The breaking waves at Las Cuevas Beach are often a good place for surfing, but this past weekend it became a great place for surfing, as a few children with special needs were able to experience first hand the sport of surfing. On October 1, some special surfers, children with Autism, Asperger's syndrome, Down syndrome and speech deficiencies were introduced to the wonders of wave catching. The grinning faces outnumbered the waves. This, the third event of its kind, started with only a handful of kids, said Warren Rostant, secretary of The Surfing Association of Trinidad & Tobago (SATT) and one of the driving forces behind the event. Warren said he had heard of a similar programme happening in another country and thought this would have been a good idea for our special children.
Surfboards, coaches and support were supplied for free by the association. And the volunteers turned out in full force. Children were matched up with volunteers, each an experienced surfer who knows the "ins and outs" of the sport and a "catcher" who hangs near shore to catch incoming riders. From 9 am to noon the event was open to all children with special needs, even those who had never been to the ocean before. "Anybody special, any kind of special need," said Rostant. "We are happy to have them. "It's a way for not only the special kids to have fun, but it's a day for the entire family and siblings to come together for one big fun-day. It's amazing to see these kids out on the waves. You can see by their expressions that they love it," explained Sherrard Spiers, vice-president of the SATT.
Robyn Edwards, Speech Therapist and event organiser, said that "the surf experience is adapted to the needs of each participant. Some kids prefer to simply splash in the shallow water and some enjoy lying belly-down on the boards." Actually, getting up on the board and surfing was beside the point. It was really about getting in the water and having some fun."Having a child who has developmental disorders means that organised sports sometimes aren't an option, even for active kids who love to play. But this Special Surfer Day offers a place where kids can be challenged and be silly, surrounded by kids who are just like them and parents and volunteers who understand. "Here there's no judgment. They can go out and have fun," said Rostant, whose son Braden, five, has participated in Special Surfer Day in the past. "It sounded so great. And we were overwhelmed with how amazing it was."
The experience also had a big impact on the volunteers, all of whom returned to do this third event. Volunteers don't need to have surfing experience to participate. Johnathan Torry admitted, "It's a great treat to be able to do it." He added that the response he got from parents and volunteers was gratifying. But he said he really did it for selfish reasons, as he felt he had "the best time of all." But judging from grinning children, his "best time" could be disputed.