Surfing the Spectrum at Coffs’ Jetty Beach

A happy day debuting Surfing the Spectrum at Coffs Harbour, the specially designed surf therapy program promotes ocean awareness, social inclusion and water safety for kids with autism.

NOT-FOR PROFIT surf therapy initiative Surfing the Spectrum welcomed over 35 young locals with autism to a free, family-friendly event at Jetty Beach on Saturday, 24 September.

Surfing the Spectrum co-founder Aimee Blacker told News Of The Area, “We were so lucky with the weather on the day with the sun shining for our first time on the Coffs Coast.

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“Around 40 families joined us at Jetty Beach to participate in the surf therapy program, including autistic participants and their siblings.”

Funded by a $14,000 donation from the employees of Newcastle Permanent from its CommunityAssist Program, participants took part in board-riding lessons facilitated by experienced local surfers.

Local surf volunteers partnered up with the kids in the water, teaching them how to surf, along with ocean safety and awareness.

Some kids arrived happy and ready to go straightaway, while others who were first time surfers were understandably more nervous about the day.

Either way, volunteers met participants where they were at, whether that was out the back catching long waves or starting off in the shallows or on the sand.

“We had kids who had been to the beach often but had not worked up the courage to get in the water on a surfboard before finally feeling safe enough to give it a go,” said Aimee.

“We saw kids starting the session reserved, quiet and shy, really coming out of their shell telling jokes to the volunteers, smiling and laughing with their siblings.”

Parents were equally excited for the kids’ successes and shared pleasure enjoying the surf.

“I think that is such a huge part, the parents, who know how capable their kids are, could see them achieving their potential made possible through the support of an inclusive, safe program.

“For some parents they finally had a chance to stand back and just watch their kid participating in an activity which was inclusive of siblings as well, something tricky for these families to find.”

Aimee and the team received messages following the event from parents saying what a difference the day had made for their kids, and how important it was for them, with some smiling for the first time in months just by being out on the water with the volunteers.

“Other parents let us know they bought a surfboard the very next day so their child could keep surfing,” said Aimee.

Newcastle Permanent Coffs Harbour Branch Manager Erica Farag said that the community-owned organisation is committed to supporting local charities and community groups.

“It’s so wonderful that Surfing the Spectrum is advocating for autism in the Coffs Coast community,” said Ms Farag.

“It is estimated that one in 70 Australians are on the spectrum.”

Surfing the Spectrum was founded by occupational therapist Aimee Blacker and certified surf coach and disability support worker Tahliah Anderson in 2017 and provides free therapeutic surfing lessons aimed at positively impacting the lives of children with autism, and their families, along the coast of NSW.


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