You can immediately see that the pain is still raw for Danilo Couto and Kohl Christensen, but the pain reminds them why they set out on this path—if just one surfer could be saved, it would all be worth it. The day their friend Sion Milosky passed was the breaking point; big wave surfing had gotten too big, too fast. Safety protocols and training were needed; Danilo and Kohl answered the call.
Together with a few of their big-wave peers, the beginnings of the Big Wave Risk Assessment Group (“BWRAG”) formed in 2011. Bringing together some of the leading North Shore watermen, they began their mission to educate and train surfers in ocean risk management, safety protocols, equipment, technology and the skills needed to ensure their own safe practice and to elevate the safety of those with whom they shared the lineup.
Sensing an opportunity to further the training for the elite watermen and women of A Walk On Water (“AWOW”), chairman Laura Rubin brought AWOW and BWRAG together for the first ever big wave risk assessment training of a Surf Therapy nonprofit. I was lucky enough to be invited alongside some of AWOW’s premier watermen; guys like Steven Lippman, Allen Sarlo, Dale Rhodes and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, just to name a few. While 20-foot waves are usually not in play at AWOW events, we still realize the massive responsibility we have when families place their precious cargo in our care.
A Walk On Water is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit providing water therapy to children with special needs or disability through surfing; what we call “Surf Therapy.” The ocean’s transformative properties empower our participants, who enjoy a much-deserved day of laughter, love, and acceptance alongside their family. For one perfect, restorative day at the beach, there are no labels. Everyone is an Athlete.
No matter the size of the waves, surfing with an Athlete with special needs requires years of specialized training, and I’m grateful to be part of an organization that refuses to believe there is nothing left to learn when it comes to water safety. In being the first Surf Therapy nonprofit to enlist the knowledge and training of BWRAG, AWOW is reaffirming our commitment to our families, and the safeguarding of their Athlete. Safety has always been the number one tenet of AWOW, and it gives me (and the many families we work with) a sense of peace knowing our sincere focus in this area.
5% of their income from home sales through Equity Advisors back to A Walk On Water, and they bump it to 15% if an AWOW family member is involved in the transaction.
Our day-long training began in Malibu with a CPR refresher, which included training on using an Automated External Defibrillator (“AED”), which AWOW will have present at every event in 2018. Danilo was kind enough to lead a very in-depth conversation around all the potential issues that could arise at an AWOW Surf Therapy event, and you could tell everyone in the room found immense value in this shared expertise. Danilo was able to tailor his training based on the potential real-world situations that might arise at one of our events. Following our lifesaving certification course, we caravanned down to Zuma Beach, where we met up with renowned LA County Lifeguard Tuffer Marsolek and collectively dove into Surf Risk Management and walking through potential issues that we should be prepared for at the beach. We discussed at length the various challenges we’ve faced in the past, and talked over the best way to handle those potential worst-case scenarios.
When I felt the hand to my left tug, I realized it was my time to speak. I flashed back to that night when I first learned of A Walk On Water, and all the magic and serendipity that had to have been in play to allow me to stumble across this life-changing experience that I wasn’t even looking for, but really needed. Two years, hundreds of new friends, and a thousand beautiful memories later,
I thanked AWOW and all those present for making me a better human being, and I continue to thank Danilo, Kohl, and BWRAG for helping make me a better waterman. Tears fell to the sand and disappeared as they met the rising sea; a reminder that we are but a small part of this expansive blue planet, and we owe our respect to the sea and all she provides.
About the author:
Jack Turturici, Jr. is an over 25-year Malibu resident and founding partner of Equity Advisors Real Estate alongside his incredible wife (and AWOW volunteer!) Michelle. Together with their daughter Mia, they volunteered at every 2017 AWOW Surf Therapy event, and don’t plan to miss one anytime soon.
Jack & Michelle graciously donate 5% of their income from home sales through Equity Advisors back to A Walk On Water, and they bump it to 15% if an AWOW family member is involved in the transaction.