Keen to learn to surf but don’t know where to start? Well, we have a solution – Introducing, Operation Soul Surf!

Aimed at delivering ‘learn to surf courses for first responders who are affected by trauma, the program is an experience that combines the healing power of surfing and the ocean for post-traumatic growth,’ says founder Sergeant Barry Randall of Forest Hill Station.

It’s mantra, ‘healing minds, one wave at a time’.

Held at Point Leo Beach on the Mornington Peninsula, the program comprises four two-hour lessons held across four consecutive Saturdays.

The first intake, comprising 10 participants, will hit the surf on Saturday 27 November 2021, with a second group to join the program later in the summer on Saturday 29 January 2022.

Operation Soul Surf has partnered with Point Leo’s East Coast Surf School, who have been around for over 20 years and will deliver the program.

In choosing Point Leo, Barry attributes the decision to multiple factors. “I have known the East Coast Surf School for a long time. [Point Leo] is a safe beach for beginners. It offers good protection from the elements and is quite a good location for surfing. Being on Western Port Bay, when you are looking out, you can see The Nobbies at Phillip Island.”

Creating a program to improve both mental and physical health was a primary motivation for Barry with Operation Soul Surf.

A holistic approach

“I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) in 1995 after being involved in a fatal police shooting. Having grown up on the NSW central coast, getting into the water was a good way to cope and manage anxiety early in my career.”

“A few years ago, I learnt about an organisation in California, Operation Surf, which focused on surf programs for military veterans who have suffered PTSD. We had some good Zoom calls early in the year regarding the concept and delivery of the program.”

One of the Operation Soul Surf instructors also happens to be a psychologist by day who will conduct both a pre and post-course review with participants.

“If they (the participants) feel like bringing up something to discuss, they are welcome to. That is not the goal of the lesson, it’s very casual but the opportunity to chat is certainly available.”

A multitude of benefits

Brett Coloe, TPAV’s Manager of Wellbeing Services, believes the program has a multitude of benefits to members interested in participating.

“Operation Soul Surf is aligned to a TPAV commitment to a more holistic approach to overall wellbeing. There are many interactions with physical and mental wellbeing and they often complement one another.”

“Surfing is a practice that engages the whole body and is a true mind, body and soul experience.”

“You don’t need any experience so I encourage members to give it a go!”

A number of sponsors have helped cover the cost of the program which means course entry is free for participants.

Visit Operation Soul Surf’s page on Facebook to learn more and apply to join the program.

By Srithar Visuasam