Parents watch legally blind son surf for first time


WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) —  Learning how to surf can be a challenge for anyone, but how about learning with no sight at all?
That’s what several kids are doing this week in Wrightsville Beach thanks to a surf school.

This is not your average surf camp as many of the kids participating cannot see.

- Advertisement -

Before heading out to surf, they must start with the basics. Instructors and volunteers locked arms with the kids to first guide them down to the shore and let them feel the water.

“We take it slow with the kids and build their confidence with their first steps in the water,” Surf Instructor Gabe Moore said. “Getting them to surf seems like an impossible but we just take our time, get them to feel comfortable and build confidence and let them get to trust us which allows them to ride the waves.”

Instructors like Moore teach them how to paddle and pop up on the board. Then when ready, they head out to catch a wave.

For the Stanley family, this whole experience is a first. They are traveling every evening from Four Oaks, North Carolina for their son and daughter to participate.

“Jaylen, he’s 10 and he is visually impaired,” said parent Kelley Stanley. “He’s legally blind. Erica is 12.”

Kelley and her husband, Eric, heard about this free charity surf camp hosted by Indo Jax Surf School a while back.

“Actually one of Jaylen’s orientation mobility teachers mentioned it back in the winter and when he first heard of it we didn’t think that would be possible but we decided we would try it and see what happens,” Kelley said.

Jaylen started losing his sight at age six and was later diagnosed with Batten disease which is a fatal brain disease. Jaylen spent more than a year at Duke hospital receiving treatment with an uncertain ending. So that’s why this experience they say is a miracle.

“So far I think it looks like an awesome experience for him and Erica both and us really to watch them. To see all the kids and to see all the support and volunteers who came out to help is just amazing.”

With their attention focused on the line up, they say they’re not missing a single moment.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Moore said. “I mean as soon as they stand up, you can’t contain it. You just starting hooting and hollering and you see everybody else energy on the beach and it’s just contagious and you just want to keep getting them on waves.”

While Jaylen’s journey so far has had a lot bumps, but on this day it’s just a nice long smooth ride to shore.

This is the 9th annual surf camp for visually impaired children that all free for the families. Indo Jax offers several other surf camps for wounded warriors, children battling cancer, and kids with autism.