Riding the waves of empowerment for children with autism in Cork.

Ireland ➝ Cork ➝ Garretstown

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  • English

Surf2Heal is no ordinary surf camp; it's a haven designed especially for children with autism, situated in the picturesque town of Garretown, part of Cork, Ireland's second most significant city. What makes this surf camp exceptional is its dedication to bringing the therapeutic benefits of surfing to young individuals with autism.

The founders, inspired by the remarkable impact of surfing on their own autistic son, embarked on a mission to share these extraordinary benefits. In response to a national call for volunteers, a passionate team of surfers, social workers, and professionals in special needs enthusiastically joined forces. Together, they created a nurturing environment where autistic youth could not only enjoy the sea but also experience the many therapeutic aspects of surfing.

Surf2Heal operates as a not-for-profit organization, relying on the dedication of volunteers who generously contribute their time and expertise. These volunteers, with backgrounds in social work and special needs, form a supportive team that facilitates the surf camp's activities.

From its roots in Garretown, Surf2Heal has grown to collaborate with numerous schools and now extends its SurfCamp offerings to other locations in Kerry, Clare, and Waterford County. The organization's impact has rippled beyond its initial scope, reaching more young people with autism and providing them with the opportunity to embrace the therapeutic joys of surfing.

Surf2Heal goes beyond the waves; it creates a holistic social and sensory experience. The weightlessness and rhythms of the ocean offer a therapeutic escape for the surfers, particularly those who grapple with sensory overload. The outdoor setting caters to the sensory needs of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), providing a chance for them to connect with themselves in a calming environment.

Traditionally taking place over a week in August, Surf2Heal responded to popular demand by establishing a weekend surf club. This initiative broadened access to the water, offering new surfers a chance to experience the thrill of surfing while providing experienced surfers with opportunities to advance their skills. The weekly surf club accommodates eight new young people with autism every week, supported by a team of up to 25 volunteers.

For Surf2Heal, it's not just about surfing; it's a social and sensory expedition. Being on the water or playing on the beach becomes a regulating experience. The therapeutic benefits extend beyond the surfboard, impacting parents who witness the accomplishments of their children. Surf2Heal transforms the narrative for autism parents, focusing on what their children can achieve rather than limitations, creating moments that feel nothing short of miraculous.