Martin Pollock quickly fell in love with the freeing feeling of the ocean.
On land, hes restricted. With only one limb, getting around isnt easy.
“Its a lot of effort and slow going,” said Pollock. “When I get in the water, I can move around pretty freely. I move around quite awesome on the water.”
And then of course, theres the adrenaline that kicks in when he pulls into a good wave. He was hooked.
Pollock will be one of about two dozen veterans and active military – some wounded during service – who will take to the water next week in Huntington Beach as part of “Operation Surf.”
The event kicks off on June 3 with a motorcade dedicated to the surfers down Main Street.
Its the second year Surf City has hosted the week-long project, with other similar events in Northern California and as far as England, where Pollock is from.
Danny Nichols, lead surf instructor and event director for Huntingtons Operation Surf, said the goal is to use the healing effects of the ocean, and to focus on the challenges Mother Nature delivers to teach valuable lessons.
“We have to surrender to the elements. The only thing we have control over is our attitude and our actions,” he said. “Thats a lesson the ocean and surf teaches us that we can all carry over to all aspects of our lives.”
And by getting a group together, it helps the surfers form camaraderie, along with a common goal to strive for – catching waves.
“Getting any kind of group together – especially our wounded, injured or sick, medically-retired or active-duty military personal — we get a chance to bond,” Nichols said. “A lot of our people have been pulled away from their teams, theyve been pulled away from something they love to do.”
Brett Barnes, manager of Dukes Restaurant and one of the event organizers, said there were 13 people who went through the program last year. This year, that number is up to 22, including four women.
Operation Surf is a program of Amazing Surf Adventures, a non-profit that has helped more than 500 active duty and veteran heroes. It was founded by pro surfer Van Curaza.
Barnes said people from around the community are stepping up to help, with police, fire and lifeguard and community volunteers and local restaurants donating food for the week.
“Its such a great thing. For some of these guys, it changes their lives when they learn to surf and get into something that is fun and physical,” Barnes said. “Its really rewarding for them.”
Pollock, who lives in England, was first given the opportunity to join the program in San Luis Obispo. He lost three of his limbs in 2010 in an explosion.
He said he had body boarded a bit when he was a kid, but never surfed. But he had, after becoming a triple amputee, accomplished the practice of other sports such as snow skiing and kayaking.
“When I first heard about the opportunity to surf and come to California, I said sure, Ill take a free 10-day trip. I wasnt thinking too much about it. Ill go and see what happens.”
When he caught his first wave, it clicked, he said.
“The feeling of riding the waves was something else, a lot of fun and something I could do,” he said. “It was something I could do independently.
“Its quite a big thing for me.”
Operation Surf starts with a motorcade down Main Street at 12:30 to 1 p.m. on June 3 to the Pasea Hotel & Spa. There will be an opening ceremony at 9 a.m. on June 4 at the Pier Plaza, with the surfers hitting the water through June 9.
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