Navy Veteran, Inaugural President of AVS Hunter Coast Chapter, Dad and Husband
Phil spent 14 years in the Royal Australian Navy and transitioned out in September 2020. He discharged with significant mental injuries and began to drink quite heavily. Surfing helped him through this time and has given him back so much more.
The mental injuries that Phil suffered during his service were the reason he had to leave the Navy. He found what so many veterans find, a loss of connection with his military life and peers and a loss of that camaraderie. He struggled with his mental health and found himself drinking more and more as a result.
“When you leave the Defence Force the doors shut and it shuts hard.”
“What’s better than paddling out, sunrise, good, nice clean waves in the mornings. Just the headspace it puts you in for the rest of the day. I used to be a massive drinker. I barely drink anymore because this is what I do in the mornings.”
Phil had started surfing at the age of 18 but stopped surfing due to work. He picked it back up again at the age of 34 and whilst it was hard work, he preserved and got back into the sport. When Phil was finding it hard, surfing helped him get up in the morning, and sometimes it was the only thing that got him out of bed.
He became a member of the Sydney Chapter of the Association of Veteran Surfers (AVS) and part of the Navy Surf Riders Association. He then moved to the Central Coast and linked in with Invictus Australia’s Veteran Engagement Specialist Rachel Kerrigan to look at Surfing Opportunities. He worked with Invictus Australia to create the Hunter Coast chapter of the AVS.
Phil is now the inaugural president of the Association of Veteran Surfers (AVS) Hunter Coast chapter and is excited to be leading the work of bringing local veterans and their families together around surfing. He has experienced firsthand the wellbeing benefits of surfing and the power of being in the water. He knows that it’s a perfect sport for veterans who may be struggling with mental health and is focussed on supporting the mental health and social wellbeing of the veteran community through social connection and the surf.
“I started surfing when my mental injuries started arising. I was pretty bad. Surfing helped me get up in the morning and I’d get up and check the surf report and if it was good, I’d surf. For about six months I was living for that surf report.”