An Australia-first surf program in Gerringong could help veterans with their mental health

"We can talk about veterans' mental health and suicide, or we can draw a line in the sand and take some tangible action."

Gerringong RSL sub-branch president and former army officer Glenn Kolomeitz was speaking at the launch of Australia-first initiative, Defence Surf Therapy Program, on Saturday, June 15.

Members of Rubicon, the Keith Payne VC Veterans Benefit Group, the Military Brotherhood Motorcycle Club and others who hold the mental health of veterans close to their heart all turned out for the launch.

The program is the brainchild of Mr Kolomeitz, former big wave professional surfer and Gerringong Surf School owner, Rusty Moran, and Fred Campbell.

SHAKAS: Veterans, their friends and families, and the surfing community hope to prove that "salt-water therapy" can be the best medicine for PTSD, depression and anxiety.

SHAKAS: Veterans, their friends and families, and the surfing community hope to prove that "salt-water therapy" can be the best medicine for PTSD, depression and anxiety.

"The surf therapy program is tangible action, supported by clinical data from the US. We're here to get that rolling," Mr Kolomeitz said.

"The psychs will tell you get out and do physical exercise, mindfulness, get some vitamin D. We have a program that does all of that, with clinical oversight."

That clinical oversight is key to achieving their goal of having the program rolled out Australia-wide.

Mr Moran said the main goals of the launch were to raise awareness, and for the RSL and Department of Veterans Affairs to back a pilot study.

He said they wanted to conduct a ten-week program, with 20 veterans, who would undergo brain scans and psychological assessments at the beginning and end.

"We want to show that surfing, as a non-pharmacological treatment, is very effective at reducing stress and re-wiring the brain," he said.

"Once we've got the pilot study done, we can take that to Veterans Affairs and get it rolled out across the state.

"Ask any surfer, and they'll tell you that being in the ocean soothes the soul.

"Everyone knows it, we just want to prove scientifically what the pathway is."

Keith Payne VC Veterans Benefit Group chairman Rick Meehan said the program was a way to help "stem the tide of veteran suicide".

"All your demons are left back on shore, the research in the US has proved that," he said.

"It's about having the courage to let the stress go."

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