The sky was gold. It was rose. I was taking sips of it through my nose.
Literally. It was all happening.
Stephan Jenkins, lead singer of Third Eye Blind, was guiding a veteran with PTSD to the ocean to catch his first wave at El Porto in Manhattan Beach, California, and all seemed to fit together nicely.
Sand between toes. Beach was giving a feeling – an earthy feeling I believe in.
When I was twelve, blasting Semi-Charmed Life on Z104 gearing up for the next Bar Mitzvah on the Hampton Roads circuit, I had a hunch Jenkins was a surfer. Or would become a surfer. I didn’t know, however, that I’d meet him in the exact environment he so poetically exalted on airwaves for the next two decades. Beyond that, I didn’t expect that encounter would arrive in service of veterans suffering from PTSD.
“I love this group,” said Jenkins of the Jimmy Miller Foundation. “They honor Jimmy’s life by teaching people who have PTSD, who are working through that, and we take them surfing. It’s really as simple as that. That’s what’s so beautiful about this message. It doesn’t need more than that. It’s a place that centers you and brings you into focus. When a wave comes, and you take it, you are present in that moment.”
As a kid, Jenkins was drawn to surfing through trips to Santa Cruz, but he said it wasn’t until twelve years ago that he made surfing foundational to his life. Now, birthdays, post-tour celebrations, and moments where he’s able to give back all revolve around the ocean. Which brings us to a summer day at El Porto.
“I think it’s incumbent upon us to find a way to support veterans and to also support active service people, because the strain that’s been put on them is unprecedented in American history,” said Jenkins. “We have an obligation to those who do serve. We’ve been in conflicts now for over thirteen years, and that stress is one I that can’t even imagine. So we gather in and offer the things that we have to offer. For me, that’s through surfing.”
Nancy Miller, co-founder of the Jimmy Miller Foundation told us that Stephan discovered the organization online while actively seeking out nonprofits about a year ago. Jenkins gave them a call, and quickly found himself at Camp Pendleton with the Wounded Warriors Batallion. The experience was so positive, sharing surfing as therapy for military veterans who’ve experienced unimaginable stress, that he continues to champion the cause.
The veteran Jenkins joined in the ocean minutes earlier popped up on one knee, then two feet. His hands spread to his sides, delicately balancing himself above the whitewater smiling ear to ear.
“They’re here to feel the saltwater on their skin and on their hair,” said Miller. “You can hear them laughing and clapping and having the time of their lives.”
Sounds like a Third Eye Blind song. Which makes a whole lot of sense.
Video shot and edited by Alex Smolowe