Western Australia’s precious coastline is one most residents are able to enjoy, but some local surfing mates found there was a special group of children who were missing out.
Perth charity ‘Ocean Heroes’ are now helping hundreds of children with autism to connect with the water.
The stimulation of being in the sun and the surf has built confidence for the kids, both physically and mentally.
Mother Evi Quach told 9News she gets emotional seeing her 10-year-old son Jack enjoying some physical activity.
“He’s not very good at sport, but in the water, that’s his thing,” she said.
“He’s done other sports like basketball and he can’t wait for it to end, but surfing is something he wants to do everyday.”
Jack has only had three surf lessons so far and he’s thriving.
Evi credits the founders Luke Hallam, Sam Moyle and Tom Johnston, and the volunteers at Ocean Heroes for bringing so much joy to her son.
“They’re so passionate and you can see it with how they spend time with the kids, it’s genuine,” she said.
“They want to do it because they want to help.”
Mr Moyle told 9News he thinks half the time, the volunteers have more fun.
“To see the kids progress from the timid and shy child before they get in the water, to being super confident, being keen to catching bigger waves and show off to their parents of how capable they are is something really good to see,” he said.
But it’s not just about fun and exercise, Mr Hallam said it’s also about water safety.
“Drowning is the number one cause of death for people under the age of 18 with autism,” he told 9News.
“We see surfing as a great way in giving these children and their families confidence with the ocean.”
The charity has been running for over three years, with lessons and events from September to April.
It’s become so popular – with up top 150 people registering – the sessions now book out within three minutes and there’s a wait list of over 150 people.
The volunteers have now set themselves a new challenge – offering one-on-one surfing experiences.
With this new program, however, the Ocean Heroes need all the help they can get.
“Surfers are obviously important, but we need people on the beach helping these kids get into wetsuits, lifejackets, helping parents with the registration process and even handing certificates to the children at the end of the session,” the founders said.