A Walk On Water has one simple yet daunting goal: bring more life-changing surf therapy events to more people in need of them. Meanwhile, almost half of U.S.-based children with special needs do not live within three hours of a body of water with waves. A Walk On Water (“AWOW”) has always looked for opportunities to bring surf therapy to people who may not traditionally have had access or the opportunity, which all set the table for A Walk on Water’s latest standout event.
In today’s world of river waves, tidal bores, and man-made wave pools, anything is possible. So while AWOW was built through chapters on the west and east coasts delivering surf therapy events from Malibu to Montauk, a new opportunity arose to bring surf therapy to a community that would very rarely, if ever, have the chance to experience surfing. And that’s how a dream unfolded for nearly 100 athletes from the greater Austin area.
Back in November, AWOW was invited to take part in a small test event at Texas’ NLand Surf Park. 12 special needs children and a few of AWOW’s leading watermen and women gave it a go in NLand’s man-made wave pool. The experience was more than we ever could have imagined; the children had an absolutely epic surf, and the mission to return to NLand for a full-scale AWOW Surf Therapy event was on. We were determined to be the first surf therapy organization to hold an inland event on a man-made wave.
This was no easy task though. In order to make the full-fledged event occur, volunteers towed trailers of equipment and flew over 20 of their best-trained crew from both coasts. What unfolded was a one-of-a-kind community event, surfing hours inland from any ocean, and about a day’s travel from any decent waves.
What’s funny is no one really knew if the effects of surf therapy would be diminished so far away from the ocean and coastal culture. Many of the families had no idea NLand even existed and lived mere minutes away. Others were amazed that they were actually getting to surf in Texas without a tow-rope or tanker wake. And for those of us at AWOW, we were pinching ourselves on how amazing this slow, perfectly-timed and calculated wave was for what we do.
Most events, we’ve had the “luck” of getting some pretty decent swell. Malibu’s been head high and perfect, Montauk had its first hurricane swell of the season; it always seems like the challenge of sizable surf is a blessing in disguise for us. But to know what to expect and to have everything so dialed and calculated brought a whole new advantage for surf therapists.
It truly was amazing to see this all happen in Texas. It was a new experience for everyone involved and opened the doors to a whole new chapter for what’s possible in surf therapy. The ability to control factors from wave size to water safety could mean events like this could introduce many more people in need. It can bring AWOW’s mission to a whole new level.