Autistic surf camp coming to New Zealand
For children with autism, and their parents, daily life can be overwhelming but a champion surfer's found a remedy in the waves.
Champion surfer Izzy Paskowitz started a charity called Surfers Healing, and he is enlisting the help of some Kiwi volunteers.
Surfing, it seems, is full of surprises. Surprises like how a young Izzy went from living in a campervan with eight other children to becoming the best longboarder in the world.
Or surprises like his son's diagnosis with autism, and how surfing was the perfect cure.
He and his wife found the water and waves calmed their son when nothing else could.
"Surfers healing is very personal to us. We're very passionate about it and it's very personal because it started because of our son," Surfers Healing co-founder Danielle Paskowitz says.
"For some reason, water for children with autism and adults with autism is very very soothing. I think the surfing just adds a little bit more to that and makes it a little more therapeutic."
Mr Paskowitz's pedigree as a champion surfer has helped him enlist the best help in the world.
Kelly Slater, Clay Marzo - some of the sport's biggest names - help Surfers Healing between competitions.
And alongside them are some Kiwi volunteers who are right at the heart of the charity's work.
"I need really good people to do this that I trust with my son's life out on the water," Mr Paskowitz says.
Ian Reeder spends six months a year living and surfing on the coast at Raglan. The other six months, he's with Surfers Healing, and keeps coming back year after year.
"I still break, I still have tears in my eyes, just watching the parents react and the kids. It's incredible."
For 17 years, Kiwis like Ian Reeder have travelled around the world to help Surfers Healing. And now Surfers Healing is coming to them.
The first New Zealand surf camp for children with autism will be held here in Raglan next month.
"It's been a dream of mine to make this a reality - or be part of making this a reality. And you know, it's my home country! I know it's gonna be incredible here," Mr Reeder says.
With around 10 children taking part, Surfers Healing in New Zealand will be starting small.
Surfers Healing takes thousands of autistic kids out on the water every year. The results are astounding - for both children and parents, who often have few other places to turn.
"Some of them can't even take their children out in public because it's just so hard, they get stared at. We know first-hand," says Ms Paskowitz.
"And surfers healing at the beach, it doesn't matter if your kid runs over somebody else's towel or picks up somebody else's soda and drinks it. We're all in the same boat."