On Friday January 23rd at Kuhio Beach in Waikiki, not far from where the bronze statue of Duke Kahanamoku sits surveying over all that is aloha, a new crop of beach boys (and girls) took to the sea for the first time. Riding the wave of an already incredibly successful program on the mainland, Surfers Healing made their first venture overseas to share the stoke with a group of autistic kids that would otherwise while away their days on the shore.
Surfers Healing, a charity formed by Israel Paskowitz and the Paskowitz family that introduces surfing into the lives of young autistic children, has put on several of these “beach parties” in California, but this is the first time they’ve come to Hawaii. The Islands greeted them with open arms. Old-time beach boys like Rabbit Kekai jumped in the warm water to help. World champion longboarder Bonga Perkins lent a hand. Even young Sunset upstart Nathan Carroll got in the act. But the surf stars were secondary on this day. This day was for the kids.
Maybe a little apprehensive at first, all right, maybe a little terrified at first, but once the kids hit the water it was on. Smiles aplenty, just as surfing should be. The day was spent gliding smoothly to shore. As 14-year-old Aaron Daguio told the Honolulu Advertiser, “It’s like a roller coaster on water. I like it!”
With a little love from the Outrigger Hotels and Duke’s Canoe Club the day went off without a hitch. When it was time for lunch what’s more traditional that a good, old Hawaiian plate lunch. Rainbow Drive-In kicked down lunch for over 175 folks. The surf wasn’t spectacular, simple ho-hum Waikiki rollers, but the session was epic.
In his 1911 novel, The Cruise of the Snark, Jack London wrote, “All rules have exceptions.” Strip away contest results, contract negations and all of the other relatively meaningless details that consume the surf world and one arrives at the very essence of why we spend our days riding waves–to feel good. For these autistic kids, the words of London, almost one hundred years later, ring more true than ever before. They have “bitted the ‘bull-mouthed breaker’ and ridden it in, and the pride in the feat shows…” The spirit of aloha is alive and well in Waikiki, the Duke would be proud. – Jake Howard