While most people may not be able to connect the dots between Surfing and Military life, for both Matt and Kieran the two have very similar traits. Military life offers many challenges, both physically and mentally. Everyday can be different from physical training to live fire exercises, each challenge comes with responsibility for yourself and your mates, a sense of pride and achievement runs through your blood on a daily basis. Discharge from a career full of purpose and propel that soldier into civilian life and that feeling disappears within an instant. Most Veterans struggle to find a career that matches the defence force, many isolate themselves and never find a way to get back on track. Surfing can offer all the same challenges in a healthy and fun way to relieve these stresses.
The physical and mental challenges are very similar, the ocean can be a dangerous place if not respected, while you’re out against the odds from big waves to even dangerous marine life, you are put back into an environment where your once again not only looking out for yourself but the mates to your left and right. Your body goes into overdrive, you catch a wave and want to catch a bigger wave, you become competitive again, you set goals for new tricks to be learnt and at the same time you realise you’re having the time of your life and all those stresses you had when you arrived are somewhat a distant memory. Surfing has reminded you that you can still go out and achieve something when the odds are stacked against you, it’s what the military trained you to be.
At the end of the session for the first time you feel tired but in a good way, you sleep a full 8 hours without a pill, you feel excitement and happiness, you feel something for the first time in a long time. You realised you went out in a group activity without the need of alcohol, the anxiety and pressure of crowds quickly disappeared when you first hit the water. This is the feeling and effects of Ocean Therapy, it’s something Matt and Kieran experienced and needed to share it with their mates and the wider Veteran community. It doesn’t matter what service you were in, how long or how short your career was, how many deployments you did, whether you’re an experienced surfer or a beginner, there is always a place in AVS for you. The club can put its success down to the laid back and relaxed environment, there is no pressure, just you, the waves and a group of like-minded people.
We hope to work alongside Carly Rogers and the Jimmy Miller Foundation to bring a similar Ocean Therapy Program to Australia.

A study completed by Rogers, Mallinson and Peppers (2014, pp. 395-404) examined the effects of a surf-based occupational therapy intervention on Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffering PTSD, during their transition into civilian life. Participants reported clinically meaningful improvements in both PTSD symptom severity and depression symptoms.

Ocean Therapy utilises surfing, focus groups and social participation to create a renewed sense of self-efficacy in veterans and increased belief in oneself to reintegrate into civilian life.