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Warrior Surf Foundation: The Healing Powers of the Ocean

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The 7th Annual Oyster Roast was held this past Saturday at the Brick House Kitchen. The family friendly event, coordinated by Director Ben Bounds, was well received by the community and garnered thousands of dollars that went to the nonprofit, Warrior Surf Foundation.

Warrior Surf Foundation was founded by true american combat veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, as well as professional surfers. Every day, 22 returning veterans take their own life. For those returning from battle with injuries, seen or unseen, this program introduces surf life and culture to use the ocean for healing. Director of the film Resurface, Josh Izenberg, explains, “The ocean itself has the cathartic ability to wash away negative emotions by putting them in a context of something much bigger and more powerful than someone’s individual life existence.”

The program is designed to help not only veterans, but their families as well. It is open to the wives, husbands, and children of the veteran who are left to deal with hardships. The program brings together families through a common ground of surfing. When veterans see their family trying to surf with them, they see their family trying something that is just as difficult to do as what they are doing which brings the family together.

The science is all there to support the claims that surfing is a healing activity in five different ways. First, water movement generates negative ions that have the ability to positively alter someone’s mental state. Second, they overcome waves that can mirror challenges faced in combat have a calming effect. Third, making and meeting goals. Fourth, the nervous system is calmed by the movement of the water. Finally, those suffering from PTSD sleep better thanks to the healthy exhaustion caused by the physical exertion.

Approximately one thousand people arrived to show their support of this exceptional program, and there were plenty of children’s activities to keep the kids happy. Oysters, food trucks, 15 vendors, and 6 bands allowed everyone to have a great time on an absolutely beautiful clear day. We had the opportunity to speak with an individual who has been helped by this organization,  a scrappy young man by the name of Robert Whaley, who has been influenced directly by their helpful (and life-saving) plan.

Here is his story:

“My name is Robert (Rob) Whaley. I am 22 years old, and I am on my last year on active duty. I joined the navy in early 2012, as a corpsman (medic) and got assigned to a Marine Corps Infantry unit. I married my highschool sweetheart, and shortly after I deployed to the Middle East. I spent most of my time operating in and out of Iraq and Jordan for operation ‘inherent resolve’ in the summer of 2014.

(When) I returned home in the fall of 2014, and was at a dark place in my life, I wanted to be back overseas. I had a hard time communicating with my wife and family. I felt alone in my own world. Shortly after that, I volunteered for another deployment, because I thought it was exactly what I needed. I was wrong. It only postponed the feelings. When I returned home, it had just made things worse.

One summer day, I woke up, went down to the surf shop, rented a board, and took it upon myself to learn to surf. My life forever changed on that day! I had found my calling, something that washed away all my troubles. I was finally at peace with myself and my family. I continued this self treatment for a while, until I saw the article about the Warrior Surf Foundation in Eastern Surf Magazine. When I saw their mission, I instantly became involved with them and started to get my fellow veterans the help we need.

The WSF has done so much for me personally. They saved my life – literally – saved my life. I drive 5 hours from Emerald Isle, in the southern Outer Banks in North Carolina every other weekend to continue to spend time with the friends I have made through the WSF. Now I am giving it all I’ve got to start a new chapter in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, where I live, for the huge veteran and active duty population. And I mean, truly help out. Many people ‘raise awareness’ but not many people act, and there are a lot of foundations for veterans that are misusing funds, resources, and just leave vets feeling hopeless. We at WSF are shooting to fix that problem.”

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