Operation Surf gives veterans chance to learn, let go

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Dozens of veterans joined volunteers at the Huntington Beach Pier for a day to let go.

Operation Surf, a program of Amazing Surf Adventures, is a nonprofit that introduces military heroes to surfing.

Travis Strong is an Army veteran who lost both legs during his tour in Baghdad in 2006.

"It's just very freeing. I mean, anything that you can do that makes you feel normal again is really great," said Strong.

Operation Surf is in Huntington Beach for a week, teaching these veterans how to catch a wave.

"We tell them, 'You have to surrender to the elements, you have no control over the ocean, the only thing you can control is your attitude and your actions,'" said Danny Nichols, the director of the program in Huntington Beach.

This is the program's third year in the area, and organizers say 60% of volunteers are either first responders or other veterans. Many of the participants have adaptive challenges, but the instructors say nothing can stop the veterans from riding a wave.

Strong says it means a lot to be surrounded by other veterans who are focused on the water, not on any anxiety.

"Proud of them for putting themselves out there and putting themselves in an uncomfortable place to come out here and do that," said Strong, who rode several waves and said it felt amazing.

It's a feeling organizers hope all of the veterans feel -- the healing power of the ocean.

"To know what the ocean does for me, to be able to pass that gift onto them, there's no words for it," said Nichols.

For information on how you can help or donate, you can find more information at amazingsurfadventures.org/programs/operation-surf/.
Copyright © 2021 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.