Warrior Surf Foundation teaches military families and Veterans how to surf, but more than its name implies is how it integrates community leadership and adaptive services.
Soon after beginning their 2020 surf clinic season, Warrior Surf Foundation quickly enacted plans to guarantee the safety of its program participants, staff members and volunteers. For the first time since the organization’s launch in 2015, Warrior Surf Foundation is conducting wellness and yoga programs virtually to promote physical distancing.
Yoga offered at a distance
Warrior Surf now offers virtual yoga sessions. This has expanded its business and allowed staff and members to stay in touch. Its new practice also includes wellness sessions (every Wednesday at 1 pm) that are HIPAA compliant, ensuring participant privacy and confidentiality. Each week, Warrior Surf Foundation’s Wellness Director, Jordan Watkins – who also serves as co-chair of the Lowcountry Veterans Engagement Team Community Veterans Engagement Board (CVEB) – hosts wellness sessions that are free and open to the public.
“Wellness is such an important concept for anyone and everyone right now, whether you are a Veteran or civilian. These are uncertain times, and no one has a playbook for how to live through times like these. The one thing that Warrior Surf Foundation knows best is community, and we want to share that with the rest of the world.” -Jordan Watkins, Wellness Director, Warrior Surf Foundation
The Foundation’s Executive Director and Co-Founder, Andy Manzi, shares a similar sentiment by constantly reminding his staff to take care of themselves just as much as they care for the Veterans and families in their programs.
Recently, Warrior Surf staff took a few creative liberties to inspire its social media followers: it recorded short videos, “The WSF Quarantine Chronicles,” of staff surfing in unusual places while practicing social distancing. You can find these videos on Warrior Surf’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
12-week surf clinic
Warrior Surf’s clinic program consists of 12 weeks of one-on-one surf lessons, wellness sessions, and blended yoga instruction that includes both individual and group classes. Surf lessons cover technical skills, including how to ride, read, and master the unpredictable waves of Folly Beach.
Wellness sessions cover a wide range of topics that promote resilience, stress management and emotional distress tolerance. Participants begin the program by selecting the most critical areas of their lives and work with a trained Wellness Coach. Working with the Wellness Coach, participants learn coping skills within a program informed by positive psychology and evolutionary psychology.
The wellness program is overseen by a licensed social worker, who is also the spouse of a combat Veteran. A registered yoga teacher with over 200 hours of training oversees the yoga program. This activity allows Veterans to benefit from the physical, mental and spiritual gains seen from regular yoga practice.
Assisting the community with PPE
Adapting to the pandemic and continuing its community service mission, Warrior Surf Foundation is supplying personal protective equipment (PPE) to first responders in the Tri-County area. A few times a week, donated PPE will be picked up from local businesses and taken to a central storage location for distribution to hospitals, nursing homes, homeless camps, and other areas of significant need. Vantage Point Foundation (VPF) – a partner non-profit organization serving the Veteran and Military community and leading member of the Lowcountry Community Veterans Engagement Board – is assisting with the pickup and distribution of the PPE collected as a result of this effort, further highlighting the ingrained community service.
It’s no surprise that during these challenging times Warrior Surf Foundation is continuing to live its values. Supporting their over-burdened healthcare, fire, law enforcement and countless other front-line sisters and brothers is just what they do. As its founder Andy Manzi says, “Sometimes you have to stop making automobiles and make tanks. We’re all here to do our part.”
Douglas Webb is a Coast Guard Veteran and member of the Veterans Experience Office.