Thea is a senior at URI studying environmental science. She is a Navy Veteran who served for 6 years before enrolling in college in 2017. After living in Hawaii, she moved to Rhode Island in 2018 for school. She has since become a surf therapy volunteer here at Break Through Waves for multiple seasons.
How did you begin surfing and what has it taught you?
Thea was living in Hawaii when she began surfing. While healing from multiple hip repair surgeries, her neighbor Joan took Thea out surfing. Apprehensive at first and scared about paddling out into huge waves, Joan brought her to a smaller spot. She told Thea that all she had to do was paddle out and watch the sunset. After paddling out, the first thing Thea realized was how peaceful the water was. She watched people surf waves left and right and felt enough courage to catch her first wave in Kailua. She’s been hooked ever since.
Arriving in RI, Thea jumped right into winter surfing. The first time she surfed in Rhode Island was the day after Christmas in 2018. She has been out there every winter since! She loves surfing in New England's cold winter waters. Winter surfing brings her peace.
How did you find Break Through Waves and become a volunteer?
Thea heard about Break Through Waves from the Veterans program at URI. Word of mouth brought Thea to us, and we are lucky to have her as a volunteer.
Was there something in particular that inspired you to become a volunteer?
The sense of doing something bigger than herself was her biggest inspiration. Continuing to be of service to others was something Thea wanted to focus on. "A lot of Veterans get lost and don’t know what to do, and I wanted to help others as a way of giving back,” she said. Thea is currently renewing her certification in Puerto Rico over spring break!
What is the best part about working with participants and ocean therapy?
"Just being out in nature itself is extremely healing, and we often get sidetracked and forget to go out for a walk or sit and enjoy a nice breeze, something simple but very important." The participants are happy to be there, even when she isn't feeling 100% that day. Seeing how happy participants are to be there makes her happy. "As soon as you get them on a board and push them into their first wave, they are beaming with happiness. Even if they fall, they pop back up and are ready to go again. It's uplifting and heartwarming to give someone that experience."
Can you tell us of a time that a participant has inspired you?
It's all the participants she works with, not just one. "It touches my heart when participants get themselves to be there for even one day. You can see the nervousness in their faces and it always ends up being worth it, pushing through their circumstances and making a difference", she says. "That's what really gets me going!"
What was one key takeaway that you have received from your time volunteering with Break Through Waves?
Community. Break Through Waves is only a few seasons old, but her first season out there ended with her making new friends and connections. She met people there that she would consider friends for a lifetime. Thea said, "Margo and Christine are amazing women who give me a sense of a sisterly bond. I enjoy that aspect the most."
Break Through Waves offers alternative forms of therapy through surfing, yoga, and mindfulness. We work with people who have experienced life traumas or challenges. For more information please visit our Website here. Enjoyed this blog? Check out another one HERE. Follow us on Facebook & Instagram.