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    NMCSD Surf Clinic sets waves of healing for 10 years

    NMCSD Surf Clinic 10th Anniversary

    Photo By Petty Officer 1st Class Indra Beaufort | 180614-N-IE405-1310 DEL MAR, Calif. (June 14, 2018) Naval Medical Center San Diego...... read more read more



    Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Indra Beaufort 

    Naval Medical Center San Diego

    Wounded Warrior: “It saved my life.”

    DEL MAR, Calif. — In the city “by the sea”, tourists and locals walk along the beach at dawn every day to exercise, meditate, and watch the waves from the Pacific Ocean crashing on the shores of Del Mar.

    Patients from Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) say the ocean is not the only thing that heals.

    “It saved my life,” said 37-year-old Wounded Warrior and amputee Michael Spivey about NMCSD Surf Clinic.

    Spivey, who was a combat engineer in the Marine Corps, said he lost his left arm on a land mine in Afghanistan. Spivey said that the Surf Clinic enabled him to build his confidence and purpose in life.

    “At first, it just started off as a recreation, then I started surfing almost every day,” said Spivey. “I talked to my doctor to where we slowly weaned off my medication …and I stopped drinking as much.”

    This year, on June 14, NMCSD Surf Clinic celebrated 10 years of service with patients, staff, volunteers, and students.

    “This is my first time” [attending the Surf Clinic], said Fireman Ting Du, who is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and conversion disorders.

    “It’s amazing how all the volunteers make you feel. Their energy of giving and caring …you want to be the way they are.”

    The Surf Clinic is a six-week program that includes surf therapy and yoga.

    According to Betty Michalewicz-Kragh, surf therapy program manager and exercise physiologist at Health and Wellness department, surfing therapy was an idea initiated by a Wounded Warrior patient at NMCSD. Due to the popularity of the surf therapy, a Surf Clinic was created at the Navy hospital, and it has set waves for thousands of patients in one decade.

    “We did not expect for this to happen,” said Michalewicz-Kragh about the history and success of the Surf Clinic. “It kind of took a life on its own. It’s been an amazing journey.”

    The Surf Clinic is coordinated by the Health and Wellness department at NMCSD to rehabilitate wounded, ill, and injured service members through exercise and recreational therapy in order to improve their physical, mental, and social well being.

    “The beauty of this type of therapy is its simplicity,” said Michalewicz-Kragh. “It’s utilized by people to make their life better …discovering the ocean ...discovering their journey for a better life.”

    The 10-year celebration began with morning yoga, followed by surf therapy, and special achievement recognitions. The event also included a lunch barbeque, with local fruits and beach blankets donated by anonymous donors and members from the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).

    “One of our aims is patriotism, and that involves service to veterans and military personnel,” said DAR historian Linda Unrue, as she places American stick flags in a cart of donated beach blankets.

    About 20 students from the Surf Academy in Santa Monica also celebrated the day with veterans and were entertained by therapy dogs running on the beach.

    “There’s a code of ethics with surfers,” said Marion Clark, a surfing instructor from the Surf Academy. “One of our tenets is that we pass on our stoke. A stoke is a surfer’s life,” said Clark, a term popular among California surfers since the 1950s.

    “It’s that thing in your brain that makes you go back again and again,” said Clark.

    NMCSD patients say they continue to be stoked by the programs offered by the Surf Clinic.

    In the future, Michalewicz-Kragh said that she would like to see more nature based therapy programs for all veterans at NMCSD.

    “In California that’s what you do, you surf,” said Michalewicz-Kragh. “Surfing is our local produce, but to me, it is reconnecting ourselves through nature and being out with the community.”

    It’s not just the patients who are getting something out of the program.

    Instructors and volunteers like Lynn Barnett said that the Surf Clinic is just as rewarding for them as it is for patients.

    “They come back smiling,” said Barnett after seeing patients return from a day of surfing. “It’s hard to put into words. It’s something you have to see yourself.”

    For more information on the Surf Clinic, contact Health and Wellness department at (619) 532-6573.

    For more news on Naval Medical Center San Diego, visit

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    Date Taken: 06.14.2018
    Date Posted: 06.25.2018 19:57
    Story ID: 282238
    Location: DEL MAR, SAN DIEGO, CA, US

    Web Views: 760
    Downloads: 0