Billabong Camps headed up to Pismo Beach Labor Day weekend to team up Operation Comfort to put on one incredible surf clinic. Operation Comfort is an organization that brings surfing and other adaptive sports to wounded veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq. Many of these vets are missing limbs from explosions and gun fire, others badly burned, and many suffering from some sort of post-traumatic stress.
The weekend kicked off with a 'meet and greet', and was followed by 3 amazing days of surf and hanging out in perfect weather. None of the soldiers had surfed before, and most never even considered surfing to ever be a part of their life before this weekend. We spent three epic days teaching over a dozen wounded soldiers to surf and also showing them they could do it on their own, which was the biggest satisfaction for all. By the end of the first day, every soldier was frothing and couldn't wait until the next morning. Cheers and shouts of joy were heard all down the beach and in the water all day long as the soldiers caught waves to shore.
Rodney Roller, the founder of the event is a hot surfer (and an amputee himself) who contacted Billabong four years ago to ask for our help. We have been coming up in force ever since. This year the team was headed up by Josh Harper who not only spent the most water time with the amputees but drove the bus all the way there and back as well as helping out on Aloha Friday and the film première. Van Curaza the Billabong Camp Operator in Pismo organized the daily surf clinics. Billabong surf star Adam Replogle, team rider Walt Cerny and big wave legend Richard Schmidt (who runs the Billabong Surf Camp in Santa Cruz) were among the volunteers bringing a lot of expertise and star wattage to the event, along with Steve Clark and Jim Kempton.
"We are so grateful for this generosity" says Janis Roznowski, the great lady who heads up Operation Comfort and brings the score of vets out from San Antonio Rehabilitation Hospital every year. "Billabong never asks for anything, and provides so much hope, help and happiness to these veterans."
Actually all Billabong does is supply wetsuits, tents, goody bags and surf instructors - hardly a big sacrifice compared to these men who are missing limbs in the service of their country. And ask any Bong member who has volunteered before (Mike Wallace, Chris Heffner, Blake Pettit, Mike Enos or Jason Jackson) and they will tell you we get as much pleasure out of the effort as anyone.
The weekend included a Vets private showing of Fly in the Champagne, and some great dinners with the troops.
A big thanks to Poncho's Surf Shop, all the big hearted sponsors and good people of Pismo Beach. The Bong is proud to be a part of this.