If someone swims in the ocean once or 100 times, the experience always has an effect. For the 250 kids living with autism participating in the eighth annual Surfers Healing camp Monday, Aug. 18, the experience could change their lives.
John Pike has helped organize the camp since it began in 2008 and, as the father of an autistic child, knows firsthand about that first time effect.
“We live for this one perfect day … we always work hard and prepare for this to make that one perfect day happen for those families and the kids,” Pike said.
That perfect day for each of the 250 children involves a day at the beach and one-on-one surf sessions with Hawaiian watermen and pro surfers like Surfers Healing founder Izzy Paskowitz.
Every year registration fills up within minutes, Pike said, and this year was no different. Families participating in past events came from as far away as Alaska for Wrightsville’s therapeutic waves. Some families make a vacation of the trip, which is sometimes challenging for those traveling with an autistic child, Pike said.
“When you have kids with autism it is kind of difficult, so that is what we are here for: to make that day have no stares, no problems and everybody is in the same boat,” he said.
Seeing the look on their faces after each child’s surf session and the emotional reaction on the beach from the families is what keeps the Surfers Healing camps going, Pike added.
“It is really emotional for everybody so to put it into words is so tough, but you can visibly see something just happens,” Pike said. “Everybody I know that surfs or plays in the ocean knows it makes them feel good but our kids deal with major sensory issues so imagine what good they get out of being in the ocean and riding a wave with a professional surfer.”
The Surfers Healing surf camp will last all day from morning until late afternoon Aug. 18, on the beach strand around Columbia Street. There will also be a meet and greet for the families Sunday, Aug. 17, in Wrightsville Beach Park. After the surf camp, Surfers Healing founder Izzy Paskowitz will host a book signing for his personal memoir, “Scratching the Horizon,” at Blockade Runner Beach Resort from 4-6 p.m. Aug. 18.
For more times and information visit the Surfers Healing Wrightsville Beach Facebook page.