We had the good fortune of connecting with Van Curaza and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Van, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risk is the belief in the unknown. I realized I was afraid of success in my own life as much as I was worried about failure. Ultimately it came down to making a choice and deciding to do what felt right, to get out of my comfort level and out of self. I decided to no longer worry about whether I failed or succeeded but rather focused on each experience as a learning opportunity. My recovery journey led to my career after the judgment of others focused on what I wasn’t, I took the risk to focus on what I was. I learned along the way that there is a bit of good and bad in each of us. So I chose to believe in the good of myself and started my own Surf School. I believed I was a good surf coach and focused on the positive aspect of surfing in my own life, and I wanted to share that experience with others. After recognizing the need for others, I started a non-profit, Amazing Surf Adventures, to reach at-risk and underserved youth. Using my own experiences to serve others. Furthermore, following my own journey of helping others, I had the opportunity to help a group of injured warriors in transition recovering from the Brooks Army Medical Facility in San Antonio, Texas, to experience surfing. It was the start of another opportunity leading to founding the curriculum-based program of Operation Surf and has led to over 10 years of helping injured military and veterans through transition to channel the healing powers of the ocean all over the world. 

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Operation Surf channels the healing powers of the ocean to restore hope, renew purpose, and revitalize community. Our curriculum-based programs aim to inspire injured military and veterans to seek wellness in all aspects of their lives while providing the necessary resources, tools, and support to continue this mindset indefinitely. Operation Surf is different from any other organization because we use the gift of our darkness to inspire others from the leadership down. Our support goes beyond surfing, and we inspire to connect through our stories and challenges. The journey to where we are today is one of sacrifice and vulnerability. It was about making the hard right decisions and putting the heart in front of the dollar. We will run an entire program if it means helping one person. Personally, I would not be where I am today if I didn’t make a choice to get clean and sober. Through the journey of recovery, I learned the ability to utilize the most challenging things in my life, my story, to help others. When I overcame the stigma surrounding my story, I found the ability to help others by creating connection and support others facing similar challenges. The reality is we can’t do it alone. That is the legacy I want to leave behind, being in constant thought of others.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would take them on tour up Highway 1, stopping at all the local landmarks like The Rock, Hearst Castle, the Sea Elephants, golfing in Morro Bay, and Monarch Dunes. Stopping at all the local eateries that support our programs like Taco Temple, Hoagies and end with a nice dinner at Novo on the patio under the big oak tree overlooking the creek. Ending our tour at our headquarters in Avila Beach for a surf session at VC Surf School alongside Operation Surf veteran participants whose lives have been changed by our programs.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to dedicate our success to Janice Raznowski of Operation Comfort for her years of service to our military, which introduced the opportunity to work with The Center for the Intrepid. Without Janice – there would not be an Operation Surf.

Website: operationsurf.org
Instagram: @VanCuraza @OperationSurf @VcSurfSchool
Facebook: @OperationSurf @VCSurfSchool
Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/operation-surf-avila-beach
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaI8ZEYyhiuYXf97kOoUoNw
Other: Netflix Documentary “Resurface”, WSL Transformed Series Season 3 Episode 3 “Operation Surf”

Image Credits
@nellysmagicmoments @hellorogersmith

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