AIG volunteers spent a week helping wounded former service personnel take to the open water.

This year, on the scenic beachfront of Watergate Bay in Cornwall, England, six AIG colleagues volunteered for Operation Surf UK (Op SURF UK), an adaptive surfing program organized by Help for Heroes, and supported by the Endeavour Fund1 and Amazing Surf Adventures.

Sarah Bystram, Sarah Davies, Rhys Jones, Rebecca Murphy, Samantha Ratcliff, and Fiona Willis embarked on the week-long surfing experience to support the rehabilitation of 18 wounded, injured and sick (WIS) veterans, by combining the tranquility of open waters with the healing power of sport to rekindle confidence, strength and self-belief in their journey to recovery. 

The veterans - with varying injuries and disabilities, physical and psychological - travelled from across the UK for the week-long program. Op SURF UK used surfing for a unifying objective: to expose participants to the healing power of the open water through adaptive surfing taught by world-class instructors. It formed part of Help for Heroes’ extensive Sports Recovery program.

Surfing has been demonstrated to enhance physiological and psychological wellbeing. The volunteers helped with water safety - especially important for veterans who found it difficult to control their boards once they had reached the water’s edge and were prone to being thrown, pulled under water in the surf, or injured by a board flying around.

Sarah Davies, Op SURF UK volunteer and AIG’s Coordinator for our partnership with the Endeavour Fund, said, “From Day One, there was visible progress from all participants and it was clear this was going to be a week to remember. I also felt very proud of our fabulous volunteers with their incredible levels of enthusiasm and support. I think helping to deliver on a practical level like this really brings out the unique nature of our partnership, creating an unforgettable experience for everyone involved.”

Following the Op SURF UK endeavor, nearly everyone felt that it has had a positive influence on the way they view their own recovery journey, and nearly everyone said that it has helped to change the way they think of their own rehabilitation (beyond the physiological and medical aspects of recovery). 

David Wiseman, Head of Armed Forces Program at the Endeavour Fund, said: “I was lucky enough to take part in an OpSurf week in the U.S. a couple of years and can confirm just what an incredibly positive impact surfing can have on the well-being of wounded, injured and sick Service personnel and veterans. I was inspired by this experience and I’m thrilled that we’ve worked with Help for Heroes to bring this to the UK, giving others the chance to experience the rush of catching their first wave and further advance their experience with workshops about employment and life after the military.”

Rebecca Murphy, one of the AIG volunteers commented, “As the week progressed, sprits remained high, bonds were cemented, and for those veterans who left Cornwall with a gleam in their eye and a new passion, this may have just been a defining step of their journey.”

She added, “To play a part in these journeys - no matter how small and at what point along the path they may be - was truly exciting, humbling and downright inspiring!”

Watch the Op SURF UK highlights video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cytu9qtbw-Y

 

What AIG volunteers said:

Sarah Bystram: “Inspiring, exciting, humbling, Life may never be the same again.”

Rhys Jones: “Humbling, with inspirational participants and volunteers creating memories and experiences that I will never forget and will continue to reflect upon.”

Rebecca Murphy: “Exciting, amazing, truly a fantastic experience and a great partnership between AIG, the Endeavour Fund and Help for Heroes.”

Samantha Ratcliff: “A personal, emotional, and eye-opening experience.”

Fiona Willis: “Life-changing, incredible courage and attitude of our WIS – inspiring!”

 

1The Endeavour Fund is a program 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. In November 2015, AIG signed up as the first lead corporate partner of the Endeavour Fund for the next three years.

For the latest information on the Endeavour Fund see: @endeavourfund / https://twitter.com/EndeavourFund