Combat Surf Therapy
Combat Surf Therapy
by: Nate Dinger
Every day, all around the world, men and women crawl out of their warm beds, drag themselves to a job they hate, hoping to make their rent. People, as a whole, tend to forget who and what they are. Many, tragically spend their lives wishing they were somewhere else. This is not true of everyone. Some find a way to bring immeasurable value to the world. This is especially true of the United States military. This select group chooses a path riddled with hardship, adversity, and brutal competition. Their life is not for the weak or faint of heart. It’s for those committed to a higher purpose; for those whom possess an unrivaled drive and an ability to act in the face of intense danger. The veterans of our wars are often portrayed as being “bullet proof”, and impervious to the effects of battle. Yet, far too often these souls don’t come home or they come home broken. Many return with a disorder referred to as Post Deployment Syndrome (PDS). PDS includes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Post Concussive Syndrome, and Traumatic Brain Injury. Society feels sympathetic, however, few can actually help their countrymen in recovery.
The surfing community; however, has recently stepped up. Many organizations have begun to reach out and assist individuals suffering from the emotional and physical wounds of war. It has long been understood that exercise helps the human body remain strong and resilient. But can it help those with PDS? The answer is yes. Exercise enables the body to burn excess energy, which in turn, causes the release of endorphins. These endorphins improve one’s mood and physical wellbeing. It also reduces chemicals in the body that trigger and intensify anxiety. Surfing is a sport, or lifestyle rather that allows the individual to take control of a few moments in their life. Surfing allows veterans to interact and become a part of something much bigger than themselves, while simultaneously improves their sense of balance, focus, and self-discipline. This leads to a higher self-esteem and an identity that is no longer centralized around tragedy or trauma. Members of the Florida Military Surf Club (FMSC) and the Pendleton Surf Club (PSC) have put the practice of PDS management into their daily routine. Each club represents the east and west coast of the United States, and similar to the branches of the military, their missions are not unique, but rather collective and designed for the greater good. These organizations have identified that the healing power of the ocean can assist its members, in the often difficult transition from the frontlines of combat to the sanctuary and stability of home.
FMSC and PSC have discovered that the rhythm of the ocean often calms the mind and lessens the strain on the heart. They have learned that the rise of the swell and the echo of the barrel quiets negative energy and provides an unequalled peace for any who choose to paddle out. Organizations like the FMSC and the PSC understand the benefits of surfing and PDS management. They listen and relate, they teach and learn, and they do this all while catching a few good waves. Groups like these have already saved and improved the lives of many veterans. They have helped countless Soldiers in repurposing their lives and understanding their importance to the world. Currently, programs like these are fairly small, but with time and effort, they will grow and assist in the treatment and recovery of our nations’ heroes, and may quite possibly impact a life near you.