Over the past few years I have spent the majority of my time chasing surf. Time researching flights, watching Swell forecasts, getting lost on back roads hundreds of miles from cell service, cleaning out reef cuts and dreaming of glassy freight training barrels. I have scored some world class waves but, I have also had adventures foiled by threatening groups of territorial locals preventing me from even paddling out. It’s a passion that has overwhelmed my life… there is nothing else I would rather do, every time I paddle out I experience a meditative focus that brings calmness to my chaos. The search has been all about me getting the biggest one in the set, longest ride and cleanest line..….Surfing is really all about me…it is a very selfish pursuit. But I have been asking myself if it has to be.
Years ago I saw an interview with this Surfer that had a son with Autism, he found that taking his son out surfing brought him a level of calmness and happiness that could only be found in the Ocean. Izzy Paskowitz founded Surfers Healing an organization that runs free surf camps giving the opportunity to Autistic children to experience the same love for the ocean that I have. I do not know very much about Autism Spectrum Disorder or very much about Kids, it seems that Autism is becoming more prevalent in our society and that no one can really explain with a high degree of causal certainty why. I found the Surfers Healing Facebook page earlier this year and saw that they were in need of Volunteers for a few camps in Southern California. I decided that if my new thing is to do something Scary each day and to be useful to my community then...this was it. What’s worse than trying to take off a Wetsuit after you are completely surfed out? Putting on a cold wet one the next morning. So I signed up for that, “Wetsuit and Life Jacket Assistance”.
Driving to the event I was scared, this was completely out of my comfort zone. I don’t know anything about how to deal with Children. I didn't even know the basic definition of Autism. I thought to myself that If I turned my car around and went home no one might notice I did not show up. Not happening. Upon arrival I was introduced by my Boss of the day Bob about the concept of the “ Autism Spectrum”. Bob has sons, one of which is on the Spectrum but was there to help us out. Throughout the day I got a firsthand education on the Spectrum. I was lucky enough to meet kids that were able to tell me their name, how stoked they were to catch the south swell and give me a high five. I was lucky enough to meet kids that were non verbal but willing to get in a wet wetsuit. I was lucky enough to meet kids that that put up a physical fight with their parents (to the point I felt uncomfortable) in resistance to putting on a life jacket and going surfing. I was lucky.
Lucky enough to get to watch all of those kids come back into shore with smiles so bright I knew their world had been changed, maybe just for the moment or maybe like me; for the rest of their lives. Lucky enough to see these Champion parents watch their children find calmness in their own chaos. I have watched good parents handle temper tantrums in the mall and thought to myself, parenting looks tough. That day I realized how tough, these parents overcome challenges on a level I might never have to face. Watching those parents breakdown crying and jump cheering at seeing the level of happiness surfing brought their children did more than pull at my heart strings. I can count the number of times in the past ten years I have gotten emotional on one hand. It took everything I had for me to hold back my tears behind my Oakley Frogskins on the beach that day but I couldn't do it.
It’s not about me. Maybe giving just a little back that day changed me.