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Books: Lessons in surfing flow from doctor's twin passions

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

For as long as he can remember, Dr. Tom Howard has had a passion for the ocean.

He grew up near it, played in it as a child and to this day can’t stand being too far from it for long. So it’s no surprise it’s what he chose to write his first book about.

Howard, a Ricefields resident who practices family medicine with Doctors Care in Georgetown, recently self-published “Pablo Body Surfs,” the first in a series of children’s books he has planned to teach kids about surfing and respecting the ocean’s power, while delivering a message of conservation.

“I think the big message is that the ocean is a lot of fun and it does need to be respected and you need to pay attention to what you’re doing to it,” said Howard, an avid surfer himself. “It’s not a swimming pool. It’s a living, breathing ecosystem and not only do you want to appreciate it, you need to take care of it.”

He dedicated the book to his “surfer girls,” daughters Kaitlyn, 8, and Ava, 7.

“I really wanted to create a book my girls would love to read,” he said. “I have always known that one day I would combine my interest in art and my love of surfing into one project to share with children.”

Howard is the book’s illustrator as well as its author. He was an art major before he decided to go to medical school and favored “cartoon type art.” He even named the series’ title character after a favorite artist, Pablo Picasso.

The vibrant images that splash the pages with bright colors and bold lines are selling on their own as people across the world order pieces via Facebook.com.

“Most of them are going overseas,” Howard said. “I have no idea why, but I just shipped out four paintings last week, all to people who live around the Dublin area. I’m selling just enough to pay for supplies and shipping and all the other things.”

To Howard’s mind, it’s the art that really makes the book.

“It’s a great way to kind of put it all together as opposed to just coming out with a message,” he said. “Everybody has got something to say. This is a different way to say it.”

In its current embodiment, “Pablo” is printed in paperback, but Howard’s goal is to land a publisher and see it redone in hardback, with big, glossy pictures. He’s looking for an agent to help him with it and hopes having a finished project to show will put him ahead.

He has seven books written, but has done illustrations for only two.

“The illustrations take forever,” Howard said. “Drawing is one thing, but to do the color, that takes some time. Illustrating it is a major undertaking, even for a little tiny book.”

He has a studio set up in his garage where he works on the illustrations and other projects, often with help from his girls, both budding artists.

The series is something Howard spent a lot of time thinking about before he set pen to paper. He came up with Pablo’s character and was encouraged to move forward with the project by friends he surfs with.

The decision to start Pablo’s adventures with body surfing was a natural. It’s how Howard got started, too.

“Pablo will be on a board eventually, but it’s so much fun to catch a wave with your body and surf it in. It’s such a unique experience.”

Writing about Pablo’s experience learning to body surf took him back to his childhood and “that thrill you get from a wave pushing you toward the beach. It’s the same every time and it brings you closer to the ocean and closer to nature. It’s almost like going back in time to that first wave you catch as a kid.”

The Pablo series is intended for kids ages 6 to 10. Howard, his wife, Kim, and their girls read it on a regular basis.

“The first time I read it to them I think they were very proud of me, because they saw me drawing and preparing the illustrations,” Howard said. “I think they have an appreciation of how long it took.”

Kaitlyn said she and her sister are definitely proud of their dad and his first book. “It’s really cool,” she said. “He gets his ideas from the ocean.”

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