SANTA CRUZ (KPIX 5) — There will be a few extra surfers in the water at Santa Cruz and Capitola this weekend as the organization Operation Surf teaches wounded veterans how to ride a wave.

For most of them, it really isn’t about the surfing lessons.

The Beach Boys sang, “Catch a wave and you’re sittin’ on top of the world.” For an injured army veteran like Ronald Knowles, it means much more than that.

“I just felt normal being out there,” said the veteran Knowles.

“Normal” isn’t something he has felt since his motorcycle accident two years ago.

“Before my accident, I considered myself to be very active,” said Knowles. “I love being able to be outside and do all kinds of recreational type stuff.”

On Friday, in the sun and crashing waves of Santa Cruz, the non-profit Operation Surf is helping Knowles and about a dozen other wounded veterans and active duty military feel the restorative power of the ocean, ss well as the group’s support team of volunteers out on the water.

Coming together as a unit out on the water, everybody’s on the same playing field, said Executive Director of Operation Surf Amanda Curaza. Injuries don’t matter, stresses don’t matter, anxieties don’t matter. It’s just you’re there; you’re in the moment and you’re surrounded by people who are going to keep you safe.

Safety is key, considering every one of the vets has never surfed before.

Everyone is so willing to be there for you and cheer you on, you know get some good laughs out of it too, explained Knowles.

David Simmons works as an Operation Surf volunteer. He said he feels a special fulfillment participating in the event.

Introducing them to the water and helping them recover from injury and to find themselves through the ocean, I just thought it was a fantastic cause and something that I really wanted to be a part of, said Simmons.

For Knowles, it’s a chance to leave worry back on shore.

I really enjoyed it, he said. I wasn’t thinking too much about my injuries and just enjoying the water. It was great.

Now in its ninth year in Santa Cruz, Operation Surf started in San Luis Obispo and now has annual events in Huntington Beach as well as along the Central Coast.

For more information, visit the Operation Surf website.

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