Sean Meyer grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and enlisted in the Army when he was 22 as a Combat Engineer. He deployed to Afghanistan performing route clearance operations. He also served as a Combat Medic with the 274th Forward Surgical Team(Airborne). He had dreams of surfing one day and although he lived near the coast, it wasn’t until Operation Surf provided him the chance. It couldn’t have come at a better time. It was shortly after discharge and during a difficult period in his life. Surfing opened up a whole new community and adventures. It was instrumental having a positive, supportive community of like minded individuals and set a firm foundation for his new life. Surfing and helping others, in and out of the water, has become a new passion and purpose for Sean. Sean is married to his wife of 9 years, Tiffany, together they have two young kids and two dogs.
“Surfing is the best medicine.”
Chairman of the Board, Co-Founder
Danny was born and raised in Northern California. He signed up for the Army on 9/11 as a Forward Observer. While Danny enjoyed the outdoors growing up, he did not get to know the healing powers of the ocean until after his service. After two tours overseas with intense combat, Danny struggled with his mental health, and connection to the community. However, after opening up about his adversity, Danny found serenity in the ocean with others. He hopes that the Veteran’s Surf Alliance will allow others to find peace after trauma by using the
ocean to reconnect to their community.
Co-Founder and Board Member
John Straznickas MD (AKA Doc Straz) is an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCSF, where he is a teacher and an educator. He is the Team Leader of the Substance Use/Post-Traumatic Stress treatment clinic at the San Francisco VA Medical Center where he has worked for over 25 years to combine best medical and psychological practices in the care of our Nation’s veterans. In his professional journey with veterans he has found that community is a key to healing the wounds of war. Doc Straz supports the non-profit organization ‘Operation Surf’ as a volunteer mental health staffer, and spreads its mission of honoring and healing our nation’s veterans ‘one wave at a time’. He is himself an enthusiastic surfer participating in, and witnessing firsthand, the healing power and strength developed through the connections made between veterans who surf. As a founding member of the Veteran Surf Alliance, Doc Straz is committing to expand the surf community with veterans who share a joyful and passionate pursuit of the Ocean’s waves.
Xavier Bianchi is a native San Franciscan. He enlisted in the Army serving from 2007-2015. After being discharged from the Army, Xavier was struggling to cope with the enduring hardships of life after the military. Xavier met Dr. Straznickas at the SFVA during his transition back to civilian life. After learning that Xavier had surfed on and off his entire life, Doc sent him to Operation Surf. In October of 2015, at Op Surf, he
met Danny O’neil, Brent Edwards, Rico Rodriguez, and Sean Meyer. It was a life-changing event where he rediscovered surfing, which became his salvation. It has given him a new mission in life; to share the soul-cleansing power of our oceans, and to share that passion with other veterans, the world over, with the hopes that they may find refuge, and seek solace in the healing powers of our beautiful beaches, waves, and oceans. Our dynamic and passionate network of
surfers is dedicated to helping veterans, their families, and the communities in which they live by providing a support system where they may find success after the military.
“Aut Inveniam Viam Aut Faciam”
“I shall either find a way or make one.”
Nicole grew up in Los Angeles, CA where she fell in love with surfing and being in the ocean. She left sunny LA for undergrad at the University of Michigan and then earned her doctorate degree from the University of New England in 2013. She began her VA career with the VA Maine, where yes, she became a winter surfer and grew to admire those icy surf sessions. Nicole is now a physical therapist in the outpatient clinic at the San Francisco VA, specializing in sports rehabilitation. This is where she met Doc Straz and began to work with the Veteran Surf Alliance. She knew the unique and powerful physical benefits of surfing, but was moved by the tight-knit community that formed into the Veteran Surf Alliance. This fellowship is a key piece to the ongoing personal successes in the veteran surf community. Nicole believes surfing offers a unique experience of a physical challenge, while simultaneously altering your current perspective on life's challenges. Nicole is honored and dedicated to share this healing space with likeminded folks in pursuit of sunny days, good waves, and continuing camaraderie.
William Clift was born at Tripler Army Hospital on Oahu, HI and raised in Martinez CA. He joined the US Navy in January 1980 and after completing Hospital Corpsman School in San Diego he was stationed at Oaknoll Naval Hospital where he worked in the cardiac care unit and the emergency room. After 3 years of active duty he was assigned to a Marine Reserve Unit called the 4th MAW MED MAG 42 out of Alameda, CA and was honorably discharged in 1987. He went to work at the Martinez VA in the summer of 1984 and is now a case coordinator at the San Francisco VA Opiate Treatment Program. He also helps veterans get involved in the Healing Waters Fly Fishing Program, PGA HOPE Golf Program and the Veteran Surf Alliance. He also manages the SFVA Veterans Community Garden. His goal is to help veterans help themselves and have a productive and healthy life.
The ocean has been Brents' playground for over forty years: Surfing, fishing, diving , and high seas adventure. It’s also been a great source of nurturing, healing, and joy. He is so grateful for it, and has an immense amount of respect for it’s power, and beauty. Brent raised his kids to respect it, and they have flourished in it. He had the great honor to teach surfing to others, and introduce them to the healing powers of the ocean. As a surfer, and a veteran, it’s his calling to help his fellow brothers and sisters in arms to benefit from these healing powers through surfing, as they make their way through life. "The bonds we build, and camaraderie we share are priceless."
Lead Surf Instructor
Richard "Riku" Rodriguez has been surfing for more than 35 years. During the past decade he has participated in adaptive surfing programs as a surf instructor. He is honored to work with many different types of people and programs. He has traveled to a handful of surf spots worldwide including Indonesia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, as well as Hawaii. Richard currently has a small business teaching private surf lessons. Over the past year Richard has enjoyed working closely with the VSA alongside, Sean Meyer And John Straznickas. His goal is to use the power of the ocean, and community of surfers to help create lasting bonds and build confidence in one another. Richard is First Aid and CPR certified.
His father served in Vietnam, therefore he is very grateful for the opportunity to help veterans transition back into civilian life. He is so proud to be apart of the Veteran Surf Alliance!