Ocean City has a big heart and perhaps nowhere is that more evident than at the Heart of Surfing’s set-up at the 57th street beach.
This week’s event started Saturday morning at 9 a.m. and included a NPN surf contest that had a division for special-needs surfers. The Heart of Surfing event continued well beyond the surf contest and lasted late into the day with volunteers guiding, mentoring, and coaching these beautiful children on the experience of surfing waves.
Heart of Surfing co-founders Bob and Cindy Fertsch knew the positive impact surfing had on their autistic son, Jamie, now 23. And they felt others could benefit from their experiences. The result was their organization, which also teaches skateboarding to children with special needs.
“Bob always took our son out with him when he would surf and it gave (Jamie) improved confidence and self-esteem,” Cindy said. ” At the time, there was a contest in Belmar that included special needs surfers and it fills up quickly. We thought, ‘why can’t we do something like this?” Now there are a bunch of contests that are doing it. Today’s NPN contest had a bracket for special-needs surfers and the upcoming Chip Miller competition will as well.
The contest in the morning had a $30 entry fee donation and all proceeds went to the non-profit Heart of Surfing.
“I knew that if I reached out to our surfing community they would be there for us,” said Cindy. “It is a great community of great people. But I didn’t know how great they would prove to be. They were just incredible. It is nice to get recognition, but the event is really made by the volunteers, businesses and the community.”
No word is available yet on how much this event raised. What is known is that all of the money will go directly to the Heart Of Surfing.
Today’s Volunteers and contest competitors aided the special participants. They assisted in helping them stand on the boards, catch waves, and sometimes rode tandem with them.
The three major surf shops in town, Heritage, 7th St. Surf Shop and Surfers Supplies also play a major role, donating the use of surfboards, wetsuits and other needed equipment, organizers said.
“We need a lot of stuff,” Cindy said. Boards and other equipment. All we have to do is ask and (the surf shops) are there for us.”
This year’s event drew about 50 special-needs families. Organizers hope that they raised the bar and top last year’s fundraising total.
The contest portion of today’s event was run by a local Ocean City-based surfing club, No Passports Needed, or NPN, which also provided some of the volunteers. NPN member Willie Fannon worked the microphone for the contest as emcee, and helped organize it.
“This event is a true testament to the surfing community and how it helps others,” he said. “It’s nice to give back. But it’s also nice to see what surfing can do to help people. Before I took part in this contest, I was oblivious to autism and how many families and people are affected by it. Now I see autism from another perspective. Surfing is a sport that changes a person when they get out in the water. That’s one of the great things about this contest.”
Fannon said that he hoped to help raise awareness of autism, the Heart of Surfing and to pass the word along to others inside and out of the surfing community.
For more information, check out the Heart of Surfing Facebook page.
This years event also featured “Team Surfdog” which is a Florida based Dog Surf Team. Their founder, Adam “Pops” Steinberg was onsite today with “Booker D Surf Dog ” and “Onyx”. They are in town for the summer to help raise awareness and money for Autism. you can learn more about them at: Team Surfdog Infor & Fun Page .
The Heart of Surfing volunteers and Team Surfdog will be on the 57th street beach each Saturday this summer from 9:00A-11:00A. They welcome new participants and volunteers to join their cause.