Sharing The Stoke Of Life

I was born in New Orleans on Mardi Gras.. same day as James Dean.  My father was a Marine so our family moved to San Diego when I was in third grade.   I fell in love.  I got my first skateboard when I was 4 years old and was hooked.  Before I even saw a surfboard, I was trying to stand up on the boogie board my parents gave me until one day in 4th grade, my father bought me a mangled, taped-up Gordon and Smith that someone wrote “THE LEMON” on.  I took it to Law Street with my dad and stood up on the first white wash my dad pushed me into.  I surfed right past an older gentlemen with a log who threw his fist in the air and let out a cheer for me.  That was my first experience of feeling the stoke and my life flipped upside-down with awesome.  San Diego became a magical place for me and my time in Pacific Beach attending Kate Session Elementary School were my favorite childhood memories. 

After our time in San Diego,  I predominantly lived away from the beach, but I knew in my heart I would one day find my way back to San Diego.  I lived in North Carolina, Japan, and Virginia throughout High School and into college, but always in the back of my mind I was on back on the beach in the sun. 

In school I took to acting, and had a blast with it.  I actually wanted to become and actor and had a few scholarship opportunities from schools in Virginia, but that seemed like such a far away stretch for success that I was too scared to fully commit and tried to be a doctor instead.  After one semester of chemistry, I dropped my pre-med plans and felt lost. 

My father was still a Marine and in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. After that day, it became clear to that I would follow in his footsteps in supporting and defending our country.  In 2004 I became a Marine and in 2005 a Marine Infantry Officer.  After four years and two combat deployments to Iraq, I finally got my chance to get back to San Diego and took orders at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Old Town. Home, but trapped with a painfully taxing work schedule and battling my mind after two trips to Iraq. I had to surf as much as I could.  I was introduced to yoga.  My girlfriend guided me through my first practice and in savasana, I cried and laughed uncontrollably.  It unlocked something in me and I needed that.  My last two years in the Marine Corps were two of the toughest years of my life.   I did not practice yoga very often, but I needed it more than I realized.   

I knew going to war was not my calling, it was no longer my passion to be a Marine.  I got out to pursue a degree in Social Work and the University of Southern California.   With a satellite campus in Rancho Bernardo, I was able to be out of the military AND be in San Diego.  It was my dream come true.  I surfed nearly every day, took trips to Mammoth, met the woman of my dreams. I learned to manage stress.  

Getting out of the military was scary.  You go through a bit of an identity crisis.  You lose your purpose.  Your support network. Your revenue stream.  Medical benefits.  The freedom of getting out far outweighed knowing all of these things.  I did not have a lot of non-military friends, but I was following my heart and doing something I believed in.  I went to yoga more.  I found Yoga Bergamot .. Or it found me.  

While in school, I was turned on to surf therapy.  I learned to teach surfing to wounded Marines and Sailors at Camp Pendleton and with the Naval Medical Center, Balboa.  To help these men and women catch waves after enduring so much in their own lives is just amazing.  Teaching fellow veterans to surf and overcome their fears is by far the most rewarding experience of my life.  You can see the transformation in someone after their time in the ocean.  After months of returning to surf therapy, they become happier.  They ask surf related questions and seek guidance on where to surf and which equipment to use.  They have a passion for something again.  They start to let their guard down a bit more.  Trust more.  They meet up on their own to surf.  

To take it a step further, I started shaping my own boards with my friends at Shaper Studios Surfboard Workshop   What an empowering and righteous feeling that is! Here were a couple of guys who wanted so badly to share the stoke of riding your own hand shaped boards, they started the first ever shaping workshop.  So I started doing some part-time work there, and began bringing some of the veterans from surf therapy in to teach them to fix their boards, and eventually they started making their own to meet their various needs depending on their disability.   

Try to find someone in the lineup more inspiring than a combat veteran with missing limbs charging waves amongst a crowd of locals on a board they hand-shaped. 

To be able to have a part in making that happen is the best feeling ever: better than getting barreled or cheater fives or getting barreled while you’re cheater-fiving..

I look forward to creating veteran contest divisions and getting some of the veterans who were once patients to teach kids and other veterans to surf.  Leading surf and yoga retreats centered on empowerment and living a life of passion.  Giving people purpose again. Sharing the stoke of life.