On Wednesday SoCal Session’ers Trina Bean & Ryan Allan volunteered at the Surfer’s Healing Surf Camp in Pacific Beach. Here is their report:
On Wednesday we went to Tourmaline Surf Park in Pacific Beach to volunteer for the Surfer’s Healing Surf Camp. Surfer’s Healing is an autism foundation that challenges the preconceived notions regarding the capabilities of people who have autism. Basically, they take autistic children surfing. In the ocean. And that is badass.
We went to help in any way we could, but there were so many good people volunteering that we were only needed for a short time. Then we took in the adventure that is taking autistic kids surfing. In some cases it was terrifying for the child. At least at first. Some kids hopped right on the board with their surf buddy volunteer. Some had been at camps before. But some hadn’t and they were frightened. And with good reason. Waves are crashing and loud. There are a lot of people and commotion. This is not their normal environment. Children would lock arms and legs around a patient volunteer. Some would cry. As a volunteer we wanted to go comfort a child, and tell them it was okay. As a parent that emotion must be multiplied by a million. In a lot of cases it seemed as if the parents were more frightened than kids!
Despite that very real, very visceral fear every year Surfer’s Healing takes more than 4500 children out to catch waves. It didn’t take long to see why. Sometimes it would take five or more volunteers but eventually a kid would be on a surfboard out past the first deluge of wave. They’d be floating, safely, past the break away from the shore, away from the comfort of Moms & Dads. And they would be calm. They would float with these incredible surfer volunteers waiting for a good wave to come in. Then, as a surfing team, they would turn, paddle and catch a wave. They’d cruise in towards the shore. Sometimes sitting, sometimes standing and sometimes being held aloft by their surfer buddy. Almost universally, they’d be smiling.
It was truly moving. Kids who moments before were in the throes of panic or tantrum were now smiling shouting, “Again!” Time and time again for 5 hours the surfer volunteers would smile and take them out again. When anyone came in towards the shore on-looking parents, strangers, volunteers would erupt in cheers, hoots and shakas. Hands up-raised for high-fives.
The kids were the stars of the day. More than once we spoke to parents who had driven in from out of state just to spend a few hours at Surfer’s Healing. What these surf camps are providing can’t really be measured but we are sold on the power of what they do. Surfer’s Healing isn’t about what a child with autism can’t do. It is about what they can do.
We volunteered because we saw a post from @SurfersHealing on instagram. And we’ll volunteer again. It was awesome. You can learn more about autism and how surfing might impact an autistic child on the Surfer’s Healing website.
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