The constancy and eternal nature of the ocean are offering a sense of normalcy and serenity for army, navy and marine veterans who haven’t been able to relax for years.
Surfing therapy goes back to about four years ago when therapist, Carly Rogers, stared a special program through the Jimmy Miller Foundation, whose goal was specifically to heal mental and physical suffering by riding down in the face of waves and paddling through the white water.
Carly has worked with at least 400 war veterans since the program began. Although she had always considered the ocean as a source of healing, at first she designed and developed a surf therapy program for children. She was a graduate student at the time. She was working as a lifeguard and when her friend, Jimmy Miller, killed himself, the program she had designed for children was suddenly seen in a new and different light.
In 2005, the Jimmy Miller Foundation was launched, featuring help for children at risk for mental illness, which was Miller’s malady. One board member suggested that the program might prove helpful to veterans returning home from the horrors of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the program was thereby expanded. Carly was so inspired that she went on to earn an occupational therapy doctorate.
The surf-therapy group meets five consecutive Saturdays. Each session begins with an informal discussion about wartime experiences and feelings surrounding them. Then everyone wades into the surf with a volunteer instructor for a few hours joyful of surfing.
Talking about stress and pain helps to alleviate tension and the freedom and exhilaration that comes from sailing over the waves rewards the veterans with an overwhelming, much-deserved sense of peace and accomplishment.