Autism has been defined by the World Health Organization and the American Psychological Association as a developmental disability resulting from a disorder of the human central nervous system. Some of the symptoms of autism include staring into open areas, odd movement patterns, and slow language skills. “More accurately,” said Nick Tarlov, MD, a surfer and second year resident in Neurology at USC Medical Center, “the child tends not to make eye contact with other people and does not perform social behaviors that other children learn, such as playing with other children. Mother’s notice that their baby does not have a ‘social smile’ – the way babies will smile at their mother and giggle. Slow language skills, odd movement patterns and obsessive compulsive behaviors such as banging one’s head into a wall, inability to follow directions, occasional violent tantrums, spinning around in circles, poor eye contact and an unusual self-absorption bordering on selfishness are also symptoms. Autistic children seem to exist in a world of their own.
“The group of volunteers will be lead by Terry “Tubesteak” Tracy, one of the original Malibu ‘pit’ crew during the Golden Years of the 1950s. In the ’50s, Tubesteak lived in a shack on the beach at Malibu for two summers, and was one of a group of surfers that included the pioneers of the California surfer lifestyle.”
Surfers share some of these traits, specifically the single-minded, obsessive pursuit of waves, so it’s only natural that a group of surfers should take a group of autistic kids out to sea on surfboards and push them into waves. On Saturday, June 23, Variety – the Children’s Charity of Southern California, Surfer’s Healing and the Paskowitz Surf Camp – is presenting the 6th annual Pat Notaro Day, which will bring autistic children from the shady turf of Los Angeles and give them some quality time in the sunny surf of First Point Malibu to experience the smell, feel, sights and sounds of riding waves in ways we can only imagine.
The group of volunteers will be lead by Terry “Tubesteak” Tracy, one of the original Malibu “pit” crew during the Golden Years of the 1950s. In the ’50s, Tubesteak lived in a shack on the beach at Malibu for two summers, and was one of a group of surfers that included the pioneers of the California surfer lifestyle: “Kemp Aaberg, Miki Dora, Tom Morey and how about Johnny Fain, Dewey Weber, The Windbag, and Lance Carson,” Tubesteak said. In the 1959 movie Gidget, the Great Kahoona, acted by Cliff Robertson, was based partly on Tubesteak’s life. Tubesteak has spent a lot of time staring out to sea, and understands these special children maybe a little better than most. “The kids are remarkable,” Tubesteak said. “I’ve been to several of these things, talked to parents, and several instructors. If I were very young like them I’d be terrified to go in the ocean on a surfboard, even with an instructor. The moment the children get on the board it seems as if they entered another world. It appears the wind and the waves calm them, although instructors say the kids remain the same, and they seem to enjoy the environment. It’s incredible. These scrawny children have no fear of the ocean. It doesn’t hurt things that instructors are super athletes and maybe the kids know they’re in good hands. Some of the children are as young as four years old. When you attend a Surfer’s Healing camp, you know something special is happening.”
Karen Gallagher is a surf instructor on the North Shore of Oahu who volunteered for a Surfer’s Healing in Hawaii. “I helped out the Paskowitz family at Haleiwa Ali’i Park, and it was awesome,” Gallagher said. Someone should make a photo documentary of the kids’ faces before and after they surf; the transformation is incredible. But then again, so it is with folks like us, too!”
Tubesteak estimates there will be as many as 150 kids at First Point, “so the more helping hands, the better.” Tubesteak will be aided and abetted by fellow Malibu Golden Years veteran Kemp Aaberg, who was one of the original style phenomenons of the ’50s. Surf instructors from the Paskowitz Surf Camp will be there to make sure the kids ride waves safely. Josh Tracy is Tubesteak’s 22-year-old grandson and will be one of the volunteers. “I enjoy taking the kids out in the water,” Tracy said. “It’s amazing the calming effect it has on them. It’s rewarding to see the kids and their families so proud and excited. It’s a great experience for everyone.”
The surfing begins at 10:00 am and will continue until 4:00 in the afternoon, with a barbeque sponsored by Variety at noon. Volunteers are always welcome to make sure the kids have a safe experience. For more information contact Jennifer Tracy at 949-456-9754 or Diana Schmidt at 323-655-1547 or the Paskowitz Surf Camp at 949-463-9283.