MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Operation Amped held its seventh annual surf clinic at the San Onofre Beach here Aug. 23.
The 3-day clinic was held to give back to those who've been wounded in service to our country by helping them learn to surf, said Tom Tapp, founder and president of Operation Amped.
The disabilities of the veterans ranged from traumatic brain injury to amputations to post traumatic stress disorder.
“We adapt our instruction to help the veterans do as much as they can and realize their capabilities,” said Tapp.
Billabong helped provide equipment and wetsuits for the veterans to use.
“We have been with Operation Amped since the beginning,” said Josh Harper, marketing manager with Billabong. “We help provide the wetsuits, rash guards and some surf instructors to teach the vets.”
During the three days, veterans are paired with a surf instructor to teach them the fundamentals of surfing.
“When I’m out in the water, I sometimes get into the mentality as a squad leader and I don’t want to fail,” said Cpl. Toran Gaal, a double amputee and squad leader with 5th Marines, Charlie Company, 1st Platoon. “Majority of the time I am carefree and in my own world and it’s a calming feeling.”
At the end of the day veterans, instructors and volunteers built comradery by sitting around a campfire, singing karaoke, eating s’mores or having a jam session.
“I love surfing and the community,” said Cpl. Carlos Torres, a double amputee and assault men with 1st Tank Battalion. “Being here and meeting new people and riding the waves with them is a rewarding experience.”
Many veterans use surfing as an escape while others surf as a part of their new lifestyle.
“As an amputee I need to keep active and surfing is something I have never done before,” said Gaal. “While gaining this new lifestyle I am all about doing something new and making life enjoyable.”