'Resurface' - Documentary Profiles Veterans Who Surf to Treat PTSD

Mark Judge | September 5, 2017
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Netflix is now streaming a moving documentary that explores military veterans who use surfing to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Resurface" is produced by Scott Stallman and co-directed by Wynn Padula and Josh Izenberg. Izenberg 2013 film Slomo was the recipient of the International Documentary Association award for Best Short Documentary, as well as notable awards from SXSW, Sheffield/Docfest and AFI/Docs.

The film focuses on Bobby Lane, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq and who suffered two traumatic brain injuries when his platoon was hit by five roadside bombs. Lane planned to kill himself, but first he wanted to do something he had never done: surf. He traveled from Texas to California for a week of surfing with Operation Surf, an organization headed by former professional surfer Van Curaza. Surfing saved Lane’s life. “Now I see it, if life gets too hard, there’s always the ocean,” he said.

Carly Rogers, Director of Programs for the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation, an organization that provides Ocean Therapy, “ an adaptive surfing program to assist individuals coping with mental and physical illness in accessing the ocean environment.”

For "Resurface," the filmmakers interviewed marine biologist Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, who wrote the New York Times best-selling book Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On and Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected and Better At What You Do. Dr. Nichols told the filmmakers, “When people access the water, when people access the ocean, it helps them form a new set of habits, a new set of memories, a new set of patterns in their brain. It helps them describe themselves with a new story.”

The idea for "Resurface" came during a Q&A session that followed a screening of the filmmaking team’s last documentary, Slomo, which focused on a neurologist nicknamed “Slomo” who abandoned his medical career to spend his days rollerblading up and down San Diego’s Pacific Beach boardwalk. Slomo found that being in motion by skating put him “in the zone,” bringing him peace and connectedness. After a screening of the film, an audience member shared that being on a wave by surfing can also put someone in the zone. Following up on that comment, Slomo’s director, Josh Izenberg, discovered an increasing body of research demonstrating the rehabilitative effects of surfing, particularly with respect to military veterans.

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