Former professional big wave surfer Van Curaza started Operation Surf in 2008 with one very unique goal: to offer “surf therapy” to soldiers injured in battle. Not only does physical exercise, like surfing, feed the brain by getting oxygen flowing and building new nerve cells, scientists hypothesize that the chemical cocktail created when we surf includes dopamine and adrenaline, which could explain the rush surfers get. Curaza and his crew wanted to use what they believed was the restorative power of the ocean and surfing to help heal “injured bodies, minds, and souls.” He says he could see a transformation occur when former soldiers who had lost limbs in the theaters of war caught their first wave. Eleven years on from when he started his organization, Curaza is convinced more than ever that surfing can help their rehabilitation and offer an alternative form of nature-based therapy that could also help veterans with PTSD.
Photo credit: Operation Surf / Van Curaza