“Be careful, It may just save your life,” is what Johnny Utah, played by Keanu Reeves in the 1991 Blockbuster “Point Break,” is told when he buys his first surfboard at the beginning of the movie. It shows a lost, angry and egotistical Utah with something to prove after losing a football career due to injury. The surfboard salesman recognizes he is spiritually dead and knows that surfing can holistically save his life.
I started surfing in my teen years. It was exciting, thrilling and frankly one of the coolest things I had ever done. The more important drugs became in my life; the less I would surf. At one point, Icould put down drugs and was training to surf Mavericks, a wave bigger than a house that breaks in Half Moon Bay, California. I got high again and stopped training and surfing altogether. I went to Hawaii on a family vacation, which was miserable to my family who had to be with me while I was detoxing. I stayed and moved there to separate get away from where I had been using. I found drugs in Hawaii and eventually sold all my surfboards to buy drugs.
Eventually, I landed at The Last House. I was a little over a month sober and I was watching a video of people surfing the waves from Hurricane Sandy and I remember making myself a promise: “Someday, I’m going to surf waves that big.”
Through my time at The Last House one of the senior residents would take me surfing and I rediscovered my love for the ocean and It helped me connect with my higher power. It helped me to stay present and me to let go of my resentments and anger towards the world and my situation. At six months sober I went to make amends to people I had harmed in my addiction. I went to an old residence that I owed money to and after making my amends they told me that my old surfboard and wetsuit were in the garage and I was welcome to take them home with me. I started meeting other people in Recovery who surfed or wanted to learn to surf so I would take them and teach them how to surf.
Eventually, I had a whole community of sober surfers and friends that I talked to regularly. My connection to the omnipotent power of the universe now gave me a greater connection to the people in the world.
At 4 years of sobriety, my mom took me on a family vacation to Hawaii. While I was there I went down to the beach to check the surf one morning and stumbled on an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I sat down and joined in. After the meeting, the surf started getting big so I paddled out for a session. When I got out in the lineup I realized these waves were huge and I was out of my depth. I was scared but I knew I had to give it a try.
As I moved toward the take-off zone two guys paddled up to me and said, “hey, we saw you in the meeting this morning, where are you from?” I told them I was from California. They told me to come sit with them and they would show me how to get a wave out there. After patiently waiting for 45 minuets big swell started distorting the horizon. One of the guys told me to go and started screaming, “go boy, go boy, go!”
I started digging into the water and paddling my hardest, his screams started fading and I stood up on a gigantic pale blue wall of water. I had never felt water move under my board so fast as I started maneuvering down the line. I rode this wave for a hundred yards and when I came off the wave I had to dive underwater so no one would hear me scream of excitement.
The moment I was sitting at The Last House watching videos of Hurricane Sandy came back to me. The Last House and my recovery community had made my dream of surfing big waves a reality.
In 2019, I started The Last House Sober Living and Recovery Community’s surf program because of How Surfing Helped Me Get Sober. Teaching men to surf in early recovery is truly rewarding to me. Nothing compares to surfing big waves, but seeing a guy catch his first wave and catch a stoke for surfing is almost as good. Helping young men build their own community through surfing and recovery is an amazing thing to be a part of.
Surf Therapy is born of a passion for the ocean, recovery, and surfing. Our mission is not only to teach surfing, but to assist in connecting people with something bigger than themselves and providing our participants with new experiences that have the power to transform their lives. Nature is a powerful force, and when harnessed, can assist with attitude improvement, physical and mental well being, and even help bring people back from the depths of addiction.
Each sessions starts off with a foundation of ocean safety and basic training on how to surf. Then we start the surf lesson with guided meditation, connection to the breath and visualization. Teaching awareness and respect for the ocean and each other is an integral part of the process. This innovative combination of physical interaction with the ocean, light therapy, and meditation has helped many people find peace in their lives and achieve their goals. I hope that this motivates and educates struggling addicts and shows them How Surfing Helped Me Get Sober.