I think I could safely say one of the most freeing, peaceful and highly individualistic things I do in my life is surf.
Inexplicably, surfing can be a great magnifier of joy and happiness and also a much welcome mitigator of grief or sadness. So I thought it was a great idea when I heard about Wounded Warrior Project’s annual Surf Camp recently.
Taking to the water makes perfect sense as a way to alleviate stress in all types of people, but particularly for those individuals who have been wounded or affected by war. It serves several purposes; at a very basic level, it keeps the mind occupied particularly at first as you learn. But on a deeper level, it is a great equalizer quite simply because anyone can ride a wave, no matter what their physical limitations might be. With some help, even people who are partially paralyzed can surf. It’s all about riding a wave and not so much HOW you do it. So I can imagine that this would be incredibly freeing and confidence bolstering to someone who understandably feels that their life as they knew it is over. It would be incredibly freeing to realize that you CAN do things that you never imagined doing before.
There’s also a great feeling of peace out there in the water, and a feeling of co-existence with nature. To someone struggling to fit back into the world they knew, society and even their own families that connection could be very helpful.
And in terms of those able-bodied individuals who are struggling with combative post-traumatic stress disorder and the anxiety comes with it, it’s a welcome chance to be at peace, thinking nothing of what is happening in the moment while having a zen-like quality of letting go.
This years’s surf camp is happening in Virginia Beach, VA, and involves soldiers from Walter Reed Memorial Hospital. But the locale changes annually. I’d highly encourage anyone to donate to this great organization and also to consider volunteering time for the surf camps if they are in your local area. They always need teachers and volunteers to make this happen, though in recent years Billabong has generously sponsored the event so boards, suits and other equipment are usually covered. What a wonderful idea!