Advancing National Service

When Veterans Need to Let Loose, These Volunteers Help Them Ride the Waves

July 30, 2014
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When Veterans Need to Let Loose, These Volunteers Help Them Ride the Waves
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Deserving vets hit the surf for a day of fun and camaraderie.

When you picture a surfer dude, you probably think of Hawaiian shirts, beach bonfires, ukuleles and a carefree attitude toward life. All of which is the opposite of the image that comes to mind when you think of a brave veteran wounded while serving our country. But the recent Waves of Valor Surf Camp proved that both vets and surfers can hang 10 together.

Sponsored by Team Red, White & Blue and the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, the event took place at the Bolsa Chica State Beach in Huntington Beach, California on July 19. In total, four surf camps are scheduled for this summer, and this is the second year that volunteers have offered surfing lessons to veterans.

How do veterans learn how to surf? Each is teamed with four volunteers: a surf captain and three others on duty to fetch boards, help the service members mount the surfboards and assist with swimming when needed.

During the Huntington Beach event, the 17th Street Surf Shop closed for business for the day so its employees could volunteer — helping people such as Navy veteran Goldie Nwachuku catch a wave.

At first, Nwachuku was afraid but managed to stand up on a surf board for the first time. “It’s really good to have a smile on my face. I haven’t smiled in a long time,” Nwachuku told Ethan Hawkes of the Orange County Register.

Ryan Lee, Air Force vet, told Hawkes that surfing, “really helps relieve my stress, and it also helps me connect with the veteran community here and with the other volunteers.”

The program has proved so successful that for next year, organizers are planning a three-day surf event that will bring former soldiers from across the country to participate.

Whether the surfers can get any of the vets to yell “kowabunga,” however, remains to be seen.

MORE: How Does Running Coast to Coast Help Veterans?

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