Two hundred children on the autism spectrum will enjoy the thrill of surfing when a special event is held at Cronulla for the first time.
Parents have rushed to register their children for the experience on Sunday, February 24.
Country Autism Network has joined Surfers Healing Australia to run the free event, which started five years ago and has been expanded this year to three beaches.
Over four days from February 23 to March 2, almost 800 children will take part in tandem surfing at Cronulla, Manly and on the Gold Coast.
The participants, aged four to 20, will ride boards in tandem with trained surfers.
Chair of Country Autism Network, Hollie Hughes, whose son Fred has participated the last two years, said seeing the happiness of the children and their families was an “absolute joy”.
"It’s a huge step in further breaking down the barriers to what our children on the spectrum can achieve,” she said.
Ms Hughes said Sutherland Shire councillor Marie Simone, who is a friend, suggested bringing the event to Cronulla, and the council and surf clubs had embraced the idea.
“We put it out on our social media networks that Cronulla was a possibility and the response was amazing,” she said.
“We have received close to 200 registrations, which is the maximum.”
Ms Hughes said a fund-raiser was being held at Cronulla to support the initiative and enable it to continue to be provided free to parents.
The Bubbles & Boardies evening will be on Thursday, February 21 at Croydon Lane Wine and Tapas Bar.
Stephanie Smith, from Surfers Healing Australia, said the surfers who rode in tandem with the children were carefully selected and trained.
“We will use as many local surfers as we can get for water safety and assistance on the beach,” she said.
Surfers Healing Australia says on its website the initiative provides children with a “unique experience”.
“We ride waves together and tap into the tranquillity of the ocean to help calm the sensory overload that can often accompany autism,” the organisation says.
“On the surface, it seems simple, our surf days give children with autism and their families a fun, engaging day at the beach.
“But go deeper, and you’ll see it’s so much more than that. Through the simple act of surfing, we’re defying the status quo.
“When we help kids get up on a board, we’re challenging preconceived notions of capability.
“When we encourage participants to dive in, we’re supporting them to engage with the world.
“And when we go out and ride waves together, we’re empowering families to believe their kids ‘can’.”
- Registrations: surfershealing.org/registration/australia
- Fund-raiser tickets: eventbrite.com.au/e/bubbles-and-boardies-tickets-55193220408
- Further information, email firstname.lastname@example.org (events/sponsorship) or email@example.com (registrations)