The Power of the Waves

After Aiden’s 3 minutes of fame on the BBC One documentary ‘Cornwall’s Wildest Wave’ which was aired on Friday 20th May 2022, 7:30pm, (and can be rewatched on I Player), I thought I would give you guys a bit more detail about how incredibly powerful the ocean has been for Aiden.

Just to recap for those who are new to my blog, Aiden is 22, awesomely autistic with a Pathological Demand Avoidance profile (PDA), has learning disabilities and also has cystic fibrosis.

Since Aiden was born he has always loved being submerged in water and we always joked he would have made an incredible whale. By the time Aiden was 3 he could swim without armbands and even now he is much faster in the water than he is on land.

We were told being near the sea would help his cystic fibrosis by replenishing his salt levels. So Aiden started surfing as soon as we moved to Cornwall, aged 11. He joined the Wave Project, a charity founded by Joe Taylor, that takes children surfing to improve mental health and well-being, but for Aiden it did much more.

Aiden took part, and was a finalist, in the first ever ‘Summer Surf Challenge’ which at the time was a surf competition for young people with learning disabilities. In fact, sadly, this has been the only surf competition to include those with Learning Disabilities in Cornwall in the last 10 years.

But this is where Aiden met Tom. Tom Butler (Tommy Butts) is an ambassador for The Wave Project, he is also a professional big wave surfer – if you’ve watched the documentary you’ll have seen just how crazy he, and those big waves really are. But more importantly Tom is the founder, along with Adam Griffith and Pablo Sisca, of the brilliant CIC – Coastal Crusaders

Coastal Crusaders was founded in 2019 with the aim to educate, create social environments, integration and advancements to levels of health, fitness and social interactivity. And I am so very grateful for their existence.

Thanks to the team at Coastal Crusaders Aiden spent his first year with them building a relationship and learning to trust them while continually learning how the ocean works, improving his surfing technique, building his fitness and spending much time in the waves, to relax and regulate his emotions.

The freedom the ocean brings for Aiden enables him to feel in control which lessens his anxiety and this meant he could be himself and remain in a calm mental state to learn.

Trust and relationship is everything when it comes to supporting someone with PDA and Aiden is no exception. Without this you’re wasting your time.

The bond with Tom and Tariq (Another one of Coastal Crusaders awesome surf coach’s) was formed and a 2nd year saw Aiden achieve a worlds first! Aiden and his pal, Louis, achieved their ISA Level 1 Surf Coaching Instructor accreditation.

Just to put this into context, so you can appreciate just how hard they worked, for you non- surf dudes out there. The surf coach instructor level 1 award is normally achieved after a 2 day theory course, evidence of your personal surfing ability is proven and 20 supervised surf coaching hours are completed.

And to reiterate, Aiden and Louis both have learning disabilities – Aiden cannot read or write and has a poor working memory and cognitive capacity. Over learning is the only way Aiden can retain information, so that’s what they did. Time, patience and practice – It took them a whole year, but they did it!

They assisted in coaching groups of children to get their 20 hours in, it’s still early days but they are doing a fabulous job. The best part is, that they can continue to help coach groups of children who surf with Coastal Crusaders and give back to the CIC.

This year Aiden is excelling with them yet again. He has taken on the challenge of achieving his Beach Lifeguard award! Part of this training is to volunteer with the RLNI – maybe yet another world first? I’ll keep you posted on his progress.

All these achievements are absolutely awesome but there is one thing that is even more awesome that Aiden has achieved through surfing, and that is, a sense of BELONGING and feeling part of a COMMUNITY!

The surfing community do not judge his abilities or disabilities, he feels equal in the ocean. Everyone looks out for each other regardless of their ability because they know only to well the power of the ocean.

Conversation and social interaction is a challenge for Aiden but he is passionate about surfing, so he loves to chat to other surfers about the waves and because he feels good in the water, so he can, with ease.

The ocean is a place where his sensory system can relax and he can socialise without judgement, while taking part in a sport he is so passionate about!

An autistic, PDAer’s heaven!

Acceptance of authenticity is the key to success and happiness and we are truly grateful to Coastal Crusaders, The Wave Project and the whole surfing community who have given Aiden just that.

Dear Newquay Surf Community,

It would seem, pretty much everyone in Newquay knows Aiden – once met never forgotten! I’m sure you may have heard his colourful phrases, you may have had to jump ship from your board to avoid a collision or you may have had your wave high jacked by this beast, if not yet, I’m sure you will – but if you have, thank you for your kindness and inclusion. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure or you are a holiday maker surfing in Newquay – please be kind and look out for him, because beyond what you may see on the surface, is a brave young man who is truly grateful to be included.

Thank you

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