On a warm summer morning nearly ten years ago, Cliff Skudin of Long Beach, NY stumbled upon a surf outing for autistic children at a local beach. Unexpectedly, he was asked to participate as a coach, and he agreed to take a young boy out for a few waves. The 12-year-old had never spoken before, but after the thrill of those first rides, he communicated with words for the first time in his life. It was an emotional moment for everyone on the beach, and, of course, for Skudin as well. “To be a part of something so powerful was really special to me,” explains Skudin. That experience sparked a life-altering moment for Skudin, soon starting one of the most successful surf schools in the country with his brother, big-wave surfer Will Skudin, and creating a non-profit foundation, Surf For All, based in Long Island. We asked Skudin about the foundation, its impact on the Long Island community, and the lives the program has touched through the restorative power of surf.
What is Surf for All and how did it begin?
We’re a charity that’s dedicated to assisting people with all types of disabilities into the water and onto a surfboard. Jim Mulvaney, a local whose son suffers from autism, started a similar program years before me. His organization would help out with Surfers Healing and other foundations, but it was only an annual event. I saw a need to expand it for not only more people, but also for more frequent outings. That was the focus in the beginning. My brother Will, Jim, and I wanted to make the opportunity local and more available.
Did you help out with those other events before Surf For All?
Will and I always helped out with Izzy Paskowitz and Surfers Healing. But the events with Surfers Healing were limited only to autistic children, and I wanted to take it to all levels of disabilities — the blind and visually impaired, kids with life-threatening illnesses, wounded veterans, and even those with heavy economic disadvantages. The name kind of speaks for itself: Surf For All. I wanted to give that same experience in the water to everyone.
How did you get the word out to the families and the public about Surf For All?
We targeted specific community centers and school districts. By working with their teachers, volunteers, and school administrators, we found it a lot easier in having them bring down their students than having an open enrollment. Rather than hosting one long outing every couple of months, we found it more beneficial to have two outings per month for a couple of hours.
Read more at http://www.surfermag.com/blogs/agents-of-change/surfing-for-all/#BM4YSjqOTIdPRbgf.99