For the third year in a row, Square Peg teamed up with the Half Moon Bay Surf Club to bring Bay Area autism families to the beach for a two days of surfing, fun and respite – free of charge.
This isn’t about curing or treating autism. It’s about love and laughter and friendship and caring for the family as a whole. Siblings of the autistic children join in on the fun as well. The whales, however, that might have been magic. In my 20 years of living on the Coastside, I’ve never witnessed humpbacks in so close to the beach. I’m not prone to mysticism, but there was clearly something special happening.
“Catch a Wave and You’re Sitting on Top of the World”
Imagine your child’s perfect day – away from sensory triggers, in nature, with caring and silly friends. He’s celebrated for his running in circles and singing to himself. He’s encouraged to explore and run and shout by capable and caring teens. Then whales and dolphins come and visit. You, the autism parent pour yourself another cup of tea and join the other parents on the beach squealing with pleasure or resting on the warm sand.
I have been meaning to write all week to say what an incredible morning that was. I know J never really got in the water, at least not past his waist, but getting in a wetsuit was huge and being in the ocean with such incredible, caring, young people was truly a gift.
“The day was magical and of course the things that no one could plan, the whales breeching, the dolphins and sea lions and all the birds, the perfect weather conditions were a awesome. But as a parent, who has been to many events, the things that you did plan, the wetsuits, the boards, the sand toys, all the food and the absolutely amazing team of adults and teens was beyond inspirational and touching. There were numerous time during and after that tears came to my eyes when thinking about the generous spirit you all brought to the day. I could not have asked for more and yet I wanted more. I wanted to stay forever and plan to bring J back down for riding if you can accommodate us.”
Dina Tarah, MFT
How it all happened
This day, with the exception of the whales, dolphins, pelicans and sea lions making a most welcomed guest appearance, is the brainchild of Rupert Isaacson, founder of the Horse Boy Method™. The Method uses nature, humor, movement and horses to celebrate joy, wonder and communication between autistic children and their families. Isaacson has trained therapeutic riding centers all over the globe in the Method and works extensively with Half Moon Bay’s Square Peg Ranch in setting up a Flagship Center for HorseBoy work at the 10 year old non-profit. When Isaacson visited in the early spring of 2012 he was sitting in Peet’s Coffee with me, Square Peg’s Director and co-Founder.
“You know Joell, all these kids are so drawn to the water and the movement of the ocean is similar to the movement of the horse. Because its so big and rhythmic and powerful. I’ve always dreamed that what we are doing with horses, we can do with surfing. Do you know any surfers?”
I already had my phone out placing a call to Maverick’s Executive Director and Half Moon Bay Surf Club Head Coach Rocky Raynor. Within minutes Rocky joined us at the coffee shop. As he walked in I tried to hug him and introduce him to Rupert, but Rocky was busy dialing his phone. “Talk to this guy.” He hands the phone to Rupert, gives me a hug and says “This is going to be great!”
That phone call as it turns out was to former Coastside resident and teacher Jack Viorel of Wilmington North Carolina. Jack’s Indo Jax Surf Charities has conducted adaptive surfing for kids with struggles such as sight and hearing impairment, homeless orphans and, as it turns out, autism.
Jack made plans to travel with his crew to Half Moon Bay and taught the local kids his secrets of how to keep the guest surfers safe and give them the thrilling rides that surfers call “the stoke.”
Since that first day, we’ve conducted a total of seven special surf days at Roosevelt Beach in Half Moon Bay for autism families. We’ve racked up thousands of hours of volunteer time and service and served over 50 families. Sitting on top of the World indeed!