Autism surfing event on Fort Myers Beach ‘therapeutic’ for participants

It was a great day for the beach during a surfing event that helps build confidence and provides encouragement for those living on the autism spectrum.

Nonprofit Surfers for Autism hosted its 9th Annual Gulf Coast Surf & Beach Festival on Fort Myers Beach Saturday.

“People with autism, they have trouble showing their emotions,” said Diana Anderson, whose son lives with autism. “But I know when he talks about something a lot, it’s something he’s excited about.”

Anderson’s son, Carson was, diagnosed with autism when he was twelve, and he’s found solace in surfing ever since. The Surfers for Autism event mission is to break barriers autism can sometimes cause. And Carson talks about Surfers for Autism and his very own custom surfboard all the time.

“It helps him by taking him outside of his shell, taking him outside of his comfort zone,” Anderson said.

Carson is among hundreds of children with autism whom Surfers for Autism has helped in and out of the water.

“It’s helped me get through some hard times, and it’s given me a place where I don’t have to worry about all the other stuff going on,” said volunteer Spenser Schwartz, a former participant.

“It became a therapeutic event when he was down and things weren’t going well,” said Amy Schwartz, Spenser’s mom. “This is where we had to come.”

Surfers for Autism hosts events at beaches statewide, where they pair volunteers and surfing instructors with participants. Eighty students along with 100 volunteers gathered at the day’s event on Fort Myers Beach, which marks the final event for Surfers with Autism this season.

For more information, visit the Surfers for Autism website.

“Instead of people telling them, ‘No.’ We want to tell them, Yes,'” surfing instructor David Shimeld said. “You can do anything you put your mind to.”

CEO Moose Brown of  Surfers for Autism finds these events are meaningful for everyone involved, especially the participants.

“The water is very therapeutic,” Brown said. “I’ve seen this in so many areas personally and on the beach.”

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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