Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Resurface Movie Poster Image
Moving docu on surf therapy has mature themes, cursing.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 27 minutes

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Positive Messages

Surfing is shown to be therapeutic and transformative for veterans suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injuries, as well as veterans who lost limbs in combat. The idea of the connection to the ocean through surfing as medicine, a form of treatment. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Van Curaza overcame drug addiction and started Operation Surf, an organization dedicated to helping veterans scarred by the horrors of war. The veterans here have struggled with mental and physical trauma and lost limbs, and suffered from drug and alcohol addiction, depression, and suicidal thoughts, but they find in the act of learning to surf a way to overcome these problems and begin their lives anew. 


Veterans talk of suicide attempts, of sticking guns into their mouths. A veteran and his wife discuss his struggles with PTSD, including violent outbursts and road rage. While beginning to allude to some of his horrific experiences as a soldier in the midst of war, he attempts to put into words his struggles due to taking a child's life while engaged in battle. 


Veteran makes brief mention of Viagra when discussing his daily medication regimen. 


Frequent use of "f--k," primarily from one veteran. "Bad ass." "S--t." Middle finger gesture. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Veteran suffering from PTSD discusses how he needed to drink a fifth of whiskey and a case of beer so he could sleep at night. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Resurface is a short 2017 documentary on the transformative benefits surf therapy has had on veterans suffering from the emotional and physical traumas of war. Veterans speak frankly of their experiences during and after fighting, of injuries sustained, the ravages of PTSD, the depression upon returning home. There's some profanity -- frequent use of "f--k." While frank in its depictions of the horrors experienced by these veterans, this is a deeply inspiring documentary that also shows the healing benefits of not only surfing and the ocean, but also the good that can be accomplished when people serve their communities and engage in direct action. And at a time when, according to the documentary, 22 veterans commit suicide every day in America, this should inspire hope and discussion among families (especially military families) about what the findings shown here suggest. 

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What's the story?

On the beaches of Santa Cruz, California, surfers are preparing to hit the waves. But these are no ordinary surfers. They are young veterans who suffer the mental, emotional, and physical scars of combat -- veterans struggling with PTSD, severe depression, amputated limbs. They are taking part in Operation Surf, a program in which veterans are given the opportunity to learn how to surf, and by doing so, rediscover a sense of joy and hope in life at a time when 22 veterans a day commit suicide in America. Operation Surf was started by Van Curaza, a lifelong surfer who used surfing to overcome his own struggles with substance abuse, and found in surfing a way to give back to those who bravely served in the military. RESURFACE is the story of veterans who have benefited from surf therapy, who have found in the ocean a sense of peace and purpose that had been hard to come by since returning home from their tour of duty. 

Is it any good?

In a time when "Support Our Troops" is lazily thrown out by politicians, sportscasters, and the like, when 22 veterans in America die by suicide every day, this documentary shows the power of action. Van Curaza, the creator of Operation Surf -- an organization in which Curaza teaches mentally, emotionally, and physically scarred veterans how to surf -- offers an inspiring call to action at a time when so many offer little more than thoughts and prayers. Surf therapy is shown to be not (in the words of one of the participants) "hippie-dippie," but "hard science." The results are self-evident, in the testimonials and actions of veterans taking part. 

Resurface is only 27 minutes, but manages to pack in so much. The horrors of war and its aftermath aren't avoided in the veterans' interviews. Nor are the struggles they have contended with upon returning home, when even the bravest of the brave, trained to maintain stoicism and resiliency in the face of all challenges, are unable to cope. But there's also a tremendous and inspiring sense of hope and renewal in what these veterans have discovered in their experiences with surfing. Ultimately, Resurface is a story of giving back to one's community and the benefits of exploring as many forms of therapy as possible beyond just pharmaceuticals and psychotherapy. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about documentaries. What is their appeal? What are the ways in which different documentaries manage to inform, entertain, provoke? 

  • What are the ways in which Resurface presents its overall points and arguments? 

  • What surprised you about this documentary? 

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