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Sarah McLachlan and Jackson Browne to headline Surfers Healing fundraiser

The group seeks to teach autistic kids how to surf

Surfers Healing, a foundation for autism, will host a big fundraiser on Saturday night in Dana Point, California. Grammy-award-winning musicians Sarah McLachlan and Jackson Browne are scheduled to perform, and many celebrities and surf luminaries will be on hand as well.

Izzy Paskowitz, a former professional longboarder and member of an iconic surfing family, founded Surfers Healing 16 years ago when he discovered that riding waves dramatically improved the life of his autistic son, Isaiah, and other children with special needs. Now, the organization specializes in teaching autistic children how to surf. We caught up with Paskowitz to find out more about the event.

photo courtesy of Surfers Healing

Photo courtesy of Surfers Healing

How does surfing specifically help autistic children? What changes did you see in your son after he started surfing?

It helps because it is away from other people who don’t understand you and your child, and surfers in general are an accepting, alternative, anti-establishment tribe.

So I think it begins with balance on the surfboard. Tandem riding is hard when the other person in front (the autistic child) is not centered and is not in balance. When that happens, we surfers in the back (instructors) do a subtle dance of counter balancing and shifting the child back to the center line (midline), until he or she gets it. When we are balanced we glide. We can catch waves, and it’s almost easy. It feels good when you are centered. It helps the children feel their own bodies. I don’t know what sense of current reality my son lives in, but in the water he is more lucid.

The other amazing effects are the parents being able to simply see their kids do something normal, something cool even, and that helps with the acceptance of their child and the disability. Our kids think in pictures for the most part, and this is “one perfect day” they take with them.

Also, for a sensory child with anxiety, getting them to surf is what they need, but they don’t know it. As soon as the water surrounds them, they relax.

How did this benefit come about and how many years have you been doing it?

So this is our fourth or fifth big music event. Sugar Ray, Donovan Frankenreiter, Common Sense, The Flys, and RHCP have performed, and Jimmy Buffet too.

What are Jackson Browne and Sarah McLachlan’s relationships with Surfer’s Healing and how did they get involved in the benefit?

I taught Sarah how to surf then she played our first big show at the Key Club. She and Perry Farrell played.

That was 10 years ago, so it was time to ask again and she said, “Yes!” Jackson Browne came in after his nephew came to the Paskowitz Surf Camp. He hung out there and played music.

What will the money raised at the benefit go toward at Surfer’s Healing?

The money goes to Surfers Healing 100 percent—this year we are adding new locations and sponsoring families who might not be able to afford to travel to the camps.

Who are some of the famous or influential people who will be there?

David Marciano of “Homeland,” Mark McGrath, Greg Long and Kelly Slater if the Eddie isn’t on, Clay Marzo, David Arquette, and Penny Marshall.

How can people get tickets and find out more about what Surfers Healing does?

Go to surfershealing.org.

photo courtesy of Surfers Healing

Photo courtesy of Surfers Healing

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