After active duty in the first Gulf War, ex-soldier Rich Emerson found himself suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Today, although he still struggles, he has found his life improved through the focus and confidence he has gained from learning to surf. His mission is to spread the message of this innovative therapy to former soldiers across the globe through the Penzance-based Surf Action project.
“Our core purpose is to focus on the wellbeing and support of combat veterans and their families,” says Rich.National Lottery funding enabled Surf Action to buy new wetsuits and beginner boards. They were also able to purchase specialist boards to help injured soldiers learn to surf. The programme is developing a prosthetic limb specifically for surfing by collaborating with a similar project run for marines in California.
A young soldier, who recently returned from Afghanistan and is volunteering with the project, is testing the board. The therapies provided alongside surfing help the veterans cope with any psychological issues by building confidence and improving happiness. The project works closely with other veteran support groups such as the British Legion. Frequent family events also engage the family and friends of the surfers.
A new mentoring scheme means that older veterans further into their recovery can support the newer members. Justin suffers from PTSD, which was negatively affecting his bond with his son Jordan. When Justin bought Jordan surfing, their relationship was quickly healed. They worked together and are now equally proud of one another. Jordan says he feels he is regaining the father he once knew. Both now volunteer at the surf camps and events and work to encourage others to get involved with the programme. The whole family surfs on a regular basis and Justin has regained his confidence.