A group of 90 teen surfers, all diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, will gather from around California hoping to catch a break at Laguna Beach on Saturday morning.
The Pediatric-Adolescent Diabetes and Education, or PADRE Foundation is hosting its ninth annual Surfing with Diabetes Camp at Three Arches Bay, which will feature a surf lesson from former professional surfer Scott Dunton, a luau and an evening beach bonfire.
"It's not all about diabetes. It's about having fun," said Evan Barker, 15, of Laguna Beach, who has surfed the event since he was 12. "You don't have to feel weird about checking your insulin, you can be yourself and not have to hide."
Evan, who surfs almost every day in the summer, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 5 and said PADRE events like the surfing camp has made life a lot easier.
"I didn't think anyone else was dealing with my issues," he said. "It really opened my eyes."
Ryan Martz, PADRE program manager and program director of Camp Conrad-Chinnock, started the surfing event, gearing it toward teenagers 13 to 19 that struggle with Type 1 diabetes.
The Huntington Beach resident began attending Camp Conrad-Chinnock, a camp geared toward youth with diabetes, when he was diagnosed at age 13 and is the camp's program director.
"When I was first diagnosed I was in a state of denial," he said. "I just wanted to live my life the way I knew it. I wasn't taking care of myself, I was scared and felt alone. Camp changed my life when I thought I had nothing to look forward to in the future."
A child with Type 1 diabetes deals with multiple injections a day, constant monitoring of blood sugar levels, counting carbohydrates and the fear of seizures if not treated, Martz said.
"It's a 24-hour disease," he said. "You never get a break from it, but this day, diabetes will be a norm."
Teenagers don't want to sit around talking about their feelings because they have diabetes, they just want to have fun, said Evan's mom, Kathleen.
"It was a real connection for him that none of us understood at the time," she said. "This was a way for him to bond with a group of people who could understand the world the way he did but still have fun."
Registration closed Tuesday due to over-capacity and organizers are expecting this year to be the largest in its history. More than 130 participants, including nearly 40 volunteer camp counselors, from Bakersfield to San Diego are signed up to surf in the event.