Surf’s Up: Garretstown Surf2Heal volunteers catch a wave of kindness and extend therapeutic surfing opportunities to young people with Autism.
Surf2Heal is a not-for profit organisation that offers young people with autism the chance to try surfing with the help of experienced volunteers. Traditionally, it takes place each year over a week in August and is the most highly anticipated summer camp for families of children with Autism. However, this summer due to popular demand, a weekend surf club was established, offering new surfers a chance to access the water and more experienced surfers a chance to advance their skills.
The weekly surf club, which runs in addition to the usual week long August camp; caters for 8 new young people with autism every week and is facilitated by up to 25 volunteers. An hour session is plenty of time to catch enough waves and to leave everyone smiling. Some weekends include a second session with older, more experienced surfers, which involves more coaching.
Surf2Heal is about more than surfing, it’s a social and sensory experience. Being on the water or playing on the beach is regulating. The outdoor environment can provide for people with ASD’s sensory needs and they get a chance to connect with themselves.
According to Surf2Heal, the weightlessness and rhythms of the ocean offer a therapeutic experience for the surfers, many of whom struggle with sensory overload. “Over the years we’ve seen that Surf2Heal also has a profound impact on parents. Autism parents are always hearing about what their children cannot do but at Surf2heal, it’s all about what their kids can do. For parents to see their kid up on a surfboard, sometimes, it’s nothing less than a miracle,” said a spokesperson for the organisation.
For more information on any of the of the inclusive programmes, please contact Sports Inclusion Disability Officer, Cliona firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.corksportsability.ie