Netflix documentary short, “Resurface,” introduces Operation Surf for veterans with PTSD

Courtesy of Netflix
Netflix’s “Resurface” follows the organization, Operation Surf, who uses surfing as a therapy for veterans suffering from PTSD.


A man adjusts his prosthetic foot; another inserts a glass eye. To their left, a double amputee is hoisted onto the shoulders of a shaggy haired surf instructor named Van Curaza.

Thus begins Netflix’s new documentary short “Resurface.” The 27-minute film premiered online Sept. 1.

“Resurface” offers viewers a glimpse of Operation Surf, a California-based charity for military veterans struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and physical injuries.

Operation Surf was founded by Van Curaza, a former professional surfer. Curaza started the organization to aid “warriors in transition.” “Resurface” follows the surf instructor’s ocean outings with several veterans and features interviews with medical professionals, including a psychiatrist.

Early in the documentary, Curaza gives advice to a Marine Corps veteran while hoisting surf gear out of the back of a truck. “Just get out of your head,” he says. “Your head is the worst place.” The veteran nods in agreement. His name is Bobby Lane.

Lane, a Marine Corps veteran, suffered immense trauma following his return from the war in Iraq. Lane had suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in combat and endured distress, intense mood swings and flashbacks of flames and dead bodies. He shows the camera a medicine cabinet filled with dozens of pill bottles.

Wearing a black Operation Surf baseball cap, a tearful Lane recounts his suicide plan and how it unraveled after just one surfing outing.

“When I caught that wave, it felt like a part of me died,” Lane says. “The Bobby that was going through life dealing with so much pain and guilt—that guy died out there today.”

The film shows Lane and Curaza preparing to go out surfing. The two discuss the possibility of the veteran having a seizure while in the ocean.

Currently, Lane travels the country as a mental health activist for war veterans. Many veterans do not recover from PTSD. A reported 22 American war veterans commit suicide every day. One out of every three combat troops are diagnosed with PTSD, but less than 40 percent seek help.

Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, psychiatrist and author of “Blue Minds,” explains the origins of a soldier’s PTSD.

“We respond to danger with a flood of chemistry that gets us out of trouble or can even save our lives,” Nichols says. “All of that chemistry is still in your blood, even years later you can still carry the mark of that trauma.”

Nichols remarks on the impact that surfing can have on a soldier’s recovery: “It’s a surge of dopamine, it’s a huge natural high—your body is a pharmacy.”

The veterans’ war stories are gory, yet their bliss out at sea is center stage . A British army veteran named Martin Pollock finally manages to catch his first wave. Pollock has no legs. A blind and deaf man named Gordie Ewell cracks a joke after wiping out.

The soldiers reflect on how Operation Surf has changed their lives. Nightmares of lapping flames have transformed to dreams of dipping waves.

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