The ocean can be a place of tranquility, relaxation and, most importantly, healing. Perhaps no one knows this better than pro surfers -- a group of which is working to share the water with kids with autism.
Surfers Healing is a nonprofit organization of volunteer professional surfers dedicated to sharing their passion by providing free surf therapy for kids and adults with autism.
In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that approximately 1 in 59 children have an autism spectrum disorder. Many people living with autism struggle with sensory overload, but some people find that the weightlessness and rhythms of the ocean can help ease that sensation.
Surfers Healing was founded in 1996 by pro surfer Izzy Paskowitz and his wife, Danielle. Paskowitz co-created the program after he found that surfing was an outlet to bond with his son Isaiah, who has autism.
"Being able to connect with Isaiah in the water doing what I Iove, which is surfing, was incredibly healing," Paskowitz said.
Paskowitz said that initially it was difficult as a parent to accept that his son had the disorder.
"I really didn't know anything about autism. I was young and a professional surfer, and I wanted him to be a surfer like me," he said.
One day, Paskowitz took Isaiah surfing, and noticed that his son felt very calm and relaxed. He knew that this was something that he had to share with other families.
Using his network of surfers, he was able to organize an event to offer people with autism and their families "one perfect day" where kids with autism could try something new.
Today, Surfers Healing hosts nearly 30 events worldwide and offers therapeutic surfing to about 6,000 people with special needs. The organization recently concluded its East Coast tour in the United States, where it held about a dozen surf camps.
Mikey O'Shaughnessy, a pro surfer from Oahu, Hawaii, has volunteered as a surf instructor for Surfers Healing for four years. He finds that the surf camps are not only therapeutic for the participants, but for the surfers as well.
"In Hawaii, 'ohana' means 'family,'" O'Shaughnessy told "GMA." "When I come to the East Coast, and for me to come and be a part of this ... it's really special, it's a perfect day."
On Sept. 8, the organization hosted the Autism Beach Bash at Belmar Beach, New Jersey, offering more than 300 people the opportunity to surf.
Elizabeth "Bethy" De Tata of Bricktown, New Jersey, attended along with her parents, Sue and Jim De Tata. Bethy is deaf and cerebral palsy has confined her to a wheelchair, but the New Jersey native was able to catch some waves at the event.
Bethy surfed for nearly 30 minutes while her family cheered her on from the shore.
"Surfers Healing is a great organization," her mother, Sue De Tata, told "GMA." "They go around the country holding these events, giving up their time and their money to do it, and it's really great."
The event has grown in size and outreach through the years, thanks to partnerships with companies such as Double Good, which donates half of its proceeds to nonprofits, including Surfers Healing.
Paskowitz hopes the organization continues to grow so that it can offer the therapeutic experience of surfing to more kids with autism.
"This is real surfers doing something real. We aren't going to find a cure for autism, but for a long time, we're going to take out kids," he said.