Soldier On program uses surfing to improve physical, mental health
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 15 March, 2016 - Surfing Australia has partnered with Soldier On to host 20 defence force veterans in a unique surfing and rehabilitation experience at Kingscliff in New South Wales.
Soldier On supports those who have served their country by focusing on their physical and mental health. In its first year in 2012 Soldier On assisted 200 veterans in three states, with one centre established in Adelaide. In 2015, the organisation assisted 500 veterans a month and established two new centres in Canberra and Sydney. It is anticipated a further 200 veterans a month will be supported with the establishment of their centres in Western Australia and Currumbin, Queensland in 2016.
Physical exercise and sports recovery have been proven to improve mental health and has been demonstrated with great success for veterans who participate in surf therapy programs in the USA.
Coaches from the Hurley Surfing Australia High Performance (HPC) were joined by former World Champions Mark Richards and Wayne Bartholomew who took the group through a couple of surfing sessions with video analysis at the HPC along with skating and gymnastics sessions.
“A day like this is fantastic,” said Soldier On Deputy CEO Tony Fraser. “We’ve got 20 vets involved, some of whom have surfed and some who have never surfed, and to have this experience at the High Performance Centre and a weekend away from their daily grind dealing with the effects of their service is a great escape.
“The thing with Soldier On is we aren’t in place solely for the veterans, we also support partners, kids and the whole family. We want to ensure that the family unit is supported as quite often suffering psychological trauma following overseas deployments can see our veterans withdraw from society and day to day life which places a real strain on relationships and sees the family unit suffer as well.
“So if we can give the whole family opportunities to get involved in something which is as healthy and active as surfing in a well-planned program will do wonders.”
Surfing Australia CEO Andrew Stark said it was a privilege to be part of a Soldier On program. “It’s an incredible opportunity for Surfing Australia to get involved and help out the veterans of Australia, get them in the water and help them have a great time,” he said.
“A lot of Surfing Australia staff came down to join in and meet everyone and go surfing with them and it was also great for MR (Mark Richards) and Rabbit (Wayne Bartholomew) to be here as well. They were very honoured and privileged to be able to be here.”