Riding with Wolves in a World Full of Sheep
By T.R. Matson
The sun breaks over the horizon and sheds light on the calm of the scene. Temperatures soar as the light from the sun warms the land. The light brings with it the beginning of a new day. Movement starts and time begins to tick. Pain from the previous day begins to make itself known as the warriors wake up one by one. Each one has his or her own ritual in the morning that is often very different from yours and mine. Some days are harder than others, but today there is a familiar feeling. It’s a driving force that many have not felt in a long time. A feeling that once was their sole motivation to wake up is now back, and it’s immediately at war with the feeling of pain. This internal war might cripple some, but to these warriors this internal war is a welcome and familiar feeling. They feel pain, but that also means they are alive. While this scene is repeated all over the world in some of the most unfriendly places, today is different. Today the warriors are met with a different goal. Today they must put aside everything they dealt with yesterday, and everything else going on in their life, and focus on the job at hand…to learn how to surf.
Wake for Warriors was founded on the simple principle of connecting with injured military veterans through sharing a passion for wake and water sports. Through this connection they provide these warriors some worry-free days on the lake to learn how to wakeboard and wake surf. During these lake days, they believe the healing process from the scars of war can occur. By focusing on developing a skill, connecting with others, and sharing their stories, these warriors can take one step toward remembering where they came from and who they truly are.
Down by the water the boats begin to arrive. Glistening machines outfitted with powerful engines and technology that allow them to create amazing endless waves. These machines will carry each warrior today as they move forward to try to conquer the next challenge in front of them. While that accomplishment may be the main thing in their sights, there are many more gifts the boats will bring with them. These warriors are very different from most people walking around. They have been to the ugliest places in the world, at the worst times, and have seen the worst in people. Those experiences have allowed them to truly appreciate what they have back home. Many come back broken, and while all the injuries are not visible, they affect each one differently. Coming back from war-torn lands to a place you used to call home is not easy, and it is often difficult to find others who understand what you are feeling, but today is different. Each warrior comes from a different background, but as they sit together over coffee and breakfast, they are one. They relive their experiences from the previous day, speaking of wipeouts and triumphs. They speak of different equipment, wave settings, and music choices that helped them conquer the wave. They are “spreading the shred.”
In a world where warriors, men and women alike, are often sent home and seemingly discarded back to “normal” life, Wake for Warriors gives them hope. These men and women, while very different on the surface, have a genetic makeup that is similar. They all answered the phone when their country was calling for help. Each one ran into the chaos when others were running away. Each one put his or her own safety aside to protect the brothers and sisters around them and, because of that, each one has scars. Whether it is a missing limb or something less obvious, it is there. The interesting thing, though, is while it seems everything about them has changed through these trials and tribulations, their genetic makeup has stayed the same. They still run towards a challenge, help their brothers and sisters, and never stop telling the best stories when around their new family. I have watched these men and women show up at the dock battered and beaten by injuries and internal struggles and leave three days later prouder and happier than ever. There is something in the water that gives these men and women their lives back. It is the sound of the engines, the cool water, the camaraderie, or a combination of all three that gives these warriors their power and freedom back.
Dropping the rope is often the cumulation of many hours behind the boat and many falls. Gallons of lake water in their lungs doesn’t deter these warriors because they will overcome and conquer this, as they have many things before. While none of them would compare this to battle, this challenge brings them back to life. On Sunday when the goodbyes are said, the hugs are shared, and the tears of joy begin, the feelings are all the same. While these warriors have developed a new skill, it is far more important what they remembered about themselves. They are not broken. They are the same person inside they have always been. They are the heroes to their husbands and wives, sons and daughters, and mothers and fathers. They are brothers and sisters in a family that very few will actually be a part of, and when this world seems to be changing faster than you can keep up with, the internal fire of drive has been ignited once again. That internal determination is what has allowed them to accomplish so much, and although for many that fire was down to embers when they returned home, it was rekindled somewhere on the lake. That internal fire makes each and every one of these warriors unstoppable, and it’s what causes them to be wolves in a world full of sheep.