He had no legs below his knees and asked me to carry his surfboard at the beach one day. I walked across the sand carrying our boards to the water. He crawled beside me on all fours. We had a great conversation.
As we talked, I was moved by the normality of it all. So often, those with disabilities are held up as â€œinspirationalâ€ and â€œspecial.â€ What Trevorâ€™s listening gave me was a profound feeling of normalcy; we were just two guys going surfing. We talked about the waves, the water, his job, mine. By the time we got to the surf I felt comfortable enough to ask him about his legs. â€œI was born without a tibia or fibula,â€ he said, referring to the bones in the leg. And with that, we hit the waves. That was the only time I met him, but our conversation made a lasting impression.
A few days later I was watching the news and saw a report about Iraq War vets coming home with disabilities. After war and injury and now with civilian life, it struck me that these men and women must be feeling anything but â€œnormal.â€ From that, Operation Amped was born.
Now in its second year, Operation Amped kicked off with a three day event (August 10-12) in Southern California where surfers share their love of the ocean with Iraq War vets who are now missing limbs as a result of their service. Twenty soldiers, sailors and Marines will be coming from Palo Alto, Texas and San Diego for a weekend-long surf camp sponsored by Billabong, Universal Pictures and Chipotle.
The possibilities of the event are freedom, transformation and fun. In Iraq, these vets were told they were fighting for our freedom.
As surfers, we can’t think of any greater expression of what they fought for than the freedom of surfing itself. If they are feeling somehow constrained by public opinion, their circumstances or the challenges of life, this event will give amputees the opportunity to enter a totally alien environment and see that anything is possible.
This year, Operation Amped is going nationalâ€¦ and international.
But a few weeks ago, our milestones werenâ€™t being met and we were struggling to find funding, food and leaders. I was distraught and worried. Then I got some advice from my coach, Gail.Â She told me my game didnâ€™t have to look a certain way. What I got was I was trying to do it â€œright,â€ the â€œnormalâ€ way. Once I gave that up, things started to happen.
One of our leaders, Dave, announced that Operation Wounded Warrior, a co-sponsor, is looking at our project as a trial run. If it goes well, OWW will take Amped to other cities. Itâ€™s also looking at taking vets to Costa Rica to surf!
On other fronts, my foodie friend Michael decided to round up the chefs he knows to donate meals. And my friend, David (you know, the one who has declined ALL my Landmark invitations), has raised $6000 to help us meet our goals.
Now Operation Amped is right on track, already providing freedom, transformation and fun even before the first vet rides the first wave. And no one has benefited more than me.
By sharing freedom, I got freedom myself.
— Tom Tapp, Team Los Angeles