SURFERS FOR AUTISM
Hanging 10 with Surfers for Autism. Ten years ago, a group of local South Florida surfers banded together after seeing the impact of autism on the family of one of their crew. The first event held in 2008 included just a dozen kids and young adults with Autism who were taught how to surf by a group of volunteer instructors. Over some post-event pizza, the group decided to make it an annual event.
The National Institute of Health estimates that nearly one in 68 children in the United States falls somewhere on the autism spectrum. For those with autism, it could mean difficulty with social interaction.
Those physical and verbal cues most of use to connect — facial expressions, eye contact, emotional expression– can seem elusive. For children and adults, it usually leads to difficulty forming friendships, internal frustrations that can’t be expressed, and family members who see their loved one struggling in a social world that wasn’t set up for them.
Surfing may not seem like an intuitive companion to battling autism, but many of the things that tend to come naturally for people with autism– solitary activities, determination, repetitive behaviors, rote memorization– apply to surfing. Learning the process and sticking to it is key to the sport– paddle, catch a wave, take off, repeat. Surfers for Autism allows kids and their families to participate in a community event with a band of volunteers who want them to succeed and understand how to communicate with them.
Communications Director, Dave Rossman says “The change over the years has been staggering. SFA has morphed into a philanthropic juggernaut hosting grand scale beach festivals.” That annual event has grown to 200 young people affected by Autism and a volunteer group over 300 strong. There are 10 events each season, and some out-of-state. This year’s 2-day event has attracted sponsors like Sun Bum and Global Surf Industries. Local fire stations and police officers take part along with local bands like Uproot Hootenanny, Fireside Prophets, ARTIKaL, Holidazed, The Copper Tones, Hello Elevator, Black Out Band and more!
The 10th Annual Surfers for Autism Beach Festival will be held April 21-22 at Municipal Beach in Deerfield Beach. The event is free, but you can support the event by purchasing merch, or making a donation or volunteering your time. Learn more by visiting http://surfersforautism.org/. RSVP
~ Jessica Chesler