Surfing Montauk with Debra Rose: July 2024

Walking on Water

Debra Rose

A Walk on Water.  AWOW.  All surfers know the expression; one they have had and one that’s seen when those learning to surf pop up and catch a wave for the first time.  For twelve years the nonprofit AWOW organization has artfully combined therapy and surfing by working with children with special abilities and their families to connect to the ocean and enjoy the powerful, fun experience of surfing.

The concept is deceptively simple, instructors and volunteers assist participants in building confidence and skills in the water while surfing, something that transfers to facing challenges and changing conditions in everyday life, in and out of the water.  Beach events are created for the entire family, with surf instructors in the water with participants and their siblings, and additional activities of play on the beach such as yoga and art therapy, within a celebratory vibe and gathering with bites and beverages.

Events taking place this year include destinations all over the country, Huntington Beach, Pacifica, Rockaway, Ventura, Newport Beach, Malibu and Montauk.  The California-based organization focuses on children with neurological disabilities, facilitating an activity in an environment that is both peaceful and exhilarating, the ocean.  By including the entire family, everyone has exposure to the art and science behind surf therapy, and those that would not have access to instructors have a chance to participate.  The program has a structure of meeting on the beach first to discuss safe practices in the water, and mental health difficulties before surfing, with a debrief after.  Combining group therapy, occupational therapy, individual and sports therapy, AWOW is a supplement to traditional therapy children may already receive, bundled in a day of joy and bonding to counter isolation.

Surfing is often referenced by some as a religion, an outlet, even an addiction.  This introduction and access to surfing presents a healthy outlet, a sense of community and a physical benefit for those suffering with emotional obstacles.  Surfing keeps everyone mindful, and present given the nature of the risk involved in the sport, especially if one loses focus.  By learning to push through fear and uncertainty, wiping out and getting back on the board, or successfully navigating a wave is a tremendous boost in self-confidence.

Montauk is hosting an even on September 6th at Ditch Plains with AWOW.  Please check the website for information on participating as an athlete, volunteer, instructor or supporter.  Happy surfing!