OCEAN CITY, MD - Liam Malacas let out a piercing scream.
He kicked and wriggled as a set of skilled hands hoisted him into the air.
He was dragged toward the water, his cries muffled by the sound of the waves.
To someone watching, the scene looked grim, perhaps.
But Malacas was perfectly safe and exactly where he was supposed to be.
In fact, his parents were close by watching everything unfold for Liam, and their 6-year-old son Aiden.
They were smiling and waving — cheering on their autistic, 3-year-old son while tears streamed down their faces.
"It's OK Liam," his mother Alona Malacas said. "It's OK baby."
The Malacas' brought their son to Ocean City on Wednesday, Aug. 17, for a special reason.
Not to watch him cry out in distress but to see him do something he has never done before — surf.
They traveled from Baltimore to Ocean City to participate in a surfing camp with a simple message.
"We take kids with autism surfing," said Israel "Izzy" Paskowitz, professional surfer and co-founder of Surfers Healing.
Paskowitz and his wife, Danielle, created the nonprofit 20 years ago, after they experienced a breakthrough with their own autistic son, Isaiah.
"He was having a meltdown, and I threw him into the ocean," he said. "When his head popped back up, he was different. He was smiling."
Paskowitz watched the transformation, time and time again, in Isaiah.
"There is something powerful about the weightlessness of floating, the lightness of riding a wave — it's therapeutic," he said.
Since the family's breakthrough in 1996, Surfers Healing has grown across the world.
The nonprofit now works with nearly 5,000 autistic children around the world, puts them on a surfboard with a pro surfer, and lets the magic happen.
"Surfing isn't a cure for autism, believe me," he said. "But you'd be surprised at the difference a day at the beach can make."