RSL Active teamed up with Operation Soul Surf to give a group of veterans a month of surf lessons at Point Leo Beach.

When Carolyn West emerged from riding a wave she felt a sense of calm settle over her.

“I really enjoyed the peace at the end after the crashing of the wave… and then you’re just floating.”

It’s a world away from the hustle and bustle for the mother-of-three, who also works full time.

“It’s good to see the ocean, hear the waves crashing, see the horizon of the ocean, just the whole environment.”

Operation Soul Surf
Operation Soul Surf

Lured to the RSL Active event as an annual goal she sets herself to learn something new. Now, it’s opened her eyes and steered her to a new-found passion - a love of paddle boarding.

“I’m planning to buy a stand-up paddle board. I thoroughly enjoyed that [as part of the surf lessons], which I would never have known otherwise.”

Clearly though, Carolyn has a penchant for water having served with the navy for 12 and a half years.

"I loved every minute of my service…the life skills, the adventure side of it, the honour of serving your country, or feeling that you’ve given back to your country. The whole thing was all joyous."

Carolyn West

She even roped in a friend she met during her service years to join her at the RSL Active surf lessons.

“The best thing to come out of the services is that you form lifelong friendships.”

Of course, RSL Active is also an opportunity to forge new friendships, by connecting with people with shared experiences.

"It’s just good to see people out there, all different age ranges from their 20s to their 70s and we could all relate to each other, without being in the same generation, or even in the same service."

Carolyn West

For Carolyn, reintegrating back into social activities was also a priority for her coming out of lockdowns.

"Everyone who has been in lockdown has felt remote and disconnected. I decided while I was in lockdown that once I was free, I had to start reengaging in the ex-service community, because they are like-minded people who have been through similar situations."

Carolyn West

Now, she’s quite literally soaking it all in, making the most of RSL Active’s kayaking activity on the Yarra, to most recently trying her hand at surfing.

“It was good to feel accomplished at the end, I could stand up and catch a wave, which I never thought I could do!”