For Tom Tapp, the motivation for Operation Amped comes down to one fundamental idea: Giving others the opportunity to be and feel free. One day while watching a news report about injured soldiers coming home from Iraq, a connection clicked in his head. “These were people who were told they were going over to fight for freedom and, for a lot of them who were returning home with serious injuries, they are feeling a little less free,” says Tapp.
While participating in Landmark’s program that focuses on making a difference in the community, