyle captured my heart. We live in the maritime forest a mile from the Lighthouse Beach and are thankful every day.
How did you all decide to pursue writing and illustrating books together?
Kevin: I always enjoyed writing since I was in high school. When Kim’s art career took off, it was only natural that her illustrations and my writing would come together.
What inspired you all to create “SURF DOG’S BEACH SAFETY TIPS”? How long did it take you all to write and illustrate the book? We’d love to hear more about your individual processes, as well as your collaboration!
Kevin: I wrote “SURF DOG’S BEACH SAFETY TIPS” a long time ago. Kim’s SURF DOG character is what made the book come to life. When we finally decided to pursue this project, it took just over a year to complete.
I’ve spent my whole life on the beach and have surfed for over 55 years. Sadly, in that time I have seen a lot of bad things happen. Many times, these things have happened to innocent visitors or first-time beachgoers. Often little things, like a very bad sunburn or burnt feet are common but nevertheless bad. However, more serious issues like rip currents can be deadly but avoidable if people were more educated about them.
Kim: “SURF DOG’S BEACH SAFETY TIPS” was drawn entirely by hand with pen and ink and color pencils. I love the detail I can achieve with this medium. SURF DOG is fun, direct and educational. Hopefully, SURF DOG will help keep everyone happy and safe at the beach!
Why did you all decide to write a children’s book with a beach and ocean safety message, specifically?
Kevin: I wanted the book to be humorous but direct and cater to a younger crowd. Kim’s illustrations are exactly what I wanted. The lessons within are so important, but there was nothing out there that covered so many serious topics at once or in one package.
The SURF DOG character was the perfect medium to connect with children, though many adults learn from him too. We really admire some of the local businesses and teachers that have embraced the book as a teaching tool for their clients, rental visitors and schools. Surf or Sound Realty, for an example, put a large quantity in their oceanfront rentals. It’s amazing; people come up to us with tears saying, “That book saved my child’s life” or it’s their “favorite book.” Education is key and it’s so nice to see local businesses truly care about the visitors who are so important to the Outer Banks.
What are some SURF DOG safety tips locals and visitors may not usually think about when heading out to the beach or into the ocean?
Kevin: I think three of the most important lessons within are the water-related ones. Most people don’t understand one wave can change the water’s depth by several feet very quickly. They also don’t understand that stepping over a ledge could put you into water over your head. Both of these can get you into a lot of trouble if you are not a good swimmer.
What do you all like most about the Outer Banks?
Kevin: I like the always changing weather and seasons. Like the tide, there’s something new not far away. I also like the wide-open areas within the park; there are so many places where you can be alone.
Many people don’t realize the seashore along Hatteras Island is a national park. Why do you think people should care about their Outer Banks national parks? Why should people visit?
Kevin: People should learn that the Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches are not permanent. They are always moving and changing. However, that is what makes them so attractive. Those same forces have shaped a very unique history and a culture that has been evolving since the first shipwreck or since the first Native Americans made it out here more than 1,000 years ago. It has a fascinating history that can still be seen today.
What is your favorite way to enjoy Cape Hatteras National Seashore?
Kevin: I enjoy the Outer Banks best when surfing with a few friends or trout fishing in the fall with nobody around. It’s also nice just to say, “Kim, let’s go down to the old Lighthouse Beach for a swim.” My favorite parking space is exactly one mile from our house!
How can people purchase a copy of “SURF DOG’S BEACH SAFETY TIPS” and copies of your other books?
Is there anything else you would like people to know about you all or your books?
Kevin: Our book is ageless and is going to be a teaching tool for years. You would think people would become more aware of their surroundings but, sadly, many of the hazards we talk about in our book are not going away and, in some cases, they are getting worse. Skin cancer and water-related deaths have been on the rise. I told Kim when we wrote the book, “It’s going to take a little while to catch on.”
Thankfully, SURF DOG has become a recognized character on the OBX as his beach safety campaign continues to gather momentum.
In addition to “SURF DOG’S BEACH SAFETY TIPS,” the pair has written and illustrated “My Rainy Day Cat,” a story that is inspired by a poem Kevin wrote for his mother, with Kevin and Kim’s cat, BK, serving as the model for the main character.