11-year-old ocean maverick rides the wave of happiness

Brodi Woodhouse surfs the spectrum. Credit: Marina Weitz.

23 SEP 2019

Nikita Ashford

When he is not cruising through the vibrant coral reefs, tropical cocos palms and translucent waters of the South Pacific islands with his family, you will find him watching repeats of James Cameron’s infamous 1997 film Titanic, as he analyses every miniscule of the British passenger liner’s hapless maiden voyage.

Brodie Woodhouse knows how to avoid a treacherous rip; he is not afraid of combatting the ominous predators below the surface of the deep blue sea; and he is utterly obsessed with surfing.

When this 11-year-old Novocastrian on the autism spectrum is near the ocean, he is the happiest person in sight. Needless to say, Brodi has been captivated by his love for water.

“The ocean makes me feel amazing – the water barrels, the dolphins, learning to surf and standing up on a board for the first time – I just love everything about it,” said Brodi.

We all experience some form of obsession throughout our lifetime. Many children develop obsessions with favourite toys, while others become totally hooked on cartoon characters. These interests often progress from one to another, and sometimes last weeks, months or even years before they change.

But for children on the autism spectrum, obsessions, routines and rituals often help them cope with their surroundings as a response to stress and anxiety. Difficulties with communication can make it hard for them to understand what’s happening around them, yet their obsessions let them feel a sense of control within their environment.

Brodi was first introduced to surfing through a Surfing the Spectrum program held at Caves Beach, New South Wales in 2018 – and despite his obsession with water, he had never been immersed in the ocean on a surfboard.

Brodi’s Surfing the Spectrum acting debut. Credit: Alex Bowen.

“I just love the whole idea of giving people with autism, like myself, the opportunity to go out in the ocean and have a chance at learning to surf – it means the world to me,” said Brodie.

The enticing feeling of the water splashing, the sound of the waves crashing, the visual sunlight reflecting, and the smell of the salty air associated with surfing – all provide multiple stimuli for this young ocean maverick.

Brodi’s mother Jacqui Woodhouse said weight gain and less physical activity were common effects of Brodi’s medication, so to watch him successfully achieve something and willingly exert so much energy without thinking about it was incredible.

“I have never seen Brodi so active, engaged, happy and motivated to keep moving and riding waves. He became calm, confident and it was like nothing else mattered in his world,” she said.

Enjoying the individual attention of the volunteers. Credit: Marina Weitz

Surfing the Spectrum co-founder Tahlia Anderson coached Brodi through his first surfing session last year and noticed the positive effects surfing had upon Brodi and his family.

“Encouraging Brodi to engage in surf therapy not only helped him as an individual, it also provided respite for his family, and to witness such positive reactions from everyone involved is one of the most rewarding feelings in the world,’ Ms Anderson said.

As an aspiring surf instructor, Brodi hopes to one day teach others with ASD how to surf. And with the happiness that radiates from his infectious laugh and confident nature, this youngster is sure to provide a barrel of smiles for everyone he encounters.

Tags: #brodiwoodhouse #surfingthespectrum #ASD #autismspectrumdisorder #autism #surfing #surftherapy #oceantherapy #community #local #newcastle

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