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Published August 28, 2008 More Info »
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Published August 28, 2008
Pictured: Owen with Izzy, the founder of Surfers Healing.
Pacific Beach. San Diego, California.
Owen and Izzy

We took our son Owen to the beach yesterday.  We were greeted in the parking lot by a couple of guys who helped us carry our gear down to the beach and showed us where we could get food and drink, etc.  After we got settled in, I pulled out my camera and this is the first thing that came into focus:

A young kid is flailing wildly on the sand, kicking, screaming and landing punches. His Mom tries to contain him while a guy in a red shirt struggles to put a lifevest on him. A second man hurries over to assist and they manage to get the lifevest on the boy after about FIVE minutes of fighting.   One of the men throws the boy over his shoulder, grabs a longboard, and starts jogging out into the surf while the other man heads back to shore. The Mom sits on the sand with her head in her hands for a few seconds, finds her composure, gets up again and watches the her son head out toward the breakers. The men in the red shirts are professional surfers, the boy is autistic, and this is Surfers Healing.

I set up my tripod knee deep in the water and do my best to locate the pair about twenty-five yards out.  The boy is still flailing and fighting (and landing some good punches) as a wave crashes into them. The boy goes flying off the board into the whitewater but in a split-second, the surfer has snagged him back up one-handed just as another wave hits them. This time, they stay on the board and continue paddling out.

A woman with a bullhorn calls for a lifeguard to paddle out just in case there is a complication.  I have the camera zoom maxed out because the waves are breaking about forty yards offshore.  A fresh set of waves come through and two of the boards catch them.  The first surfer pops up and then pulls his young rider up in front of him.  The other does the same but the rider is tiny, maybe three years old.  The surfer lifts her up on his shoulders and they catch a long mellow ride.

There are about twenty people waist-deep in the ocean cheering on the riders as they glide into shore. 

The next wave is even bigger.  Only one longboard catches it, a long "left".  It's the red-shirted surfer and the flailing boy, only now, he isn't flailing, he's surfing.  They ride the wave tandem, boy out in front, balancing perfectly, all the way into shore.  The Mom runs out to meet her son and they embrace.  The boy is no longer upset, he's just hugging his Mom.  And he's smiling.  I find out later that the boy's name is Caden.  He's nine years old and he likes the water.  He just doesn't like lifejackets.

The next kid to go out is a bit more relaxed by the whole thing.  In fact, he's already laying on the surfboard, ready to go.  Of course, the board is upside-down in the sand and facing the wrong way but no worries.  No one laughs, no one cares, he's among friends.  Two surfers pick him up, board and all, and Owen paddles out.

 surfer_healing_064.jpg

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