At 17, Chris Ellis looks like your stereotypical surfer: blond hair, blue eyes, broad shoulders. And when he talks about the fickle nature of waves, a bemused half-smile lends him an air of surfer coolness.But Ellis, a Boone High School junior, isn’t exactly typical. He has Asperger syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism, and often struggles to stay focused. He stutters when he’s nervous.”Surfing helps me concentrate,” says Ellis, who competes on a Special Olympics surf team with a rising number of teens and young adults like him. “And it gives me confidence.”
Despite potential dangers and a tougher learning curve than, say, running track, surfing and stand-up paddle boarding are two of the fastest-growing Special Olympics sports in Florida. A record 125 athletes are expected at Saturday’s statewide Special Olympics surf championships at Cocoa Beach, up from two dozen just three years ago.”The popularity of surfing and stand-up paddle boarding has just exploded in the past few years here,” says spokeswoman Danielle Spears of Special Olympics Florida. “Our state has led the way in growth for the country — ahead of California and well ahead of Hawaii.”
Source: For Special Olympics Florida, surfing and stand-up paddle boarding are big growth sports – Orlando Sentinel
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