Army Veteran Finds Solace Through California Nonprofit ‘Operation Surf’


An Army veteran says he has found solace through the nonprofit Operation Surf in California, which places veterans together in group settings through its OS6 program and teaches them to surf.

Operation Surf is based in Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo County. The organization’s mission “is to channel the healing powers of the ocean to restore hope, renew purpose, and revitalize community,” its website states.

Veteran Dylan Henry served in the Army for nine years and now serves in the National Guard, according to KSBY.

“I’ve experienced a lot of, you know, hardship within the military and even before for the military, a lot of my pain comes from from before the military, but it was enhanced while I was in the military, you know?” Henry told the outlet. 

“We’re on the front line, we’re out there just going toe-to-toe with the enemy. I mean that’s our job. A lot of the pain caused after war is something that really sticks to us a lot and that we share,” he said. 

While walking along Avila Beach last year, the Army veteran came across Operation Surf. Little did Henry know, the program would help him immensely. 

Van Curaza, the founder of Operation Surf and a former professional surfer, highlights the importance of caring for veterans. 

Curaza told KSPY: 

You know, our wounded military are very important to – not only our our house, our community, our county, our state and our country. We need to care for them. We need to make sure that we do everything we can to make sure that you know, they can transition back into a healthier way of living and I think surfing can do that.

In 2017, Netflix featured Operation Surf in the documentary short entitled Resurface, which chronicled Curaza’s and the organization’s previous work with veterans. 

Henry recently completed Operation Surf’s OS6 program.

The OS6 program “is a six-month, locally-focused program that provides veterans with an opportunity to bond through surfing, keep each other motivated, and move forward in life with a new perspective,” Operations Surf’s website says

During the program, veterans make pacts with one another to surf as a group twice weekly and veterans who fulfill their commitments to each other “graduate with a new sense of community, plus a new wetsuit and a surfboard to call their own,” according to Operation Surf. 

“The whole program you know, it’s just, it was very healing for me and everything that he talked about was about healing through the ocean and just when you’re out there nothing else matters. It helped me find peace within myself,” Henry told KSPY. 

Curaza said the program could be the therapy many did not know they needed. 

“I think the biggest transition that you can see are the people that don’t think they need it, and they find out they needed everything that they were experiencing,” he said. 

Henry says the atmosphere, including the ocean and the group, can provide necessary vulnerability veterans can have trouble finding in other settings.  

“To sit there with them and be vulnerable – that’s what it’s about because we’re not vulnerable,” he told KSPY. “We don’t like talking about our feelings because that’s what we’re not taught in the military. We’re taught to suppress it.”

Curaza says helping others is where he finds meaning and draws strength for his own personal struggles.

“My journey – I realized that helping and focusing on others helps me get through my challenging times,” he explained. “That’s the biggest gift – is helping other people.”

On Saturday at 12:00 p.m., Operation Surf will host a meet and greet for its next OS6 program. 

Central Coast Veterans!

Posted by Operation Surf on Monday, January 31, 2022

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