Operation Surf Takes Surf City by Storm

On Sunday, June 3rd, a motorcade could be seen trailing a Hummer limo that carried 26 veterans and active duty military through downtown Huntington Beach. Locals lined the streets waving mini-American flags and cheering for those joining Surf City’s week-long annual “Operation Surf” program, which is dedicated to exposing veterans and active-duty military to the healing power of the ocean through adaptive surfing. The program helps participants work towards overcoming perceived limitations connected to their physical and psychological disabilities.

Relaxing on the beach before a surf session. Photo Courtesy: Operation Surf

Relaxing on the beach before a surf session. Photo Courtesy: Operation Surf

For one week, Huntington Beach Pier’s Northside was packed with anything but grumpy locals. In fact, most of these locals were smiling, cheering and pushing folks into waves.

“The ocean has a healing aspect to it and when we work together as team to learn to surf, we create new reference points that help us change our perceived challenges,” said Danny Nichols, Huntington Beach Event Director. “It also teaches us that we are not different. Yes, we may have certain physical or mental challenges, but we are all in this together and knowing that creates harmony and trust within this group.”

Military often experience traumatic body and brain injuries, which can lead to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, PTSD is developed after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. One in three combat troops report symptoms of PTSD.

Pure stoke. Getting read for another wave in Huntington Beach. Photo Courtesy: Operation Surf

Pure stoke.
Getting read for another wave in Huntington Beach. Photo Courtesy: Operation Surf

In recent years, “surf therapy” has been studied as a way to relieve symptoms of PTSD. In the book “Blue Mind,” author Wallace J. Nichols’, Ph.D., explores the effects of water on the human psyche. In a not-so-recent article, Dr. Nichols highlights that unlike a busy city street, because of nature’s high predictability, it allows parts of the brain to “relax.” The movement of bodies of water (a.k.a.: waves), causes a “surprised” feeling, which leads to the release of dopamine, the coveted ‘reward-pleasure’ neurotransmitter we often receive when we score a great wave.

Dr. Nichols says that because bodies of water change and stay the same simultaneously, people experience both soothing familiarity and stimulation or the perfect recipe for triggering a state of involuntary attention, a key characteristic of problem solving and creativity.

On Friday, June 8th, I got the opportunity to volunteer with Operation Surf, to help with inshore safety by assisting veterans in and out of the water. Some folks were old pros at catching waves and others were still learning to cruise the whitewash, but none of that seemed to matter–the overwhelming camaraderie made me wish I could have participated the entire week, but day jobs do call.  The stoke was truly palatable when I watched a young lady score great rides and feverishly paddle out for more, an infectious smile constantly plastered to her face. The city of Huntington Beach truly came together in full force to support everyone involved in the event.

It was refreshing to see the amount of love and support throughout this tightly knit community. For a week on the northside of Huntington Pier, a spot noted for it’s territorial locals, those same locals were pushing folks into waves, smiling, hugging, and encouraging even myself to paddle out.

HB, you have my respect. <3

Product Review: COR Surf’s Excursion Waterproof Travel Pack

If it’s not obvious already, I LOVE to surf Trestles…along with thousands of other folks from in and out of town. It’s not just about the wave, tho. I enjoy all aspects of the experience–walking there and back again, checking out the ever-evolving street art/graffiti and saying ‘hi’ to my fellow ‘Trestlers.’ While surfing Trestles for many years, I have learned that high quality equipment is essential for a top notch surf experience–and have specifically noted the evolution of my backpack.

It started with a simple drawstring sack used to carry records, which evolved into Dakine’s backpacks. At first I adored my Dakine pack, it went with me everywhere and endured all things ‘beach.’ It wasn’t until boating out to a particular break in Nicaragua that I noticed my Dakine was not 100 percent waterproof–I almost lost function of my DSLR camera because water invaded my pack. Add on my post-Trestles soggy bottom trek back to my car and you’ve got a surfer girl determined to find the perfect pack.

Enter COR Surf’s Excursion Waterproof pack.

The deets:

Designed for a two-seven day trip, this pack has removable interior laptop sleeve and pocket, a secret passport pocket, waist and chest straps, a top cinch strap for your towel. It is made of 100 percent TPU waterproof material–nothing is getting soaked unless you spill your drinks inside the pack–but of course, there’s a feature for that. Two drink holders made out of mesh material can be found on either side of the pack, although I like to keep mine on one side so it doesn’t bump into my board. Did I mention this particular pack carries 40 liters worth of stuff??


If a magician were a surfer, this would be his dream pack.

What I love:

The depth…not like “letstalkaboutthemeaningoflife” depth…I mean, I can literally fit my entire head and shoulders inside (I’m also 5’3”), but the point is the pack is deep deep deep. I fit my wetsuit, towel, small stuff, change of clothes, and water with plenty of room to spare.

How I’ll use it:

Trestles and travel–seriously, this pack makes me want to travel (*cough* wheremysurfergirlsat *coughcough*)

I wish:

There was a separate area for my soggy wetsuit


On sale for $79.99