Nonprofit Partnership Spotlight: Waves of Recovery
1. How did Waves of Recovery start?
Ryan: My partner, Sophie Pyne and I started Waves of Recovery in April 2022. We are both in long term recovery from addiction - I have been sober since 2015 and Sophie has been sober since 2014. I was born and raised here in South Bay and have been surfing since the age of 6. Surfing was something I lost during the depths of my addiction and something I have since regained in my recovery.
Early in recovery I was reintroduced to surfing and instantly fell back in love with surfing and the ocean. It became a healthy outlet and a safe space to return to amidst all of the anxiety, stress, and fear that accompanies early sobriety and a significant lifestyle change. Surfing and connecting with the ocean provided me with a new lens through which to view recovery and the world. Surfing and going outside provided me with purpose, passion, and a new community to support me on the journey. It gave me a new way to connect with people in recovery, taught me lessons about living in acceptance, surrendering to external situations, and forced me to be present as I did so. It also enabled me to connect for the first time with something greater than myself, and as a result, I began teaching other people to surf, which enabled me to be of service through surfing. Surfing and recovery saved my life and as I continued to grow I began working with others in recovery and using the ocean as a tool and bonding experience. I have the privilege of watching others who are new in recovery experience the same healing and magic I had found in the ocean. Today, I continue to encourage and support others into the ocean and onto the path to recovery.
Sophie: Ryan taught me to surf when we met about 2 years ago. I always grew up with a love for the ocean - I would spend my vacations with family swimming, body surfing, boogie boarding and scuba diving all over the world. But I never got on a surfboard until I was 30! I still remember the very first wave that Ryan helped me catch from out the back during the winter of 2021 - a super long right that I rode all the way to the beach! From that moment, I fell in love with the way I felt riding that wave - free!
As a therapist and a person in long term recovery from addiction, I believe in a truly holistic model of healing and recovery. During the pandemic, many of us were struggling with increased levels of depression, anxiety, fear and isolation. Since no one was able to meet indoors, there was an opportunity for us to pivot the way we interacted with and served our clients. So I began meeting with my clients outdoors in nature and immediately noticed a significant difference in how therapeutic our natural environment is on our overall mental health and wellbeing. Ryan also experienced a significant increase in demand for surf lessons as people looked for new outlets and new ways to exercise and take care of their mental health. There is so much evidence and research that supports the benefits of the ocean on our mental health and wellbeing #bluemind, such as cultivating and developing mindfulness, presence, flow, surrender, acceptance and resilience. Because of this, we wanted to co-create a unique and safe space for people to receive the benefits of surfing and being outside to support their recovery. We are all recovering from something, and the ocean provides an environment for us to show up exactly as we are.
Waves of Recovery grew out of the natural progression of recovery, healing and therapeutic work that both Ryan and Sophie have been engaged with over the last 8 years. Waves of Recovery enables us to deepen our impact on the community, provide a safe space for people to learn a new skill and connect with like-minded individuals and allows us to continue spreading the stoke!
2. How Did you Discover Waves of Recovery?
In April 2022, I met Sophie (one of our wonderful co-founders) at a volunteer event on Manhattan Beach where we worked on removing non-native plant species. All of the volunteers shared their current career paths and passions. When I finally got to speak with Sophie, I was amazed by her passion for aiding others. She told me about her goal of starting up a nonprofit and the impact she hoped to have on her community. I’m one of those people that firmly believes that some of life’s greatest opportunities are right outside of your comfort zones, as long as you are willing to take the leap of faith. So even though I was nervous to put myself out there, I immediately knew in my heart that I wanted to be a part of it and help in any way I could. Not long after, I met with Sophie to talk more about the vision for Waves of Recovery and where I could help out. Since then, I have had the immense pleasure of getting to know some giving, selfless, and empowering people that you can’t help but to watch and learn from them in awe.
