Navy veteran launches surf program for soldiers, veterans
Posted August 23
Emerald Isle, N.C. — Veteran Rob Whaley, 23, who was inspired by veterans on the South Carolina coast who started surfing to combat anxiety and post-traumatic stress, formed the Warrior Surf Foundation "to promote mental and physical well-being" through 6-week-long surf camps at Emerald Isle.
"It's mind cleansing, more than anything ever," Whaley said. "Even saltwater itself, I think is cleansing."
Whaley said the program has helped him transition from his Navy corpsman days.
"I was a young cat. I turned 19 on my first," Whaley said. "For me, my struggle the most was adapting back to reality. It really almost ruined my family, my marriage."
He said he felt depressed, but he got back up again.
"Ever since then, I just said this has to move up here to North Carolina. There are so many Marines, year Marines flying right over us," he said.
With Camp Lejeune, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and Fort Bragg in the state, Whaley saw a need to launch his own Warrior Surf Foundation at Emerald Isle.
Brandon Leed, who served for more than three years in the Marines, said he doesn't suffer from post-traumatic stress, but he knows stress.
"There's nothing like getting up on a wave, surfing all the way into shore, no better feeling," he said.
Another Marine, who could not give his name for security reasons, said he feels any excuse to spend time at the ocean is a good one.
"I think it's really that peaceful environment," he said. "You get in the water and you kind of float around. And you just feel the motion of the ocean. It definitely calms you down, there's just something about this environment."
"I'm not too proud to say that I needed help in my life," Whaley said.