Surf2Heal is a non profit organization created By Jon Hynes, previous owner of GTown Surf School (Now owned by Steve Tobin) in Garrettstown, Co. Cork, John Hynes' wife Alayne and Nollaig Hayes, a Garretstown resident whose son Sean is on the autism spectrum.
Nollaig who saw the enormous benefits that the sea had on her son Sean approached Jon to ask him to teach her son to surf, as she had come across a group in America called Surfers Healing who were successfully running a surf camp for children with autism. Jon suggested a research mission to Nollaig. Needing no persuading they agreed and in a matter of weeks Jon, Alayne, Nollaig and Sean were on a plane to Mexico to visit the Surfers Healing team.
The trip was a great success and on their return in May 2008, Surf2Heal was created as a non-profit organization here in Ireland. A national call for volunteers was made and a team of enthusiastic surfers, care workers, special needs professionals and water worshipers came together eager to share their expertise and love of the ocean.
With the support of the local sports partnership and Cork Association for Autism a comprehensive training program for volunteers was set up that included water safety, autism awareness and child protection. Special equipment was ordered from England and following a few weekends of training the team were ready to pilot the new Surf 2 Heal program.
In August 2008, on a clear summers morning the volunteers took to the water. Surf2Heals first weeklong camp for children with autism was initiated and 43 children were introduced to surfing for the first time.
Following its success in 2008, in 2009, with the help of the regional sports partnerships and surf schools Surf2Heal hosted surf camps in Co. Cork (Garettstown, Inchidoney), Kerry (Banna Beach), Clare (Fanore) and Waterford (Tramore).
In 2010 we did a demo in Strandhill Co. Sligo with the Help of the local Sports Partnership, which saw the start of a new camp in 2011. The Clare camp is now run independently by a committed group of parents who got together as it was really hard to find volunteers to travel all the way to Fanore. The Cork (Garettstown, Inchydoney), Kerry (Banna Beach), Sligo (Streedagh) and Waterford (Tramore) camps have had a tremendous success and introduced 160 kids nationwide to surfing in 2011, 175 kids in 2012.
Run entirely by a team of committed volunteers in conjunction with surf schools (www.surfgtown.com ,www.westcorksurfing.com, www.kingdomwaves.com, www.pointbreaksurfschool.com/index.php, www.freedomsurfschool.com) who freely give their time, energy and enthusiasm, Surf2Heal is continuing to go from strength to strength and enabling more and more young people to enjoy the ocean and its benefits.