10th Annual Surfing for Autism a Day of Triumph

By on August 10, 2019

High fives after Mark Slagle and rider cruise a wave into shore. Story behind the picture below. Photo, Kip Tabb

High fives after Mark Slagle and rider cruise a wave into shore. Story behind the picture below. Photo, Kip Tabb

There is nothing quite like the Outer Banks Surfing for Autism. It is a day of triumph, joy, love and community that is rarely seen and even more rarely experienced in such an unadorned, unabashed way.

Started by parents who were surfers who wanted their autistic children to experience riding a wave, the day brings together families, the Outer Banks surfing community and of course the kids.

The water was pretty cold last night, 59 degrees beside Jennette’s Pier where the event was going to happen. There was a lot of concern about that, but by 9:30 this morning when the surfers hit the water, the ocean temperature was into the mid 70s—perfect for a summer day on the water.

It is difficult to know where the most joy in the day exists. Whether it’s in the kids, taking on a challenge and riding a wave in. A lot of them tried to stand. A few made it; most didn’t. But that wasn’t the point.

Just being there and experiencing the joy of life without the obstacles that is so much a part of the life of the children allowed them to be kids in the most wonderful sense of the word.

There were fist pumps, squeals of joy and laughter. Everywhere laughter. A board would be overwashed by a wave, and the child would emerge, spitting saltwater and laughing. Or they would ride the board in, leap to their feet and laugh.

That joy is so infectious.

Talk to the surfers who are there and over and over the same thing is said. “This is my favorite day of the year.” And that’s all ages, men and women, the teenage surfer helping out…”This is my favorite day of the year.”

It is the parents though, and the families, who may get the most from the day. This is a day when their kids get to be just kids and the pride in what their children are doing seems tangible.

In a day filled with precious moments, there was one that seemed to stand out.

Mark Slagle, one of the founding members of the Outer Banks Surfing for Autism, was riding a wave with one of the kids. Lying on the board, with the wave pushing the two of them to the shore, the boy’s face is alight with the wonder of what is happening.

They get to the shore, and suddenly the boy’s brother sprints to the board and gives him a high five. He seemed as proud of what his little brother has accomplished as the rider was himself.

The day was filled with moment like that and it just doesn’t get much better than this.

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