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Long Beach High School's program brings surfing to kids of all abilities with 'Surf for All'

Instructor Michael Silverstein assists Long Beach High School

Instructor Michael Silverstein assists Long Beach High School student David Crespo, 19, as he rides a wave at the beach in Long Beach on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. Special needs students from Long Beach high school learn surfing as part of a Life Skills program. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The Long Beach High School surf team is not the only way the district’s athletic department has incorporated the sport into its curriculum. During the fall, students with special needs who are enrolled in the district’s Life Skills program spend parts of some school days learning how to surf.

The program, which serves middle and high schoolers, is through "Surf for All" – a not-for-profit organization that looks to introduce surfing to people of all abilities.

"It’s adaptive surfing," said Cliff Skudin, a physical education teacher at Long Beach High School and a co-founder of "Surf For All." "Really, the mission is the ocean as a sense of healing and spiritual strength should be accessible to all. Surfing therapy is what we're doing. It helps with building self confidence."

Skudin continued: "It also has a social dynamic of lifting each other's spirits, accomplishing something that normally they probably never thought they would have an opportunity to try. Surfing is a lifelong sport. You could do it through all your years. So, it really has a sense of community, coming together, and overcoming obstacles."

Students were taken out on surf boards by instructors for one-on-one sessions.

"They teach you how to swim and not to be scared of the water," said Dujuan Dawkins, an eighth-grader at Long Beach Middle School. "They’re doing a good job. I’m not scared of the water."

Tom Gaynor, a teacher in the Life Skills program at Long Beach High School, said the program gives students confidence.

"They walk a little bit differently after going surfing," Gaynor said. "They definitely smile from ear to ear after this….They get to be as independent as possible. These guys out there in the water, they help them, but they also let them go at the same time."

Eighth-grader Ethan Flint said he was afraid he would fall in the water. But, that only happened once and he still had a great time.

"I love it so much," Flint said.

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