Using the Ocean for healing purposes
by Corky Carroll
Back in 2001 I was hired to perform at a 45th surprise birthday party up in Walnut Creek for Scott Ellis, a stoked surfer, diver and reported fan of my music. Not surprisingly, most of the guests remembered me more for my Miller Lite Beer commercials than they did for my surfing, this being 29 years after my last pro surfing event. Scott’s 10-year-old twin daughters were then already immersed in the surf culture and had just started riding waves together with Dad. I struck a friendship with them immediately. No future “Stuck-up Euro Babes” (one of my songs) here. I like surf families.
Fast forward 20 years. My Blue Mango Surf company recently received an order for two Corkarita Light longboards from Scott. What a cool surprise. But after catching up I found out that one of his twin daughters, Audrey, had recently passed away from Covid. She was a nurse and surfer, but she turned out to be one of a growing number of young adults worldwide who had post-Covid heart failure. Her twin sister Kelsey has always been the more avid surfer and in honor of Audrey, and other women experiencing grief during the pandemic, poured herself into the emerging world of surf therapy. Audrey and Kelsey’s story is currently being presented on the National Geographic documentary series “Impact” by Gal Gadot. Their episode is titled “Surf Sisters”. The link to that episode is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3LS8CQJW4A. Very powerful! Please check it out.
The Groundswell Community project was founded in San Diego with surf therapy programs for women overcoming trauma. Groundswell’s community of “surf sisters” provide surf related programs for women along their healing journey. Kelsey leads the northern California Groundswell chapter and has also started her own program there in Pacifica called Waves of Grief.
Groundswell offers a variety of surf therapy programs for intersectional communities of women overcoming various forms of trauma and its effects. Led by mental health professionals, this is a transformational group of surf chicks who provide brave and safe spaces for all women to find their unique form of healing, comradery, and power in the waves of our Mother Ocean. The beauty of the programs is that it is not a typical therapy model. Healing is found in the water and the waves. Surfing teaches us to be mindful, that we can be a part of something bigger than ourselves. It can be our greatest teacher in letting go, being present and having fun. I can personally attest to this from years of experience. When I am bummed out or angry, sad or in any other way not happy, I have always found that paddling out to catch a wave or two goes a long way to relieving the stress and clearing up my mind. Most always I come back in way happier than when I went out. In response to her personal and collective grief experienced in 2020, Kelsey began monthly "Waves of Grief" surf therapy programs in Northern California.
Surf therapy has become a hugely popular method of barrier crossing like the old Tony Robbins experience of walking across hot coals, except that in surf therapy the ocean is waiting to greet and embrace you on the other side. Most women have never worn a wetsuit, or been in the ocean, and standing up on a surfboard and riding a wave to shore is a ticket for a much-needed breakthrough. In many ways surfing is breaking away from one’s grief and daily troubles and breaking through that intimidation and learning curve of harnessing the ocean’s energy and actually standing up and surfing a wave. The transformation is immediate and permanent. It’s crossing over in the purest way and it separates you from the troubles and grief you left behind on shore. Surfing itself is therapy and can help everyone from those grieving the loss of loved ones to those just desperately needing a little more stoke in their lives. Hey, we can all use all the stoke we can get. I know I can.
The Warrior Surf Foundation on the east coast is a similar support group for vets experiencing PTSD and my pal Jimmy Buffett is an avid supporter. Wounded Warriors is now offering surf programs here in southern California for wounded veterans. In this crazy time and age we are living in it is getting more and more important for people to stop what they are doing and help other people who are in need of a hand, one way or another. There is too much anger in the air. There are too many people hurting. I was so sad to hear of Audrey death but so proud of Kelsey for taking a very big negative and turning it into a monster big positive.
For more information about Waves of Grief and Audrey’s story, please visit www.audreymarieellis.com