Return to the Waves

Silhouette of a soldier against the sun.

The Healing Board

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A few weeks ago we visited the coasts of Cornwall in the UK to see how surfing can heal War’s wounds. Like waves ever returning to shore, then, we find ourselves today returning to the ocean and to the surfboard, now half a world away, on the coasts of California in the US, in a piece from the magazine Outside, entitled, “Can Surfing Reprogram the Veteran’s Brain?

A childhood friend of mine sent me this article, which is itself about two childhood friends, the piece’s author, Matt Skenazy, and his friend, Brian (a pseudonym).  They grew up on the coastal waters of southern California, met as teenagers, and found together a surfing life that took them away from life’s cares and, years later, life’s traumas.

For in the years between adolescence and adulthood, Brian became a SEAL, a special operations sailor in the United States Navy. In his personal life, he experienced setbacks. In his work, Brian experienced more than his share of injuries, both physical and emotional. Eventually a Facebook posting, desperate, honest, helped launch the men back to the sea.

Matt hooked his suffering friend up with the group, Ocean Therapy, an occupational therapy/recreational therapy program which had been working, among others, with United States Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton, in the San Diego area. Since then, Brian has certainly not “forgotten” his War experiences because of surfing. He has, though, found a way to make those experiences more acceptable and more meaning-filled, as he has shared his experiences as both youth and SEAL to help other combat vets being their own healing processes.

The article relates how Brian had not found more conventional treatment approaches that helpful. As I’ve often said before, some do find help in these approaches, others do not. It is never an issue of there being one true road to pave back to healing. Far more important is it to find the best road back for you, to allow you to remember that you have what it takes, to encourage you to live out the missions and connections worth looking for, striving for, and living for.

No matter where in the world we find ourselves, no matter how land-locked, the sea is at the ultimate end of all our roads. It calls us back. It can be exceedingly cruel and unforgiving. It can be flexible and playful. We work with it; it works with us.

I’m glad for Brian. His healing journey continues.

But just as the ocean can be counted on to return wave by wave, so can he and fellow combat vets themselves be encouraged to be counted upon, for themselves, for others, remembering who they are, paddling out to new challenges, wave by wave, meeting them, whether by wiping out or by making the perfect entry, and then paddling out and meeting them again.

Kind of like life. But a lot cooler.

Until tomorrow, be well,


To learn more about Ocean Healing

click here.

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