Life: Surfer’s Healing (Malibu)
Life: Surfer’s Healing (Malibu)
I feel everyone has a purpose behind their conviction to shoot: whether it’s a visual log of your friends and loved ones, a mode of creative outlet, sheer excitement of gadgetry, a family favor, or even just to pay the bills. This past weekend I was reminded in bold just what that reason was for me. Being able to have a hand in creating a lasting memory for a family, and seeing their smiles.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of helping out with Surfer’s Healing, an organization that brings the surf to Autism kids. Initiated by Israel and Danielle Paskowitz and their autistic son Isaiah. A former competitive surfer, Israel one day took their son out to surf and saw the calm it brought to him. Since then, the organization has spread with help of volunteers to share the experience to countless families up and down the coast. Read their full bio here.
Start of The Day
The day began early as we left for Malibu at 7am. An hours drive down the coast on the Pacific Coast Highway, the fog was heavy and foreseeably a gloomy day on the beach. I had my 70-200mm for close shore shots, but I was worried there wouldn’t be anything passing through these heavy curtains.
As we arrived, most tents and stations were for the most part setup already. Some volunteers had apparently been there since 4:30am, getting ready for the first rounds of families to begin showing at 9am. We helped with what we could, moving the last of the ice, drinks, bagels, and fruits. After a short group gathering of volunteers, we dispersed according to our roles, and I began my day of capture.
Honestly I had no idea what to expect when I began. I knew we were working with autistic kids, but I did not know how they would react to being taken out into the ocean. Some were compliant and calm, but every so often there would be some whom clearly did not want to be taken out. I was initially rather hesitant about shooting such scenes, but soon I came to see what everyone had been previously talking about. The kids who would kick and scream as they stepped into the water, were all the sudden riding the waves with a big wide smile followed closely with a charging battle cry. As I watched through the viewfinder, I could see the look of concern and terror quickly turn into excitement and joy as they rode into the wave. Often times the riders would come near the shore as they completed a wave. I would run into the water thigh deep to get a close up shot only to have them turn around and go back out into the water with the kids yelling, “One more! One more!”, kicking and splashing the water around them trying to paddle out into the water themselves.
The original end time of 4pm got pushed past 6, as all 175 kids were able to make it out into the water. There were tremendous efforts by the volunteers. Some of the surfers went non-stop for hours, as they took kid after another. Volunteers were running into the water with sharp rocks underneath, making sure every kid had enough support to get them safely back onto shore. All in all it was an extraordinary experience seeing the transformation of the kids, as well as their parents as they sent their kids off to shore, their faces filled with emotion. I was lucky enough to participate in such great event, and hope to come across more in the future.