VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Like the name suggests, the East Coast Surfing Championship is a competition. But for the first surfers in the competition, it’s also about camaraderie.
ECSC started Sunday morning with a special competition division called Surf Warriors, all military veterans and all alumni of the Wounded Warrior Project.
“Today’s a good day,” said Army combat veteran Joseph Payne. “I’m with my fellow brothers and sisters here and I know that there’s nothing that’s going to harm me.”
Payne came back from combat with Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder because of multiple IED blasts. He credits the Wounded Warrior Project for giving him more of these good days.
“If it wasn’t for them, I’d probably still be stuck on a couch somewhere, locked in my little room, going ‘I don’t want to go outside,’” said Payne. “But to get the surf coach to get me out on the surf board, first time ever, and then to be invited to come here was such a privilege and honor.”
Competing along with Payne was Crystal Hazlett, a Navy veteran. The two didn’t serve in the same places or suffer the same injuries. In fact, they don’t even know each other – but Sunday, they called each other teammates, and brother and sister.
“The cool thing is we all have each other’s back,” Hazlett said. “We all root each other on, even if we fall terribly, we’re just one team. It’s awesome.”
You can find more information about the Wounded Warrior Project and ECSC here: