Chiropractic Lifestyles Magazine

By Jennifer LeClaire

Dr. Stephen Franson has a passion for the big waves—and he’s bringing other DCs into the ocean blue through a new chiropractic association.

When Dr. Stephen Franson isn’t seeing patients in his Boston area office, he’s catching waves in Costa Rica, Hawaii or Australia. The 39-year-old New Hampshire native caught the surfing bug as a teen-ager, learning the ways of the ocean in 40-degree water as he waited for a winter Nor’easter to usher in monster waves.

“Surfing is a nature-centered lifestyle, a natural way of living that keeps you outdoors, on the beach and in the ocean,” says Franson, who is the epitome of the ‘work hard, play hard’ professional. Incredibly, Franson sees about 1,000 patients a week at his Franson Family Chiropractic center in Beverly, Massachusetts but he takes a vacation each quarter to have fun in the sun—and in the surf.

In between exotic adventures, Franson returns to those cold New Hampshire waters to keep his form. He likens surf training to a boxer’s training because, he says, you have to work your upper body and do cardio simultaneously. Jumping rope and hitting the heavy bag prepare him to paddle out in bigger surf and, if need be, hold his breath for up to a minute under water in case of a heavy wipe-out. As a committed proponent of functional fitness, Franson is a dedicated Crossfit athlete, a rare-breed of “ready for anything” fitness fanatics. Franson has authored the N8FT (Innate Functional Training) curriculum for The Bonfire Health Program is a repeatable online 14 week total lifestyle transformation program that is the definitive on-line resource for living the wellness lifestyle.

Franson frequents Costa Rica with his best friends and co-founders Dr. Bruce Wong and Dr. Paul Kratka. A favorite spot for the three surfing families is the famous Playa Negra surf break. Wong is an internationally known chiropractor who has one of the largest wellness clinics in the world in his downtown Waikiki office. Kratka is known as the Mick Jagger of chiropractic.  Franson says, Kratka, at 53, seems ageless in the water.

In fact, Franson describes both men as “absolute anatomy charts” averaging a mere 3 percent body fat. They are the founding members of the International Surfing Chiropractors Association a self-described organization for subluxation-based  chiropractors who love traveling the world together, sharing waves and the chiropractic vision. “In Costa Rica, the men get up with the sun,” Franson says. “We always first on it in the morning, surf together and keep a close eye out for each other because part of the fun factor is the danger factor. It’s juvenile, but surfing over reefs that have razor sharp coral right below the surface and waves that could easily drown you is part of the thrill.” Mingling with tiger sharks is also part of the thrill. One mean-looking shark drove the surfing chiropractors out of the water while on a surf-trip to Panama.

The International Surfing Chiropractors Association isn’t all about surfing, of course. As its name suggests, it’s also about chiropractic. The members regularly check and adjust each other’s spines to keep each other prepared for world-class surfing venues. They also, as Franson tells it, “put each other back together again” when it’s over. “When you are on a 15-day trip surfing five hours a day, your body gets pretty banged up,” he admits. “So we just help keep each other well and fit and adjusted.”

Wellness is also part of the message these DCs hope to communicate. In addition to their chiropractic foundation, it means healthy eating, work/life balance, regular exercise and rich spirituality. It also means healthy relationships with family and friends. “We are practicing what we preach,” says Franson, who has been practicing chiropractic for 12 years. Indeed, when the group was in Costa Rica, the families ate three healthy, home-cooked meals daily. Mealtime was a learning opportunity where the families shared recipes. In fact, an important feature of the is the Ideal DietStyle and virtual cookbook, complete with recipes for feeding a healthy family, instructions and shopping lists.

Franson has determined that being a successful surfer is not unlike being a successful chiropractor, a successful husband, a successful father or human being. With surfing, he explains, you have to respect the forces of nature and learn to use natural laws to your favor instead of trying to work against them. Like waves in the ocean or healing in the body, nature dictates the flow. “People become powerful when they can work with nature as opposed to working against it,” Franson asserts. “That’s the essence of chiropractic and it’s the essence of my life.”

Franson’s surfing lifestyle is popular with his patients. His office is adorned with surfboards hanging on the office walls. His staff wears Hawaiian shirts in the wintertime just to make patients smile. Some of his patients ask him for lessons and he obliges with Ohana Day (ohana means “family” in Hawaiian). Patients can get surf lessons at the practice’s beach party. “Surfing is a good way for me to connect with some of the teenagers,” Franson says. “They love the fact that I skateboard, snowboard and surf, and they think their doctor is a cool guy. I hook up with them to go surfing sometimes when they are struggling with life.”

Franson’s advice to other chiropractors who want to learn to surf: Be patient. Surfing is one of the hardest sports there is to learn, in his opinion. It is both mentally and physically demanding. “Learning to surf requires extraordinary patience, but that’s part of the attraction. You can’t master it quickly, and you just keep improving as you go,” Franson says. “You may feel a bit of defeat if you expect that you are going to get out there and just start surfing.” Still, no matter how big the waves, defeat is never in the minds of Franson or his surfing buddies when they paddle out to sea atop their surfboards. Nor is defeat in their minds when they are caring for patients with difficult cases. Franson doesn’t give up or wipe out easily. He says, “I always tell my patients that I am going to practice until I am 90 and surf until I am 100.”