Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Clay Marzo: Just Add Water - positive film about aspies

Regular readers may have noticed that myself and Janine sometimes write posts on aspergers and we get frustrated at the often negative press. Well here is something positive :

... Clay Marzo, who exploded on to the scene at Puerto Escondido in Mexico last month with his first pro victory, and is now being dubbed the most naturally gifted surfer of his generation, has a high-functioning form of autism called Asperger's syndrome.

The condition makes it difficult for the 20-year-old wunderkind to interact with other people. He finds crowds unnerving, conversation perplexing, and is unable to "read" emotion on someone's face. In social situations he is often – if you'll pardon the expression – a fish out of water.

Yet Asperger's is also the secret of Clay Marzo's incredible sporting ability. According to an acclaimed documentary called Just Add Water, it actually helps him succeed in the glamorous field of professional surfing. He is a unique talent because of the condition, rather than despite it. Some believe it could eventually make him the greatest surfer in history.

Some people with Asperger's are genius mathematicians, scientists or musicians (many believe that Albert Einstein, Mozart and Isaac Newton had it). Others have brilliant memories, such as Dustin Hoffman's character in the film Rain Man. Marzo may very well be the first person with the condition to have developed a genius for surfing.

"He'll have a schema of many waves that he's ridden before, so he's able to predict what to do in that situation," adds Dr Attwood (expert on aspergers SB). "His brain disconnects from everyday functions, and becomes one with the wave: he'll intuitively know what the wave's doing, so he'll anticipate that, and be ahead of everyone else."

Marzo's style of surfing is creative and spontaneous. Unlike most professional surfers, he doesn't plan different manoeuvres in advance, but instead adapts instinctively, suddenly spinning his board into reverse, perhaps, or flipping into mid-air to land audacious 360-degree turns.

The article highlights the difficulties he had before diagnosis and how he now gets support to make sense and navigate what is a neurotypical world.

I particularly like this quote :

"The main treatment for Aspergers is self-understanding and self-acceptance," adds Dr Attwood. "The problem is that people will talk of suffering from it. No. You don't suffer from Aspergers, you suffer from other people. I want people like Clay to be admired, for people to say they've got talent. Don't feel sorry for them, applaud them.


Here is a trailer for the film: