surfing australia – soldier on

  • February 1, 2021

Say g’day to the surf program helping ex-veterans find happiness in and out of the water

We love nothing more than championing the amazing work of our friends and those organisations we hold close to our hearts, so when we heard about Surfing Australia’s wonderful partnership with Soldier On, we had to share their work.

The Surf Therapy Program is not only a joint venture between both organisations but focuses on the physical and mental health of contemporary veterans. Through a series of intermediate surf camps at the Surfing Australia High Performance Centre in NSW and a program of surf lessons for beginners – the program aims to use physical exercise and sports recovery to improve mental health.

We spoke to veteran and surfer, Dan Johnson, about the benefits of the Surf Therapy Program and why there’s simply nothing better than catching a wave.  

  • You’ve participated in the Surf Therapy Program twice already – how did you first become involved and what had you going back for more?

    This all came about through Soldier On, which is an organisation dedicated to current and ex-service military members. I’m an avid surfer and grew up on the Sunshine Coast, so I’ve been surfing for about 20 years. When the opportunity came up to participate in the Surf Therapy Program, I jumped at it. It’s a great way to connect with a lot of like-minded veterans that also like surfing while getting to make the most of having access to Surfing Australia coaches. There are surfers from all different levels but everyone’s there for the same reason. I’ve participated in the program twice over the last two or three years because I just got so much out of the first one. It’s also just really great to meet new people who’ve been in similar situations.

  • What did you love about the program from a surfing perspective?

    Just being able to have your surfing analysed by professionals is awesome. I’ve never been in a position to do that before. I’ve competed in a few competitions, but I’ve never had a deep analytical de-brief of what I was doing in the water, which is what the surf coaches do for you throughout the program. We’ll go out in a group and the coach will be there with a video camera and film us for about two hours. Afterwards in the high-performance centre they break everything down and compare it with professional surfers. It gives us really good feedback and shows us how we can improve our technique. I did notice after my first program that my surfing improved massively. I also ended up doing the Foundation judging course and got my certificate for that as well through Surfing Australia. I’d been wanting to do that for a while.

  • Do you feel like the Surf Therapy Program is unique and effective in what it has to offer?

    I’d definitely recommend it to those thinking of giving it a go. I’ve done it for so long because there’s nothing else like it. I got a lot out of it and it’s a pretty great opportunity. It’s a bit like a creative way of therapy but you also have the ability to meet new people and make new friends. The therapeutic benefits from surfing and being in the water – it’s just really calming and you kind of don’t think about anything else. One of the best things about the sport of surfing is the ability to be free and liberated by the ocean.