Wounded Soldiers Catch Some Waves Thanks to Operation Surf

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Mark Brazwell (front) steadies himself while surfing with Operation Surf in Santa Cruz.

When San Jose native Mark Brazwell  suffered debilitating leg injuries in Afghanistan as part of a U.S. Navy explosives ordinance disposal unit, he had no idea that experience would lead to standing tall while riding the waves in Santa Cruz.

“It’s absolutely amazing; it’s beyond words,” Brazwell said, after a morning of surfing off of Cowell’s Beach near the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf. After growing up Boogieboarding, bodysurfing, and skateboarding, he always dreamed of actually surfing. Thanks to a nonprofit program called Operation Surf, that dream became a reality last week—despite his injuries.

Brazwell and nine other soldiers—some missing legs, arms, or feet—got a week of surfing April 15-19, thanks to the program coordinated by the nonprofit Amazing Surf Adventures, in conjunction with another nonprofit, Operation Comfort.

“We had no idea it would be this intense, and there would be so much support,” Brazwell said, referring to the dozens of volunteers who made Operation Surf possible.

There were two volunteer surf instructors in the water for every soldier that particular day, with even more on the beach coordinating food, transportation, lodging and anything else the soldiers needed. [Read more…]