‘Surfers Healing’ Celebrates 20th Anniversary


Danielle Paskowitz

Surfers Healing Logo

Someone wise once said that the perfect medicine for any ailment is salt water; sweat, tears, and the ocean. This notion is very present in the surfing community and surfers who truly love the experience of a wave want that experience to be shared with others so that they can feel the same rush and energy that comes from catching a wave.

Not everyone has the skills needed to catch a wave. People who have learning disabilities such as autism have an even harder time catching waves and it’s doubtful that they could even catch a wave on their own. For this reason pro surfer Israel (Izzy) Paskowitz started a non-profit called Surfers Healing, which is now a nationwide organization who’s mission is to make surfing a reality for people living with autism.

Surfers Healing hosted its 20th anniversary this past Thanksgiving weekend where many different organizations (that help children with autism) met on the beach with the goal of catching waves. Andrew Sampson, a program assistant and music therapist for Easter Seals Hawaii was present at the anniversary along with his student Gabe who was participating in the surfing for his first time.

“They get that experience of just being stoked on a wave. Without this program none of these kids would be able to get this experience,” said Sampson, whose job is to work with his student on community skills such as social skills, money skills, and safety skills all while setting and working on specific goals.

The founder of this non-profit found that his son was calmed from sensory overload when he was riding a wave. Thus Sampson was excited to see how his student would react to the entire experience of surfing seeing as he had never had the chance to try it before.

Sampson, being from Santa Catalina, is an experienced surfer and got to paddle out into the lineup with everyone from Surfers Healing, which made it possible to see his student get paddled into waves.

“I never expected to go surfing, and it was really really fun,” said Sampson’s student Gabe, who got to catch waves for the first time in his life.

According to a study done in 2014 by the CDC, autism affects one in every 68 children in the U.S. and surfing can help many of them with sensory overload. In the past year, Surfers Healing helped more than 4,500 children with autism by taking them out in the waves all across the world, utilizing the energy and healing that the ocean brings.

“Everyone loves the feeling of your first wave, and you could really see it in the eyes of the kids,” Sampson said. “They were all just stoked on a great experience and they’ll be able to bring that energy on with them after they leave the beach.”

In 2017 Surfers Healing organized 23 surfing events across the U.S. and other parts of the world. Its first event in 2017 was held in Raglan, New Zealand, Sampson attended the South Shore event that was held on Nov. 25, and the last Surfers Healing event of this year is on Dec. 1 in Hilo, Hawaii.