“They turn from complete meltdown straight into this stoked little kid who has no worries in the world,” the 25-year-old Floreat resident said.
“Last year in Sydney for the first Australian event, so many parents said to me: ‘No way, my kid isn’t going to go out there’, and at the end of the day every single kid caught a wave.”
The Revo Fitness Shenton Park trainer, who specialises in designing exercise programs for children on the autism spectrum, founded the Paddle4Autism charity in 2014.
In July last year, the charity team completed the 53km Molokai to Oahu paddleboard race to fundraise more than $16,000 for Autism Awareness Australia to bring Surfers Healing to Perth.
“The guy who started it is former longboard world champion Izzy Paskowitz, who has a son with autism,” Mr Hallam said.
“We’re flying him and nine guys out from the US who are all either former pros, really experienced lifeguards or surf instructors.
“They have all surfed with kids with autism before, they’re amazing people and they cannot wait to get out here to WA.”
Judi Barrett-Lennard said her 12-year-old son William used to be so afraid of the water that he would only stand up to his ankles.
“Now we can’t get him out of the water; he loves the sense of it,” the Wembley resident said.
“Today is the first time he’s been on the big board and he actually stood up, so he was pretty impressed with himself.
“William has been training with Luke for about nine months, and he has improved so much. He has a lot of energy, so we find it is so great for the social interaction, building up his physical ability and his co-ordination. Luke has such a good rapport with people with autism; he is a really special person.”
Mr Hallam said he hoped to make Surfers Healing an annual or even monthly event in WA.
“There really is nothing like it here,” he said.
“Hopefully we can get some of the local surf instructors and volunteers to come down and get educated on this, so we only need to fly out a few people every year.”
WHAT A free surfing workshop event open to people with autism of all ages.
WHEN March 19
WHERE Trigg Beach