‘Tubesteak’ returns to Malibu

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Nick Hernandez of Laguna Beach helps an autistic child navigate a wave at least year's Surfers Healing camp.

to help autistic children

By Ben Marcus / Special to The Malibu Times

Autism has been defined by the World Health Organization and the American Psychological Association as a developmental disability resulting from a disorder of the human central nervous system. Some of the symptoms of autism include staring into open areas, odd movement patterns, and slow language skills.

“More accurately,” said Nick Tarlov, M.D., a surfer and second-year resident in neurology at USC Medical Center, “the child tends not to make eye contact with other people and does not perform social behaviors that other children learn, such as playing with other children. Mother’s notice that their baby does not have a ‘social smile’-the way babies will smile at their mother and giggle. Slow language skills, odd movement patterns and obsessive-compulsive behaviors such as banging one’s head into a wall, inability to follow directions, occasional violent tantrums, spinning around in circles, and an unusual self-absorption bordering on selfishness. Autistic children seem to exist in a world of their own.”

On Saturday, Variety-the Children’s Charity of Southern California, the Surfer’s Healing, a nonprofit foundation for autism, and the Paskowitz Surf Camp are presenting the 6th Annual Pat Notaro Day, which will bring autistic children from the shady turf of the Los Angeles to the sunny surf of First Point Malibu, to experience the smell, feel, sights and sounds of riding waves.

Surfers Healing was founded by Israel and Danielle Paskowitz, parents of son, Isaiah, who was diagnosed with autism at age three. The Paskowitzes found that the ocean and surfing had a profound effect on their son, and decided to host surf day camps for children with autism and their families. The camps, which are conducted from New York to Malibu, are free.

The group of volunteers on Saturday will be led by Terry “Tubesteak” Tracy, one of the original Malibu “pit” crew members during the Golden Years of the 1950s. In the middle 50s, Tracy lived in a shack on the beach in Malibu for two summers, and was one of a group of surfers who were the pioneers of the California surfer lifestyle. They included Kemp Aaberg, Miki Dora, Tom Morey, Johnny Fain, Dewey Weber, The Windbag and Lance Carson, Tracy said. In the 1959 movie “Gidget,” the surfer “Great Kahoona,” portrayed by Cliff Robertson, was based partly on Tracy’s life. The surfer is enthusiastic when he talks about the children who take part in the surf camp.

“The kids are remarkable,” Tubesteak said. “I’ve been to several of those things, talked to parents, and several instructors. If I were very young like them, I’d be terrified to go in the ocean on a surfboard, even with an instructor. The moment the children get on the board it seems as if they entered another world. It appears the wind and the waves calm them, although instructors say the kids remain the same, they seem to enjoy the environment.

“When you attend a Surfer’s Healing camp, you know something special is happening,” he added.

Karen Gallagher is a surf instructor on the North Shore of Oahu who volunteered for a Surfer’s Healing in Hawaii. “I helped out the Paskowitz family at Haleiwa Ali’i Park, and it was awesome,” Gallagher said. “What someone should do is a photo documentary of the kids’ faces before and after they surf; the transformation is incredible … but then again, so it is with folks like us, too!”

Tracy estimates there will be as many as 150 children at First Point. “So the more helping hands, the better.”

He will be aided by fellow veteran Aaberg. Surf instructors from the Paskowitz Surf Camp will be there to make sure the children ride the waves safely. Tracy’s 22-year-old grandson, Josh Tracy, will be volunteering as well. “I enjoy taking the kids out in the water,” Josh Tracy said. “It’s amazing the calming effect it has on them. It’s rewarding to see the kids and their families so proud and excited. It’s a great experience for everyone.”

The surfing begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday and will continue until 4 p.m., with a barbecue sponsored by Variety-SOCAL at noon. Volunteers are welcome to make sure the children have a safe experience. More information can be obtained by contacting Jennifer Tracy at 949.456.9754, Maria Schmidt at 323.655.1547, or the Paskowitz Surf Camp at 949.463.9283. More information can be found on the Surfers Healing foundation at www.surfershealing.org, and Variety-SOCAL at www.varietysocal.com