Surfing is a summer sport that many people dream about but don’t often get the chance to try. Adaptive surfing is changing that for children with disabilities and their families and friends. For the second summer in a row, the Adaptive Sports Academy at The Lerner Children’s Pavilion teamed up with Skudin Surf to offer HSS pediatric patients a day of fun and surfing at the beach. With the help of special equipment and experienced instructors, the kids were able to experience the thrill of riding the waves for themselves.
Adaptive surfing offers kids an environment where they can move more freely while still challenging themselves. In the water they can build self-esteem, confidence, interpersonal skills, and a greater sense of freedom than they may experience on land. Here are a few tips for both children and their families to get the most out of a day of adaptive surfing:
- Sunscreen! Even if it is going to be a cloudy day at the beach make sure to apply sunscreen and lip balm with SPF to both the surfer and all the spectators in the cheering section.
- Life jacket: Make sure the surfer has an appropriately fitting life jacket no matter their level of swimming experience. Check with the surfing teachers to ensure adequate fit prior to entering the water.
- Who’s in charge? The surfer should know who they are listening to for directions while in the water and on land and who to look for when in need of support. The ocean is a powerful force and an increase in the number of distractions can put the adaptive surfer and teacher at risk.
- Encouragement: Cheer on your adaptive surfer and all the other adaptive surfers out there! It will make them feel calmer and braver as they try a new and challenging activity.
- Beach play: Encourage kids who may be fearful of the water that the beach is an experience in and of itself. They can be on the shore and experience the water and sand in any way that they feel comfortable with. For some children and families, even a day at the beach is a rare or new life event.
- Say hello: Make friends with the adaptive surfers and volunteers/teachers both ashore and in the water along with fellow friends and family members. Every support system can always use more support!
- Take pictures: Capture the moment on the adaptive surfer’s face when they realize how their bodies are able to move on the surfboard, and the excitement and freedom they feel interacting with the water and their peers.
- Have fun! Every adaptive surfer has different needs and abilities so make sure, no matter the level you or your surfer may be, to smile and enjoy the experience for all that it has to offer.
Bridget A. Assip PT, DPT, PCS works with children of all ages and a variety of diagnoses, including autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorders, genetic syndromes, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. She has taken coursework in the treatment of torticollis, Neurodevelopmental Treatment (NDT) Techniques and breathing/postural treatment techniques. Bridget is a board certified pediatric specialist and offers pediatric aquatic therapy.