On Sunday, dozens of military veterans paddled out at Doheny State Beach to participate in a Team Red, White and Blue surf clinic hosted by Oakley and funded by the Infinite Hero Foundation. The surf session kicked-off a weekend of activities designed by Team RWB to inspire a sense of community, teach leadership skills, and help heal veterans suffering from physical and mental issues brought on by combat.
Team RWB aims to enrich the lives of American veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity and helping them transition from the battlefield to society. “We do a series of athletic camps around the country every year, so we decided to take the idea of an existing one-day surf camp and turn it into an entire weekend-long camp,” explained JJ Pinter, Director of Operations for Team RWB, “We had the opportunity to tie it into the Oakley Lowers Pro and it just seemed like a match made in heaven.” To close out the weekend, the participating military veterans are invited to attend the Oakley Lowers Pro on the opening day of competition, Tuesday, April 28, as Oakley’s VIP guests.
“I’m stoked to go down to Trestles and watch the guys and see them shredding,” said veteran Mike Green, who served in the Army for over three years as a tank crew member in main battle tanks and who recently became an avid surfer, “Mentally, physically, I think there’s something about being in or near the water that is therapeutic. Even when the waves are bad and the conditions are terrible, you still have an amazing time. I think any bad day in the water is a great day, you know?”
Lisa Moffat, who served on the U.S. Marine Corps for four years, was excited to get her feet in the wax for the first time. She was recently diagnosed with stage 4 terminal adrenal cancer, and at only 35 years-old, she’s now fighting for her own life. “I live in Southern California, where you have to learn how to surf. It’s been on my bucket list since I found out about my cancer,” said Moffat, “I joined Team RWB right before my diagnosis, so I didn’t get out much. Once I started chemotherapy, I was able to get back out there and Team RWB was a huge part of that. These people reach out to me all the time. There’s always someone with me, step by step, getting me out there. It’s a great community.”
Oakley ambassadors and professional surfers Kolohe Andino, Sebastian Zietz, and Conner Coffin were on-site to push veterans into waves and introduce the fundamentals of surfing. “It was cool to see how stoked they were just getting up on a wave and being out there. I live in San Clemente and there’s always a lot of Marines around getting haircuts or getting lunch and I’m always in awe of what they do for our country,” said Oakley Lowers Pro competitor Kolohe Andino, “We’re okay because they’re off fighting for our country. So it’s really cool to give back a little.” One of Andino’s boards,will be auctioned off to the public on Tuesday to raise money and awareness for veterans and the Infinite Hero Foundation (check back here tomorrow at OakleyLowersPro.com for details).
Although this was the first surfing regional camp hosted by Team RWB, the positive results were evident in the faces of all the veterans who paddled out. There were smiles all around and new friendships being made. There was a sense of unity and accomplishment on the beach.
“These heroes have given everything they have to their country and they come back to face so much negativity. You can see it on their faces. Even when they came down to the beach, they were excited to be here, but you can see their shoulders were drooped down,” explained Darek Connole of Team RWB, “But when you get them out on the waves, they’ll come in with gigantic grin. It’s almost like a rebirth.”
Returning veterans may struggle with mental health and reintegration after serving overseas, but surfing can help diminish feelings of hopelessness and isolation. “We lose so many of our brothers and sisters because they’ve defended this country and then they feel like they’re not apart of it anymore when they return,” Connole said, “We want them to know that yes, they are still apart of it. They’re the glue that holds us together.”
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