Surfing helps Wounded Warrior rehabilitation

Sessions held weekly in Del Mar

DEL MAR, Calif. - Donning a wetsuit and a custom-made prosthetic, Marine Sgt. Eric Rodriguez headed for the surf line. 

"I grew up in California, but I never gave surfing a second thought," said Rodriguez, who was wounded in combat.
 
Rodriguez is in good company. He and other Wounded Warriors undergoing rehabilitation at Naval Medical Center San Diego are part of weekly event at the beach in Del Mar. 
 
"This started five years ago when a wounded Marine, who happened to be Hawaiian, wanted to go surfing," said Betty Michalewicz-Kragh, an exercise physiologist at Naval Medical Center San Diego. 
 
What this does, she said, is draw attention and focus away from their injury. 
 
"When I come here, I forget about everything," said Rodriguez. 
 
Daniel Riley, who lost both legs to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, said the program has been life changing. 
 
"Once I'm in the water, I realized it doesn't matter that I don't have any legs, I'm out there having fun, paddling and surfing and I'm just like everyone else," Riley said.
 
The program was developed through the Balboa Warrior Athlete Program at the medical center, which offers a number of other sports as well, but it also reinforces the idea of moving forward. 
 
Cpl. Carlos Torres, wounded by an IED in Afghanistan, said, "It pretty much opened up the doors, I mean there's nothing I can't do."
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