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“Surf therapy is fun. A wave will teach me a lesson every time, whether I am open to it or not.”

Meet Nick Perdomo, a Veteran of the United States Marine Corps. Following his service, he fell into severe adiction, suffering health consequences for nearly two decades. His life turned around when he was introduced to 2020 Beyond Sport Global Awards Shortlister for Good Health & Well-Being, the International Surf Therapy Organization (ISTO). Read about his experience below and and Take the Journey with all our Shortlisters at beyondsport.org/journey through December.

Born and raised in Venice, California, Nick is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. Like many who serve in the military, the effects on his health and well-being have been severe. After leaving the Corps, he fell into addiction, struggling with depression, isolation, losing friends, jobs and his self-worth for the next 15 years.

Nick ultimately sought help from the Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital, who recommended surf therapy and yoga to the California native. Over the next four years, he participated in surf therapy with a variety of organizations, including members and contributors of ISTO, and saw his life turn around.

“Surf therapy is fun. There is no excitement in going to a stuffy office and sitting around talking about my feelings. I need to get out of myself, out of that need for constant attention. Traditional therapy, I sit and talk about myself, and I can BS my way through it. I cannot BS a wave. A wave will teach me a lesson every single time, whether I am open to it or not.”

According to ISTO, surf therapy connects critical ingredients missing for many vulnerable populations - a sense of belonging, family, being seen, heard and valued, and safe-circles. Nick became an advocate for surf therapy from the first day he climbed on a surfboard and has since referred dozens of his Veteran friends, telling them, "it's not just a sport, it's a life-saver."

“There is something to be said about exhausting yourself physically, you just sleep better. We are always busy; doing this and doing that if we can quiet our minds from the noise and nonsense that can be a gateway to allow the mental and emotional states to come forth and heal. There's nothing like constantly adjusting to the ever-changing waves in the ocean to teach you how to respond to those same ever-changing waves on-land.”

Nick credits the camaraderie of the programs with aiding his recovery. He is now an ISTO Ambassador, using the healing properties of surf therapy to help others, and makes his living as a certified yoga instructor. Although COVID has put most organized surf therapy programs on pause, he hopes to get back to them in 2021 and continues to surf on his own about 3-4 days/week.

“Surfing is a union: of myself, the ocean, my board. If I can allow all three of those things to work in unison, I can be still. I can take full advantage of being in the moment. If I can find the balance between the chaos of a wave and my body's stillness, I can find the serenity in the middle and enjoy the ride."

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“We didn't know what the ideal candidate was for this project until we read her story.”