From the beginning, action and adventure sports community has always been about inclusion and progression. This weekend A Walk on Water showcases that inclusion in bringing about surf therapy for children and adults with special needs, along with their families. From 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., athletes and guests are invited to gather at First Point (the break closest to Malibu Pier) to check in for a day at the beach that will include: surfing, relaxation, healthy food and beverages, arts and crafts, yoga, massage therapy and more.
“A Walk on Water serves so many purposes for so many people,” said Sean Swentek, A Walk on Water Vice President Administration and Social Media. “Surf therapy brings about amazing results. We are also focused on dispelling the stigma of surfing from being a clique and exclusive to a diverse, progressive and inclusive community.”
In recent years, psychologists and neuroscientists have begun to study the effects of surfing on the physical mental state of being from soldiers with PTSD to other neurological, mental and physical disorders and the results are overwhelmingly positive.
“We really believe surfing is therapeutic,” said Swentek. “Every time we are in the water, our goal is to show its’ effectiveness. Years ago in the beginning of A Walk on Water, our president Steven Lippman was working with one of our first athletes Jacob. Jacob was non-verbal autistic. It was a fight to get him into the wetsuit and into the water. Jacob was violent and would hit and fight us at every step. His parents told us that he never spoke a word, but that they really wanted us to try surf therapy with him. After successfully getting him into the water, he sat there with Steve and just played in the water. Eventually, Steve and Jacob caught a few waves and came in for the day. Steve was mentally and physically exhausted but the change in Jacob was night and day. Jacob was smiling and laughing. It was an immediate change. Steve spoke to the parents about the time in the water with Jacob and what the two spoke about in the water. The parents were undoubtedly shocked when they learned that Jacob had spoke. It was such a special moment for everyone. There were several tears shed and to this day, Jacob is an active part of what we do.”
There are several thoughts as to how surf therapy works in the human body with additional research happening all the time thanks to organizations like A Walk on Water.
“We are commissioning a research study with a masters student to continue efforts into how and why surf therapy works from a science standpoint,” said Swentek. “Even though the science specifics are still unknown, the proof that it works is visible to us every single day. We see the effects on the state of the mind and the body. The consistency, rhythm and natural environment of being surrounded by the water brings you back to a normal state. A state of comfort. Beyond the natural state of being, surfing brings about camaraderie and confidence. You are part of something bigger than yourself. You are a part of a community of athletes with no labels. Surfing is a tandem dance with Mother Nature. In order to be successful you have to work in combination with the forces of the water and that teaches you about team work, respect, patience and perseverance.”
The event this weekend is the seventh and final event of the year for A Walk on Water and is expected to draw over 100 athletes/participants.
“In the beginning we started with less than ten athletes, now we are expecting over 100 this weekend,” said Swentek. “The event in Malibu this weekend is special for us. It will be our fifth time to the Malibu location and will be our biggest event ever in the amount of athletes and volunteers that will we have there. The Malibu location is magical in how the surf breaks for us and allows us to bring everyone together in one location. It will be great event for all our athletes and the families.”
For families and volunteers interested in getting involved with AWOW, go to or @awalkonwater on Instagram.