Lumina News file photo
Parents and spectators gather along the shoreline to watch children with autism surf during the annual Surfers Healing event on Aug. 20, 2012.
Surfers Healing camp director John Pike knows the Wrightsville Beach leg of the summer Surfers Healing tour is popular because registration is usually closed within five minutes of opening, he said on Monday, Aug. 12. This year marks the eighth annual Surfers Healing free autism surf camp in Wrightsville Beach and Pike said the participation has swelled from 50 kids the first year to 225 this year.
Founded by former professional surfer Israel “Izzy” Paskowitz after he discovered his autistic son found solace in the waves, the camp offers free surf outings across the United States.
Pike also became involved in Surfers Healing when he found his son, who was diagnosed with autism at age 2, experienced a similar calming relief in the water.
“When I found out he was on the spectrum I needed to be able to help him, and myself, and I wanted to help other people,” Pike said. “It has been a big deal with him being involved in the international surfing community too so he really understands how neat it is.”
Leading the crew of around 20 Hawaiian lifeguards, surfers and watermen from Surfers Healing this year will be Izzy’s brother, Adam Paskowitz. Pike said the participating kids would be in good hands with the crew assembled that day, which will also include a team from the local Indo Jax Surf School.
At past Surfers Healing camps in Wrightsville Beach, Pike said there have been families from as far away as Alaska and California.
“Wrightsville Beach is such a sought-after camp, I think a lot of people from all over the country want to come do this camp here just because of the location,” he said.
While underprivileged families from outside the area with autistic children have been sponsored with trips to Wrightsville Beach in the past, Pike said the organization would be focusing on local children this year.
“Honestly, there are some disadvantaged local kids and we are going to make sure we give them VIP treatment this year,” he said.
Although it has reached capacity, Pike encouraged anyone who wants to be involved to come out to the Surfers Healing camp on Monday, Aug. 19, beginning at 9 a.m. between Columbia and Birmingham streets.