Sign-ups of the past

Dude, is there anything more frustrating than signing up (or trying to sign-up) for one of our camps?  You put the date on your calendar, you plan your day around it, but by the time you log on to the website the camp is full.  Kinda sucks, don’t it?  Sucks for us, too – we love all the angry phone calls and e-mails that come our way as a result… and that’s just from our local camp directors!

Let’s try something new

Time for a different approach, folks.  Our idea is to remove most of the stress from the sign-up process, and to open up our camps to as many families as possible.  How do we plan to do that?  How ‘bout a lottery?  Seems to us like this is the best way to go, given how our camps have grown over the years.  We realize that a random drawing will disappoint a great many of you, but we’ve scratched our heads on this for some time now and believe this is the cleanest, most equitable solution, giving every child an equal chance of getting into one of our camps – whether or not his or her parents are technologically-challenged or available to access a computer at an arbitrary time.

Just a few facts of life

Last year, we surfed with almost 5,000 kids.  That’s about 2.5X the number of participants just five years ago.  Back then, with just 2,000 available spots, we had total sign-ups of about 3,500 kids.  In 2015, we had total sign-ups of close to 10,000.  Do the math.  It’s simply not possible for our dedicated crew to spend any more time in the water with your children – even though, frankly, they’d probably like nothing more than to do just that!  The growth of our camps has coincided with a ton of great media exposure, but we think this spike has more to do with the sad state of ASD growth in general. 

So how have a bunch of dumb-a$$ surfers been able to manage over 2X growth?  Only one answer – we have the most incredible surf team in the world, an equally amazing group of volunteers, and a core of selfless local directors who really make it all come together.  We’d do it all year long if we could, but that’s just not possible.  See, we’re run on an all-volunteer basis.  Some of our surfers travel clear across the country to help get your kids up on a board – halfway around the world, even.  And they’ve all got jobs and families of their own back home, so there’s a limit to the size of their sacrifice.  But do you want to know our dirty little secret?  It’s no sacrifice at all, with this bunch.  We love your kids, and when we get just one of them to do (or try) something he or she never thought was possible, the smiles and hugs that come our way on the back of those feats makes us feel like kings of the beach!  It’s the stoke of all stokes.  

Understand, our budget is always a struggle – but, hey, we’re surfers, so we’re used to scraping our nickels together.  We’ve added an extra day here and there to the existing schedule, we’ve added new camps in Florida and Australia.  We find a way to s-t-r-e-t-c-h those nickels!  Just last year, Ford donated a new van (and some killer surfboards!).  And we’ve got generous sponsors on the ground at each of our camps who donate goods and services, and time and money.  We make it work.  On our last tour, Kamu and Kaiwi actually slept on the floor at a couple stops, and Izzy and Jeff regularly sleep in the same bed on the road (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).  But we wouldn’t have it any other way – it makes for great times, an insanely fun road trip, and a lifetime of stories and memories.

OK, OK… now the new process (think Super Mega lottery)

First, the sign-up.  In the old days, you had to be at your keyboard at a pre-determined time, because our camps filled up in minutes.  Now, we’re going to leave sign-ups open for an entire week, with no advantage to those who register first.  Once you hit “Submit,” you’re in the line-up.  Make sure your e-mail address is filled in correctly, so we can send you a confirmation.  If you don’t hear back from us, check your SPAM filter – or make double-sure you entered your e-mail correctly.

Second, the lottery.  At the end of our sign-up week, we’ll conduct a random drawing to see who’ll get to surf.  No, we won’t be picking these names ourselves, so there’s no tactical reason to be extra nice to any one of us (although, got to say, it’s always a treat when our Surfers Healing families are extra nice to us!).  Our IT team (and when we say “team”, we really just mean Jason) will run these applications through the black magic Santeria known as “database technology.”  As Jason explains it (and you have to say this in a robot voice for it to make sense), we will query the database to randomly generate a list of participants to fill the number of spots we can accommodate at each camp.  We’ll try to work it out that siblings who are on the spectrum will get to surf as a family – in other words, if big brother’s name is randomly generated, little sister won’t be left on the beach.

Third, we let you know what’s what.  Hopefully, you’ll be hearing from us with good news.  We’ll follow-up with all the deets: surf times, location, parking info… Same deal, same drill as before.  If you don’t get picked in the lottery (we’ll let you know that too), we’ll keep your info and if someone cancels or additional spots are opened, we’ll pick again to fill those.

Is this ideal?

Of course not.  Ideal would be taking every kid surfing whenever he or she wants.  But the reality is that even though we have grown our capacity by more than 2.5X, the number of requests far outnumber the number of kids we can physically handle, so we hope you’ll appreciate the thought that went into this shift and help us try out this lottery process for the next while.  In the meantime, you have our promise that we will continue to try to grow – more days, more camps, more locations.  We hate to disappoint anyone – really, really – and we look forward to the day when our sign-ups start to trend downward.  Not because we’re getting too long in the tooth to keep surfing with your kids, but because the number of kids and families who need an experience like Surfers Healing in their lives will start to be on the decline.  Now, wouldn’t that be #OnePerfectDay?

Our request of you

Like we said, we know that we can’t make everyone happy here.  But we are asking everyone to keep an open mind and help us give this new process a shot – let’s see how it goes.  Give us your feedback.  And trust that we will keep trying to take as many kids surfing as we possibly can.  As always, we’ll keep everyone posted on Facebook and Instagram of the sign-up dates for each camp – thanks in advance for all the continued support.

Mucho Aloha,
The Surfers Healing Crew