I don’t think I slept a wink the night before because I was so nervous. I mean, I was sending my kid - who has severe autism, is nonverbal, and doesn’t know how to swim on his own - into the ocean with a perfect stranger. Don’t get me wrong, I read the rave reviews and was assured by many parents that these professional surfers really do know what they are doing, but the mama bear in me just couldn’t help being a little scared.
The morning of July 13, 2011, I was afraid that Pacific Beach wouldn’t be prepared for Olin… but the volunteers at Surfers Healing wiped away all of my fears the moment we arrived. It was a bright, sunny day (proven by the horrible sunburn I ended up with) and as we walked down to the beach, there were so many people! I saw the huge Surfer’s Healing tent and headed straight over. I knew Olin was in the first group of the day, so I got him checked in and picked out an adorable wetsuit for him to borrow because the water was a little chilly.
When they called out for the first group of surfers, I walked Olin over to the volunteers that were helping get the children secured with life-vests. He was a little reluctant when the time came to clip the life-vest on, but the girls spoke to him in very soothing tones, and he calmed down right away. He was whisked away by two volunteers holding either hand and headed for the ocean. Olin ended up being paired with the tallest surfer out there, so they were really easy to spot! I stood at the edge of the water with about 50 other people and watched as Olin sat on his knees on the board while his surfer did all the hard work of paddling, paddling, paddling…
Right away, a little boy and his surfer caught the first wave and the roar of applause from the entire crowd was amazing. We were all there supporting each other’s children, and rooting them on (it made me tear up a bit)! Suddenly, I see Olin and his surfer riding a wave, and everyone started whooping and hollering again J
I really wasn’t prepared for my kid to catch the second wave of the day, so I biffed the big moment and didn’t have my camera ready… but I did manage to catch the tail end of Olin’s pipe dream in this little video:
I had to laugh watching him fall off the board and wipeout because it’s all a part of the surfing experience, and his surfer picked him right up out of the water every time – one handed mind you, which is no easy feat with a 60 pound child – and plopped him right back up on the board!!!! By this time, I was armed with my camera and I just couldn’t stop taking pictures. I wanted to capture every moment of his experience:
|Paddle away, dude|
|Look at all those surfers!!!|
|Go Olin, go!!!!|
Olin ended up catching about four more waves, and after an hour or so of being the coolest surfer dude ever, it was time to come in and let another kid have a shot at riding the waves! Olin was smiling (and shivering) and I could tell that he had such a great time out there. I wrapped him in a towel, and we sat in the warm sand and ate our lunch while we watched the other surfers enjoy the ocean. Olin and I are what I like to call “people watchers” and I loved observing all of the other families and children. I was particularly impressed with a female volunteer who really spent time making kids feel comfortable and playing with them while they were waiting for their moment. I enjoyed watching this one teenaged boy play with her, because he had been very reluctant to the whole experience until she came over and started to play with him. It was so awesome to watch everyone have such a great time, because I know every child involved will not soon forget their day with Surfers Healing. Olin and I still talk about it (ok, I talk about it and he gives me a knowing smile).
I will never forget this day, and I hope that it can be on repeat every year! THANK YOU SURFERS HEALING FOR EVERYTHING YOU DO!!!!!!