Veterans share stories of 'life-saving' surfing with US First Lady

Updated: Aug 23


Jill Biden speaks to surfers
Image credit: PA

Veterans shared their stories of how surfing helps to manage their mental health during a meeting with Dr Jill Biden.


Occurring in tandem with the recent G7 summit, the US First Lady met Cornwall-based club the Bude Surf Veterans in Newlyn, Penzance where she heard about the healing effects of “calming” waters.


The volunteer group provides social support and surfing excursions for military veterans, first responders and their families in what it describes as an "an informal and friendly setting, without judgement or questioning."


A member told Dr Biden that being on the water got people “surfing” and “smiling” –something which has been "life-saving" for many.


“They’re all dealing with PTSD or anxiety, a lot of mental health issues," Dr Biden told a reporter. "But once they found surfing, and they reached out to other veterans... It’s just a way to build back their confidence and to help them deal with life and get on the right track again and so I think the water is so healing.”


Dr Biden’s father Donald Jacobs was a navy signalman in the Second World War while her stepson Beau served with the Delaware Army National Guard.


Read more: Nature helps 7 in 10 adults improve their mood

Beau told her to focus on the mental health of the forces before he died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46.



“And so, it means a lot to me as I mean, my dad was a veteran and of course Beau,” she added. Shortly after meeting the group, Dr Biden posted a message on Twitter to thank the group.


“There is power in the calmness and serenity of the ocean for so many who may be struggling," she said. "Thank you to the Bude Surf Veterans Cornwall, a UK-based organisation, for sharing with me about how you build community, lean on each other, and find healing through surfing.


“Our two countries have a long history of serving together, and in this generation, we need to do what we can to learn how to recover together.”


Dr Biden said she had done a lot of work with the Invictus Games, which was founded by the Duke of Sussex in 2014, and the charity Walking With The Wounded which seeks to provide independence for vulnerable veterans through employment.


“There’s so many connections and that’s why it was important to hear their stories and hear how they’ve triumphed,” Dr Biden added.


Written by Hedi Mehrez News reporter for Talking Mental Health Twitter: @HediMehrez_