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Clay Marzo - Pro Surfer - Asperger's

🌊🏄‍♂️ Clay Marzo is a world renowned professional surfer and Autism advocate. As well as being an incredibly talented athlete and an inspirational role model, Clay is diagnosed Asperger's.

Being invited to surf at various competitions around the world, Clay is a very hard person to pin down for an interview, so we were incredibly grateful for his time - especially considering the water is where he feels most comfortable. 🙏

He's joined by his mother Jill Marzo for this interview.

We hope it encourages reflection in regards to individuals who struggle with traditional modes of communication... Remember, communication comes in many forms, and a persons ability to speak doesn't define their overall capabilities.

Afterall, some of the most eloquent speakers lack depth to their words. 👀

And some of those who find talking most difficult are "poets" when they do speak...

Key talking points

~ 9:30 - Jill talks about Clay speaking through the water. Clay's always found verbal communication difficult - especially when he doesn't know the person he's talking to. Due to his hectic schedule, we only had one opportunity to interview Clay. If there had been more time, we would have organised a preliminary meeting to help everyone feel at ease. (As the interviewer, who is also Autistic, I'd certainly have benefited!)

~ 10:00 - Jill talks about grounding the kids, but still allowing Clay to surf. She realised that it wasn't ethical and wouldn't result in any valuable lessons to deprive Clay of his sole outlet. Surfing was Clay's way of expressing himself, and similar to not silencing a child for misbehaving - the same principle seems to apply here. It makes you wonder about other forms of punishment...

~ 13:00 - Clay talks about hyper-awareness being exhausting. It's a common misconception that Autism is characterised by a lack of emotion, awareness, and feeling. While this may be the case for some individuals, it is not necessarily true for the majority. Many Autistic people actually experience an overwhelming amount of sensory input from their environment. This heightened sensitivity is a key factor that can make person-to-person communication particularly challenging.

~ 14:00 - Clay and Jill talk about the pro's and cons of competing. Jill specifically discusses the challenges Clay faces in relation to competition. Clay struggled, and still struggles with adhering strictly to the rules, opting to showcase his individuality instead. They consider whether a competition with a more artistic or creative focus would better align with his Autistic traits. Despite this, Clay emphasises the happiness that comes with winning.

~ 17:00 - Jill provides some advice to parents. According to Jill, listening to your child involves more than just hearing their words; it's about paying attention to their non-verbal cues like body language and mood, as well as what they leave unsaid. She uses the square peg in a round hole analogy to emphasise the importance of not pushing children into activities they don't like or aren't suited for. Instead, the focus should be on helping them discover where their interests and strengths lie.

~ 20:00 - Clay and Jill talk about neuroinclusive spaces. Jill describes the way in which Clay came to life at an Autism conference they attended together. This really highlights how attitude and environments can be enabling... or disabling. At this conference, Clay felt comfortable and had no trouble making a speech to the audience. Clay also talked about the joy he felt in giving one of his surf boards to a fan.

~ 23:30 - Jill highlights the importance of how questions are asked. She recalls a challenging interview that Clay once had, where the interviewer was frustrated by his lack of involvement. Out of frustration, she posed a final question that led Clay to provide a poetic analogy. He compared the sensation of being in the barrel of a wave to having a tickle in your throat and your body gearing up to cough...

Unfortunately my line of questioning didn't quite prompt Clay to share any poetry, but the interview remained insightful and positive nonetheless! I was even invited to take a trip to Hawaii for some surfing lessons! We can all dream!

Follow Clay

Instagram @claymarz0 (Clay's former account was hacked!)

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