Matthew Doyle grew up by the beach in Santa Monica, California, and with his slim physique and tattooed forearms, looks as if he’s been surfing his whole life.
But it took three tours of duty half a world away, many sleepless nights, and meeting a woman named Carly before the 26-year-old U.S. Army veteran braved the waves on a surfboard.
On a recent Saturday, I met Doyle and a group of 11 other young military veterans trying to overcome the horrors of war at Manhattan Beach, just south of Los Angeles, where occupational therapist Carly Rogers led them in a surf therapy class.
With the exhilarating goal of riding down the face of the wave, the constant paddling out through the whitewater and occasional wipeouts, the motion of the ocean is helping former soldiers, sailors and Marines return to normal.
“I fell in love with it as soon as I got in the water,” Doyle said. “After I came back from Iraq, I lost interest in the things I used to do, and I lost a lot of friends from being gone so long. And I never really had a reason to go outside. But now every day I just want to surf.”