Members of Operation Surf help a disabled veteran during he event.
Photo by Sameer Wahba, Assistant photo and video editor/Cuestonian
By Amanda Vasquez
Distribution Director/Staff Writer
This year’s Operation Surf event was held in Morro Bay and Avila, people of all ages came to support wounded veterans at the event.
Operation surf, an annual event that lasts for seven days, gives struggling veterans an opportunity to cope with their physical and psychological challenges through surfing.
“[Surfing] gives [wounded veterans] hope, joy and an avenue to regroup and clear their head,” said Tony Coscia, lead volunteer and Cuesta alumni.
Coscia was one of 10 volunteers and organizers that have been putting together Operation Surf for the past 10 years.
“Operation Surf is a chance for us to give back to the people that provide our freedom,” Coscia said.
A group of surf instructors, therapists and soldiers arrive to the Central Coast, and take a caravan from the San Luis obispo airport to the Dolphin Bay Inn, located in Pismo Beach.
“[Learning to surf] helps them, and that feels good to be able to give back to them,” Coscia said.
According to the group’s website, “Participants of our program experience a decrease in [post traumatic stress disorder] symptoms by 36 percent, a decrease in depression by 47 percent, and an increase in self-efficacy by 68 percent.”
There were ten brand new participants expected, seven of the 10 were able to attend. The other three cancelled last minute. According to Amanda Curaza, director of Operation Surf and Cuesta alumni.
Participants usually cancel due to a scheduling conflict, or a military deployment according to Curaza.
There were three repeat participants and five veteran support members who were also repeat participants.
According to a surfer called “Cave Man” there were at least 120 people there total.
David Kuden, Cuesta College alumni, was one of 30 water safety support staff.
“[It’s about] giving back to the soldiers who risk everything, life and limb for our freedoms in this country,” Kuden said.
Kuden talked about the personal benefits of helping wounded veterans.
“It’s not about surfing,” Kuden added. “Everybody has things in life that they have to overcome, for these guys…they’ve given everything for their country.
“A lot of people don’t like what’s going on in the military, but for me helping these guys and letting them know that I appreciate it, and we all appreciate and understand what they’ve gone through, even though I personally haven’t been in the military, [is really rewarding].”
There were thirteen surf instructors.
“Write this down, Van is the greatest surfer right after Danny O’Neil,” and instructor said jokingly after surfing.
Thirty of the 45 water support safety volunteers showed up.
Several pop up tents went up for merchandise and supplies.
Behind closed off tents soldiers were being given massages after attempting to surf.
Some participants stood on their boards to ride the waves, others wiped out into the white water waves, only to come up to support from safety staff.
Van Curaza, director of Operation Surf, was out surfing all day. He came on shore to talk to participants who wiped out. Giving them motivation to try again.
“It shows them a way to get some peace in their life,” Coscia said.
Disclosure: Amanda Vasquez volunteered at the event