3. Tell us about some of Waves of Recovery’s programs and your involvement in them.
Since April 2022, we have been hosting free community events and fundraisers on a monthly basis to build community and teach people new tools to take care of themselves and our environment – mindfulness, meditation, surfing and ocean conservation. We have hosted beach cleanups where we teach our volunteers to surf after combing the beach for trash, as well as sound bath and surf events which allows us to share new mindfulness exercises and the joy of surfing with our community. Waves of Recovery also provides individual and small group surf therapy programs to people who are finding recovery from mental health and addiction. This is the core of our mission. During our surf therapy sessions, we share mental health and recovery tools while also teaching people how to surf the waves of the ocean and the waves of life. Sophie is our master chief therapy extraordinaire and Ryan is our head surf coach, together we provide a safe space for people on the journey to wellness & growth. Wherever people are along the path, we hope to encourage, enhance,and expand their spiritual, mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. We view mental health much the same as the physical, that it is not a binary end state but rather an endless journey. We don't quit exercising because we have a six pack, so why would we stop pursuing emotional or spiritual growth? We want people to continue investing in their emotional and spiritual growth too!
4. Tell us about your favorite Waves of Recovery memory thus far.
Sophie: I love sharing surf therapy with people who have never surfed before and never thought they would surf or have an opportunity to. It’s truly amazing to witness individuals get out of their comfort zone, try something new and ride their first wave! The joy, laughter, smiles, bonding, stoke and connection in the water is what keeps me going! Surfing is an incredibly difficult sport to learn, so being able to watch their progression over time is amazing! It reminds us that we all have the inner strength and resiliency to overcome our fears and doubts and achieve anything we dream of - both in and out of the water.
McKayla: Our October event was a blast! My favorite memory was from our September event when I paddled out with all of the newcomers and our surf coach volunteers! Everyone was open to being vulnerable and connecting with each other when we were all out the back waiting between sets. It was incredible sharing waves, support, and stoke with everyone from our community despite the range in skill levels!!
5. What role has Avasol played in your experience working with Waves of Recovery?
Ryan: I've been in love with Avasol for a long time! As a professional surf coach for the past 8 years, I use Avasol every day! It enables me to stay on the beach longer, to catch more waves and helps to multiply the stoke by keeping me protected! I take it with me on the beach every day and even in the water sometimes so I don't have to come in to re-apply. Avasol was the first company to get behind Waves of Recovery and share products with us to gift our team, our volunteers and our participants. It filled me with gratitude to know someone was supporting what we were trying to do and empowered me to continue on the path!
McKayla: Avasol has been my go-to over the last few years!! As someone who’s in the water a lot from diving to surfing, I rely on Avasol to keep not only myself protected, but the marine life around me. There are some days where I rely on surfing and need to be out on the water a little longer to take care of myself or others, and using Avasol has allowed me to do just that. When I first started surfing, finding a safe, reliable sunscreen was a major challenge for me and I love that our volunteers don’t have to face that same struggle!
6. What are Waves of Recovery’s goals for the future?
We have so many goals for the future! Our immediate short-term goals are to continue to grow and foster community and spread the stoke through our free events and programs in Southern California. We are currently developing and expanding our programming to reach new communities and different areas in SoCal, and raising money to be able to offer scholarships in Spring and Summer for people who are looking for an alternative pathway through healing in the ocean to support their mental health and recovery.
In 2023, we also plan to provide Waves of Recovery surf therapy training to therapists, healers, coaches and surf coaches that are interested in utilizing surf therapy as a modality of healing in their own practice - or who would like to join our team!
We are also planning many rad experiences to offer our community members and volunteers - like surf therapy retreats! It is so important for us to give back to those who have been involved in our community as there are so many amazing people doing good work. We witness people in our recovery community who constantly show up for others, who literally save and change lives regularly, whose existence is defined by how much they can do for others. We watch these people in awe and humbly do our best to follow in their footsteps and to hold the door open for others looking to join us on the path to recovery from addiction, mental health, or whatever they are healing from. We want to empower others to continue making a difference by giving back and allowing them space to fill up their cups.
“Each day my friends simple talk in our kitchen multiplies itself in an ever widening circle of peace on earth and good will to men" ~ Bill W.
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