In 1996, professional surfer Izzy Paskowitz and his wife Danielle founded the non-profit Surfer’s Healing, an organization of volunteer pro surfers who provide free “surf therapy” for children with autism. According to a report this month by Good Morning America, Paskowitz was inspired to create the organization after he used surfing to bond with his son Isaiah, who was diagnosed with autism.
“Being able to connect with Isaiah in the water doing what I love, which is surfing, was incredibly healing,” Paskowitz said.
At the time of Isaiah’s diagnosis, Paskowitz said he “didn’t really know anything about autism. I was young and a professional surfer, and I wanted him to be a surfer like me.”
Approximately 1 in 59 children lives with autism in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Sensory overload is common for those with autism, but the weightlessness and rhythms of the ocean can have a soothing effect. Paskowitz observed this himself one day when he took Isaiah surfing as a child.
Realizing the therapeutic value of surfing, Paskowitz organized his network of pro surfers to organize an event for children with autism and their families, where kids with autism could try out surfing for themselves.
Today, Surfer’s Healing hosts around 30 events worldwide, and offers therapeutic surfing to around 6,000 people with special needs. On September 8, the organization hosted an Autism Beach Bash at Belmar Beach, New Jersey, offering over 300 people the chance to surf. One of the participants was Elizabeth “Bethy” De Tata of Bricktown.
Although Bethy is deaf and confined to a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy, she was able to enjoy 30 minutes of surf, with her family cheering her on.
“This is real surfers doing something real,” Paskowitz said of Surfer’s Healing. “We aren't going to find a cure for autism, but for a long time,
we're going to take out kids.”