Adam Bailey begins most of his mornings before dawn, at St. Augustine Beach, catching waves alongside fellow members of the newly formed Military Surf Club. He offered us insights into how the group got its start, and how he sees it growing from here.
What is your role in the Military Surf Club and how long have you been part of the local community?
I am the public affairs representative for the club. I handle community work as well as any matters having to do with the press. I have lived in downtown St. Augustine since 2011 and if I had not, I don’t know if I ever would have started surfing.
How and when did the Military Surf Club come into fruition?
We all started surfing together last fall. As we surfed more and more, there was talk about starting a club for military surfers. There were several of us already and we figured there were more out there who may be interested, so why not? Part of that was providing folks who were interested in doing it a similar group of people to be around if they were just starting out. It’s also inherent in the military culture to help each other out – if someone is new to the group, we try to coach them. In addition, for those of us who are already familiar, there are always pointers being thrown out that may address what was good or what was bad about that session and what your form may have looked like – that usually manifests itself into a joke or some good-natured heckling.
When and how often do you meet?
We surf as often as possible. There have been mornings without waves and we still paddle out. It’s just a great way to start your day. And of course, if there are waves, we are hitting it in the morning and evenings before and after work. On the weekends, we will also meet up at other locations throughout the east coast to try out different spots. Recently we traveled to Camp Pendleton and surfed Church and Lower Trestles. While we love the St. Augustine area and this is home, we also love exploring other locations and meeting other surfers. We managed to meet up with another club, the Pendleton Surf Club and talk a little on potentially collaborating on something in the future. It goes to show there’s an appetite for warrior-surfer.
Tell us about your members:
We currently have a very diverse group of 16 members: males, females, older folks, younger folks, some who surf really well and some who are just starting out. We have military members who have deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan and have participated in combat operations and some who have not deployed at all. We even have a member who is currently deployed to Afghanistan – he is our foreign ambassador. Just as we want military members and veterans in our organization, we welcome those who support the military and have never served. The idea behind that is to keep those who love surfing coming in – we would not want to turn anyone away because they have not served.
Do you feel surfing acts as a form of release, therapy, exercise, enjoyment, or all of the above?
Several of us have talked about what surfing does for us. We agree there is a physicality to it that you cannot find in any other sport or activity. Moreover, while some find that important, others relish in the fact that there is an adrenaline rush once you drop in on a wave. In surfing, the ocean provides this big reward if you are willing to paddle into a wedge of water and stand up on a piece of foam – you feel a kinship with nature, forget all of your troubles and worries and you can get the ride of our life.
There is a documentary coming out this fall called “Resurface.” It is centered on veterans who use surfing for therapy for physical and psychological injuries. I think there are some of us who have seen things that we would have rather not seen and so surfing becomes therapy for us. Surfing replaces those negative images with good ones and changes your mindset.
Is your vision for the group to grow beyond surfing?
While we do want to focus on surfing, we want to give back. We recently participated in SURF QUEST – this event is sponsored by the Arc of St. Johns County. It’s a one day surf session for men, women and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We volunteered to help and assisted with everything from setup to coaching – it was a very rewarding experience, and we loved it. Giving others the chance to surf, and feel what we feel when we are in the water, was great. We also have some veteran-centric events coming up that we want to participate in. If it’s in the water or involves surfing, it’s probably something we would like to get involved in.
Military Surf Club Long Story Short feature originally appeared in the October/November 2015 Print issue of St. Augustine Social Magazine. Photography by Brian Miller, exclusively for St. Augustine Social.