Discover The Way Through With Caleb
In the Army Special Forces community, the men you serve with are highly motivated, self-starters, and incredibly creative. We don’t take no for an answer. In December of 2015 I seriously doubted my resolve to go on after stepping on an IED in Afghanistan which resulted in the loss of both my legs. I didn’t know how I would go on doing the things I loved.
Four months after injury I attended my first Operation Surf in Santa Cruz. I was skinny, on so many painkillers, mad at the world, and stuck in a wheelchair. I still went and it was a life changing experience. The water is absolute therapy. The people are magnetic. The community with other service members attending Op Surf lasts. There was so much happiness at the event that I was convinced the people there were full of crap. I was quickly proven wrong and it was my privilege to go to the most recent Op Surf in Huntington Beach this year. Building on the surfing skills and friendships I had made at the last event, this year’s event did not disappoint.
After an epic week of surfing, a small group of guys and I headed out to the California desert to off-road and shoot some steel. I shot some but mostly sat back and just watched. Guys with prosthetic legs, guys in wheelchairs, retired pro surfers, and friends all shared a camaraderie that was created because of Op Surf. Nobody was coddled. Everybody out there was a man and was treated as such, regardless of what physical obstacles they faced. It was awesome.
Immediately after shooting I met up with a local friend to do some spirited Baja-style off-roading followed by camping at Big Bear. That is the type of off-roading I live for. High-speed dirt runs, whoops, and drifting - there is nothing like it. We drove for several hours on some beautiful back roads on our way up to Big Bear. After finding a pristine camping site (with expensive nightly camping fees courtesy of California), we set up camp and enjoyed the peacefulness in the air.
On the way down the mountain the next morning my transmission went out. Crisis reaction mode engaged, I got the truck towed to the nearest dealership and began the tedious process of figuring out what was wrong and how they were going to fix it. After 4 days of back and forth with the dealership, I arranged for a rental car and drove back home to Arizona. The dealership would ship my truck to me when it was finished.
I had every right to be angry and frustrated at my current situation. I could feel the PTSD demons creeping in. Anger was a moment’s notice away. I sat in a hotel in San Bernardino stranded because my truck broke down on the way home, I began to reflect on the last 10 days of awesomeness and the anger quickly subsided. How could I be angry when I am still overwhelmed with the incredible amount of good that happened while at Operation Surf in Huntington Beach?
A situation like this would normally eat me up. I would be annoyed and frustrated that it happened to me. I had to miss several days with my family and arrange for extra care for my kids. Something was different this time. The peace and balance I felt after Op Surf hadn’t worn off. I was able to handle the situation with maturity, something that hadn’t happened in a while.
Why do I write about those 10 days?
First and foremost, Op Surf legitimately changes lives regularly.
Secondly, 2 years ago I would not have been able to do this 10-day event in its entirety. I would have needed painkillers, people to set up and transport me to every event, and I would have been very hesitant to camp without substantial logistical support.
I have put in an incredible amount of work the past few years to get to this point, physically and mentally.
The struggle is what defines us.
Without struggle there can be no progress, no learning, no healing.
Embracing family and friends, crushing obstacles, helping others, and continually pursuing perfection - that is my way through.
Caleb Brewer is an adaptive athlete. His new mission is to open up a gym. Get inspired by his journey on Instagram @ckbrewer