Wounded, injured and sick former servicemen and women take to the open water

A group of 15 wounded, injured and sick (WIS) servicemen and women are set to take part in an adaptive surfing programme at Watergate Bay, Cornwall from 11 – 16 September, run by Help for Heroes, and supported by the Endeavour Fund and Amazing Surf Adventures.

They will be travelling from across the UK for the week-long programme which will provide an environment where individuals work to overcome perceived limitations of their physical and psychological disabilities.

It will use surfing as a rehabilitation and recovery activity by bringing participants together and exposing them to the healing power of the open water through adaptive surfing taught by world-class instructors. It forms part of Help for Heroes’ extensive Sports Recovery programme.

In addition, seven participants from last year’s Op Surf UK event will be attending the week to support those new to surfing. This is an opportunity for them to pass on their knowledge and experience of Op Surf and ensure that everyone benefits as much as possible from the week.

There will also be opportunities for participants to further advance their individual experience with workshops about employment and life after the military. At the end of the week, participants will take part in the first ever English Adaptive Surfing Open, an event for surfers with a variety of disabilities. This event is being run by Surfing England.

Martin Colclough, Head of Sports Recovery at Help for Heroes said: “Hundreds of Wounded, Injured and Sick (WIS) service personnel have experienced the healing power of the ocean through surfing. It is fantastic seeing the wounded military community use surfing as part of their long term recovery needs.”

Stuart Croxford, Programme Manager at the Endeavour Fund said: “At the Endeavour Fund we want to target those harder-to-reach who could most benefit from getting involved with sport or adventure challenges. This is the second year that the Endeavour Fund is supporting Op Surf UK and I’m thrilled that more wounded, injured and sick Servicemen and women will have the opportunity to benefit from this incredible programme. I know that working with Help for Heroes we will deliver another great week which will have lasting benefits long after participants have surfed their last wave.”

Surfing has been demonstrated to significantly enhance physiological and psychological wellbeing. As such, Op Surf UK aims to provide a week-long, all-inclusive, surfing camp intended to aid the long term rehabilitation and recovery of UK WIS service personal and veterans. Professional adaptive surf instructors will work with the wounded military for the week of surfing, a number of pro surfers including big-wave surfer Andrew Cotton will also join them. With numerous Billabong XXL entries Andrew Cotton is best known for towing the American surfer Garrett McNamara into what the Guinness Book of World Records confirmed as the biggest wave ever surfed in 2012.

Op SURF UK aims to build on the lessons learnt by wounded, injured and sick Service personnel and veterans (WIS) through their attendance on the Op SURF courses in the USA, delivered by Amazing Surf Adventures over the past few years. Many of the WIS who took part described the incredibly positive impact on their well-being and many have continued their love of surfing upon returning to the UK. 

Five employees from global insurer AIG are also taking part and volunteering on the Op SURF UK programme. As Lead Corporate Partner and exclusive insurance partner of the Endeavour Fund, AIG is proud of its employee’s commitment and delighted to offer staff this unique opportunity and experience supporting our Veterans.

Help for Heroes has been involved with Sports Recovery since 2008 and in the past year alone have put on over 450 events across various sports enabling wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans to take part in adaptive sports from grassroots through to performance level.

The Endeavour Fund is a programme managed by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. It supports wounded, injured and sick Service Personnel and Veterans using sport and adventurous challenges as part of their recovery and rehabilitation. The fund plays an important role in ensuring that more Servicemen and women have the opportunity to rediscover their self-belief and fighting spirit through physical challenges. AIG, the global insurance company, signed up in 2015 as the lead corporate partner of the Endeavour Fund for three years.