When Tim Reda leans to turn into a wave, his buddy Alex Chery, standing in front of him, knows his body also has to tilt to get the surfboard to carve into the wave's surface as they glide toward shore.
Reda holds onto Alex, who on land uses a walker to keep his body upright. And Alex is there to lift Reda, too, in his own way.
"Our bodies work together," Reda said. "We kind of have that flow."
Chery, 11, has taken surf classes for five years through the Newport Elementary surf team, put on by the Endless Sun Surf Camp in Newport Beach, Calif. He was born with cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects motor skills and physical development.
"It's really good for my body," he explained in 2013. "Surfing helps me walk because it gets my legs stronger by moving. It makes me have more ability."
His father, Anthony, said Alex has had a passion for the water since he was a small child. Father and son spend weekends in the ocean, sharing a big board on their bellies on most days.
In the early years, Alex was known for belting out "this is the best day of my life!" after every surf session.
"It's the best time of my life, still," Alex said on a recent day.
He's had different tandem surf partners through the years, various instructors who come and go as they move on to new jobs.
But Alex and Reda, an instructor with Endless Sun Surf School, have long had a bond. If the waves are on the bigger side, Reda wants to make sure he's the one holding on to Alex, to make sure he's safe.
"I think this is a really healing thing for him," Reda said.
And it's healing for Reda, too.
Reda, 33, of Costa Mesa, Calif., was living his life-long dream of being a pro surfer. In 2014 he traveled to China to compete in the longboard World Championships, and he had a goal of one day earning a championship title.
But last year his left hand went numb. He got an MRI, which revealed an 8-centimeter tumor on his brain.
Doctors have given Reda different prognoses: Some say he has no more than 10 years to live. Some say don't operate, it's too risky.
Last year, he underwent radiation and chemotherapy to try to shrink the tumor.
He had a big bald spot on his head where he lost his hair. He was so weak, he didn't want to go outside. Even sunlight hurt. He lost 20 pounds.
But then, he heard Alex had signed up for summer surf camp.
"I got myself in gear, I started practicing on a softboard and a water jug on the lawn," Reda said. "I had been at home, not doing anything, kind of miserable."
When they got in the water together, it was like old times.
"It was so therapeutic," Reda said.
It wasn't easy for Reda to get back in the water. The experienced surfer got caught inside on a 2-foot day at Doheny, and despite the small waves, it was a struggle.
"I felt like a beginner surfer again," he said.
While the tumor has turned his life upside-down, it's also changed his attitude, he said.
Instead of surfing just for himself, he wants to share the stoke with others. Once a competitive surfer who would call people off waves he was already riding, Reda now cheers them on to join him on the waves.
"Before this, I wanted to surf more for myself," he said. "Everything is in a new light, I want to share everything I've learned and give back to the youth. You never know when something will happen to change your whole life."
Reda has been entering surf contests again "to prove to myself I can do it." He got third place at a surf club event two months ago at an event at San Onofre State Beach and placed fourth earlier this year at a community surf contest in Newport.
But no matter where else he surfs, Reda is likely to be found every Tuesday with Alex, the duo riding waves together – Alex at the front of the board, Reda holding him up from behind.
"He has such a good energy," Reda said of his surfing partner. "He's never been afraid, he just loves to charge. He's one of the coolest kids we have."
Anthony Chery said the relationship the pair have is "very special." He said he's noticed Reda's weight loss, and loss of muscle, and how he struggles in the surf.
"(Alex) and Tim both have their challenges and they are doing their best to overcome it," he said. "He has contributed so much to Alex's development, confidence and overall perspective on life. He gives Alex the feeling he can do anything, he's not limited and inhibited by anything."
Anthony Chery said he never thought about how much Alex might, in turn, be inspiring his surf coach.
"Maybe after (Tim) was diagnosed and went through his chemo treatments, maybe his experience with Alex helped push him through some of that," Chery said. "I'd like to think it did."
Reda is preparing to begin another round of chemotherapy, but he's delayed his treatment until Tuesday night – so he can ride waves with Alex during a small surf contest in Newport put on by the surf camp earlier in the day. Alex will be competing.
Alex said he's hoping to get as many waves as possible during the event. And it's that attitude that motivates Reda to keep surfing with his friend.
"All the stuff he's gone through, all the stuff I've been through," Reda said. "Every time I see a smile on his face, I know it's just special what we are doing."