By Chas Henry
Catch a wave – and surf through the physical and emotional pain.
That’s one form of therapy being pursued by hundreds of wounded warriors on the west coast.
Some surf therapy programs combine time on a board in the water with traditional “talk therapy.”
“Not only do you surf,” notes filmmaker and surfer Josh Izenberg, “but then you talk about your experiences.”
Other programs just let the experience in the waves do its work.
Izenberg co-directed the Netflix documentary Resurface, which profiles a number of military veterans taking part in such programs.
He says it’s not your typical surfing movie.
“Our main focus was on what was happening when people were coming out of the water, and when they were going into the water,” says Izenberg. “We knew we wanted to have some good surfing in there, but I think – really – the main story sort of takes place on the beach.”
Resurface introduces viewers to veterans trying to make their way back to civilian life in the wake of traumatic physical and emotional injuries. With the help of surf instructors, some of them veterans themselves, they overcome such obstacles as the loss of most limbs, or deep moral injury seemingly un-dulled by painkillers.
Izenberg says one lesson he took from making the film is: be open to therapeutic combinations beyond the traditional.
“Mental health and the water,” for instance, he says, “and thinking about healing as something that can sort of happen outside a hospital, and maybe out in nature.”