There is true happiness that we get from surfing and this feeling we have always wanted to share with others. – TEAM SURF Organizers
One summer day four years ago, we as speech and occupational therapists and SPED teachers and our friends who are surfers decided to start a surfing event for our kids in the therapy center. All we wanted then was for the kids to likewise experience the joy of surfing, but we also had apprehensions. It was our first time to introduce this activity to kids with special needs and we had no idea how safe it would be for them. Fortunately, with hard work coupled with a lot of prayers and God’s blessings, the first TEAM Surf was a success.
Since then, we have made TEAM Surf an annual activity and we have introduced some improvements. Aki San with Fluid Surf’s Bjorn Pabon gave us rashguards for the kids to use. We bought lifevests to make the kids safe no matter how small the waves were. We made use of paddle boards to enable the surf coaches do tandem surfing. We invited Carla Rowland of The Surf Institute based in Malibu, California to teach us how to improve further our program. We also invited the kids’ doctors (developmental Pediatricians) to be part of the event.
A lot of changes have already been done since our first TEAM Surf but there are a number of constants which remain. The coaches, volunteers, teachers and therapists have always been supportive and they readily say “yes” to helping out even with just a moment’s notice. The surfers of La Union Surf Club (LUSC) willingly lend their services and boards without asking anything in return. The resorts and the local government even provide us our tent and electricity for our sound system specifically. Significantly, the parents of the kids have remained open-minded and enthusiastic in letting their children experience something new.
Initially, it was just our kids in the clinic in San Juan (La Union) who availed of TEAM Surf. In February of 2014, however, another therapy center in Malasiqui, Pangasinan expressed their interest to bring their kids to San Juan to experience the surfing activity as well. She made the event known to a television network and they agreed to feature it in some of the station’s programs. We have always thought that it will be a dream come true if more will come to know about TEAM Surf through media exposure. Simply because, hopefully, through that more families will somehow be empowered or enlightened to realize that children who are specially-abled can actually do more.
This 2015, because it’s the fifth year of TEAM Surf, we planned to make the event bigger. We had a lot of good ideas to be done that would need financial support. Thus, we asked for sponsorship from friends, individuals, groups or companies that believe in our cause. We have also confirmed a number of 40 to 50 specially-abled participants for the surfing activity which is a far cry from the 10 to 15 kids we had when we had just started. A lot of volunteers comprised by surfers, therapists, teachers and various people who share the same advocacy as ours also readily expressed their interest to help out.
We gathered through the feedback of the kids’ parents and families that they had pleasant experiences and amazing realizations after seeing their kids surf. Because of this, we would love to see more kids and families gain the same experience. It has now become an advocacy for us together with our friends to, in surfing terms, share the “stoke” with more kids having special needs. We also learned that surfing does not just improve the mood of people, but for some it can also enhance specific skills and develop desirable values. So with this, we personally invite everyone who have challenges to also explore the wonderful world of surfing with TEAM Surf.
The team behind TEAM SURF
“The sleepless nights finally paid off. We would also like to thank the coaches who were all amazing with the kids and the whole San Juan surfing community who has always been very supportive. A shout out to our artist, @ainapaguyo, thank you for your patience! And last but not the least, BIG THANKS to everyone who volunteered and participated last Sunday. We couldn’t have done it without you!”
To our partners including the generous individuals and families: Estepa Family, Dumo family, Bucayu family, Aguilar family, Ma’am Candy and Sir Alf, Ms. Christy, Rene Aclan, ‘Uncle’, Marcus, James, and the many others who gave a hand in any way, our sincere gratitude to all of you. How we wish you were there to see the sea of smiles. Thank you for helping us spread the good vibes and share the stoke with the kids. They will always be an inspiration to everyone. Much love and respect to all of you!
To the local government of Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union, and San Fernando, La Union, thank you for providing assistance in organizing the event.
*all photos by Edward Byron Yap. many thanks to Melai Karaan. Amazing job. Looking forward to next year!