‘Surf therapy‘ – and where to find it
They say “only a surfer knows the feeling”.
Similarly, military personnel share a unique experience that is altogther inexplicable to those who haven’t been in uniform.
In some cases it can be the point of difference that fills you with pride, and then also a barrier-to-entry for the world left behind.
This is also true once the time comes for servicemen and women to re-enter the workforce and civilian life, regardless of it being their own choice or not.
The issues faced by veterans covering mental health, physical well-being and others are well-documented throughout the internet and do not need to be overdone on Surfstraat.
This article will instead describe the numerous organizations around the world that help veterans find the nearest surf groups that share a common understanding and experience.
I am now lucky to be able to identify as both a surfer, and a veteran. Within the 7th Battalion – Royal Australian Regiment, i was privileged to serve my home nation both domestically and overseas.
In fact, i can still vividly remember sitting in the water at a local reef break in my hometown of Perth, and seeing a camouflaged Black-Hawk fly overhead in my early twenties.
It was a clear afternoon, glassy, and relatively uncrowded. Plus, Western Australian sunsets are unreal even without a helicopter passing over the lineup, and nonetheless a unique experience in itself.
Shortly after, i took the leap and enlisted in the Australian Infantry.
Perhaps it was simply a case of a young man at a crossroads having recently lost his older brother – and wanting to ‘do something with my life’.
Nearly a decade later, i often wonder if this was a defining image in my mind that pushed me past simply considering ‘joining up’ – to signing on the dotted line for the green machine.
Or, maybe the compounded effects of movies and video games growing up in south-Western Australia.
Regardless, the fact that i am able to look back on my service (mostly) with fond memories and with a sense of closure puts me in a position that sadly not all of us are in.
“you might’a lost one brother, but you gained 30 more. “Antony J, 2014
Surfing is something that puts my life back in place when i need it most, and is the same for many others. It has done so before my time in the Army, during enlistment, and still does to this day.
Update: In 2020, i had the privilege of volunteering as a ‘surf buddy’ for Stichting Surfivor in Ter Heijde, Zuid Holland over the course of 2 months. I encourage any and all veterans, active service men and women to engage with their local organisation and experience the incredible effects surf therapy can have on those in need.
The organizations below exist to connect veterans together through the sport of surfing.
Table of Veteran Surfing Organisations:
One such organization – Operation Surf – has an incredible documentary streaming on Netflix, and is listed below:
Australian and New Zealand Veteran Surfing Organisations:
Association of Veteran Surfers – Australia
AVS’s mission: “To create a positive change in veteran lives through Ocean
Therapy, surfing and mateship.”
“AVS is a Registered Charity and a Surfing Queensland Boardriders Club with over 70 active members. AVS competes in Surfing competitions and holds regular events on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. AVS delivers RSL Queensland Family Days through their Health and Wellbeing Partnership. “
Veterans of Combined Forces Surfing Association – (VCFSA):
“It doesn’t matter what service you were in, territorial or regular, how long or how short your career was; how many deployments you did, operational or non-operational, whether you’re an experienced surfer or a beginner, fully fighting fit or with a disability there is always an Emergency Rendezvous Point (ERV) for you and your family at VCFSA.”
United Kingdom Veteran Surfing Organisations:
Surf Action, Cornwall:
“Surf Action also supports those who have served or are serving in the ‘blue-light’ emergency services. By making use of the stunning coastal environment and offering holistic support which takes into account the practical, social and psychological difficulties which some veterans can experience, we do not seek to replicate the valuable work carried out by existing military organisations and charities, but to complement, signpost to, and work with them to fill the gaps identified by the veterans who come to us.”
“Many of the people who come to us at Surf Action are in the ‘impact zone’ when they arrive. Their lives can feel like a relentless pounding. Sometimes they’ve been struggling there for a long while, minds confused, limbs shattered, desperately trying to stay afloat.”
You can lend a hand to surf action via donation here.
Veteran Surfing Organizations in the United States:
Operation Surf, Avila Beach CA:
“This all-inclusive event provides an environment where participants work to overcome perceived limitations connected to their physical and psychological disabilities.”
Operation Surf runs programs for veterans in Santa Cruz, Huntington Beach, and the Central Coast also.
Warrior Surf Foundation: Folly Beach, SC
“Founded on Folly Beach, South Carolina in May 2015 by American combat veterans and surfers, the Warrior Surf Foundation addresses post-service transition challenges such as post traumatic stress, moral injury, survivor’s guilt, and TBI.”
“We hold several 12-week programs and 5-day travel camps throughout the year. Veterans who register for this program will participate in surf, wellness, and yoga each week. Upon graduation, our Veterans are encouraged to stay active in our community as alumni.”
One More Wave: San Diego, CA:
“By equipping the veteran and connecting them to our global community of surfing volunteers; OMW enables the veterans to achieve surf therapy all over the world.”
Veteran Surf Alliance: Santa Cruz, CA
“We are a peer-led supportive community that fosters friendships, camaraderie, and stoke. We provide soft top surfboards, wetsuits, booties, and instruction to newcomers. We typically surf for about 2 hours, where we all share in the experience that the ocean offers that day, then share in a post-surf snack.”
“Our members travel from San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and as far as Sacramento. We meet all over the Northern California coast.”
Amp Surf, Pismo Beach CA + East Coast:
“AmpSurf operates through 4 chapters in the United States located in; California, New England, New York and the Pacific Northwest. These chapters have been developed to reach the one in five Americans living with a life-long disability and those that come to us from around the world.”
“Whether they served in Vietnam, the Gulf war, Iraq or Afghanistan. Whether they are an autistic child or a young woman who has lost a limb to cancer, AmpSurf™ offers a unique all inclusive program to bring the healing power of the ocean through adaptive surf therapy to these individuals for an experience that is both mentally and physically rewarding. “
Operation Amped, Del Mar, CA
“Operation Amped’s mission is to share the “stoke” of the surfing community and the healing potential of surfing with seriously ill, injured, or disabled U.S. military veterans and their families.”
“Our vision is of a surfing community that demonstrates appreciation for the sacrifices of servicemen and women with its welcoming environment and sharing the grounding and healing of surfing.“
Netherlands Veteran Surfing Organizations
Surfivor: Julianadorp, Ter Heijde, Domburg
Translated from Dutch:
“You are at the mercy of the power of nature. When a meter-high wave approaches you like a gigantic water mountain, you have to quickly get up on your plank and conquer the wave. If successful, that scary monster will become your greatest friend. ” Ben Brondsema paints a picture of the intense experience when he surfs the waves. “You took up the challenge and overcame your fear. That gives you a very good feeling about yourself. ”
“Surfivor offers special care, based on recognized forms of therapy, under the guidance of recognized therapists. Surfivor can offer surf therapy at the locations within the applicable guidelines of RIVM and in accordance with the GGD; Julianadorp, North Holland and Ter Heijde, South Holland.”
If you know of any other Veteran surfing organisations in countries or locations not mentioned above, and you’d like to have us promote them too, send a message to email@example.com as we’d love to include them!