Operation Surf brought injured veterans to the central coast last week. The program gives participants a space to disconnect from life at home and focus on bettering themselves through surfing.
A motto that Operation Surf often uses is “Changing lives one wave at a time.”
Holley Morin participated in Operation Surf’s week-long program in September.
“This program has been life changing,” Morin said. “I’ve been to a lot of programs for veterans and this one has really opened my eyes to what I could do to help with my anxiety and depression panic attacks.”
Eight injured veterans, including Morin, were brought to San Luis Obispo County last week. The executive director of Operation Surf, Amanda Curaza, say’s that putting on the program takes a “little village.”
“We fly them out, house them, feed them, provide all equipment, and give them a week of healing, bonding, connection,” Amanda said. “And an experience to get out in nature, try something new, trust other people, and just have a week where they can disconnect from life at home and focus on themselves.”
Amanda works alongside her husband and founder of Operation Surf, Van Curaza.
Amanda said, “He does all of the water operations. I handle land operations so we say he’s the surf I’m the operation in operation surf.”
Curaza has dedicated his life to helping others through surfing.
“I am a recovering drug addict and alcoholic and I realized that my path for my own recovery was to help other people,” Curaza said. “It’s no longer something I’m ashamed of because God has given me the opportunity to share my experiences to help other people.”
The once professional surfer, husband, father, and instructor has used his journey to make an impact.
“If it wasn’t for him I don’t think I would’ve got up on a wave,” Morin said. “He helped me overcome my anxiety and my panic attacks. He held my hand all the way through it, he rode waves with me like side by side on the board. He’s an amazing human being.”
Participating veterans, like Morin, are introduced to the healing power of the ocean. Van explained that during the time of his journey through recovery surfing was his outlet. When he was in the ocean all he thought about was surfing or catching the next wave.
Curaza said, “The ocean takes 100 percent of engagement so you’re not thinking about all the trauma and the drama that you’re living in on land.”
The Curaza’s and their team hope to change more lives during their next Operation Surf week long program in 2023.