To most people, surfing’s just a hobby, or perhaps an activity on their bucket list that they never quite get around to—but for some, squeezing into that wetsuit can be a lifesaver.
On June 29, Central Coast golfers can practice their golf swing to contribute to such a lifesaver. The fifth annual Charles D. Perriguey Jr. Charity Golf Tournament will benefit Operation Surf, a rehabilitative surf camp for U.S. military personnel who were injured in Afghanistan or Iraq.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF AMAZING SURF ADVENTURES
- SALT WATER THERAPY : Operation Surf helps veterans heal their wartime injuries by getting them onto a surfboard and into the ocean.
“Every year we keep getting better and raising the bar for ourselves,” Tournament Director Spike Thiesmeyer said. “We promise a good time for everyone.”
The tournament, held at the San Luis Obispo Country Club, is the main fundraiser of the year for Avila Beach-based Amazing Surf Adventures, which organizes the camp.
This year’s edition will be a four-person scramble with room for 144 golfers. Sponsors like Firestone Grill, F. McLintocks, Spencer Makenzie’s Fish Company, Coastal Peaks Coffee, and The Coca-Cola Company will be present to quench thirst and satiate hunger along the course. And following the competition, a banquet dinner will feature a speech from camp alum Yancy Baer, as well as awards for best score, longest drive, and more.
Since 2009, Operation Surf has taught more than 300 wounded U.S. military members to surf. The idea is that braving the waves can strengthen participants’ confidence and help them overcome perceived limitations of their disabilities, whether physical or psychological.
“Some of them come to the water in Avila on the first day and go ‘There’s no way—I will never be able to balance on a surfboard.’ And we just shatter that fear,” Thiesmeyer said.
Thiesmeyer, an army veteran with two overseas tours under his belt, said that every participant gets up on the board on their first day. With injuries ranging from amputated limbs to traumatic brain injury or severe burns, the definition of “up” differs, but everyone finds a way to make surfing their own.
“Once they get a little confidence, you’ll see people doing handstands and all these crazy stunts on the board,” Thiesmeyer said. “It’s so fun to see.”
Thiesmeyer joined Operation Surf after returning from Iraq in 2009. He began as one of the many volunteers who keep the camp afloat and joined the board of directors last year.
“I came back without a scratch, and I wanted to do something for my comrades—often my friends—who suffered life-changing injuries,” he said.
The weeklong camp is held in Santa Cruz in the spring and on the Central Coast in the fall, with a third camp in Cocoa Beach, Fla. added this year. Since costs can be as high as $5,000 for each soldier’s surfing adventure, the funds from the golf tournament are integral for the nonprofit to continue its mission.
There’s no set fundraising goal for the June 29 event, but the tournament has sold out nearly every year since its inception, and Thiesmeyer hopes to keep that trend going. Ideally, he said, the event will surpass last year’s fundraising record of $29,000, and maybe even break $40,000.
In addition to the warm fuzzy feelings from contributing to a good cause, a perk for the golfers may be the venue, since the San Luis Obispo Country Club is a private golf course.
“The general public doesn’t normally play there, so it’s kind of an exclusive place. The course is very, very nice—top of the line for the Central Coast,” Thiesmeyer said.
For more information about Operation Surf and the Charles D. Perriguey, Jr. Charity Golf Tournament, visit amazingsurfadventures.org or call 544-7873.
Intern Anna Hoernell wrote this week’s Strokes and Plugs despite having never set foot on a golf course or a surfboard. Send your business and nonprofit news to firstname.lastname@example.org.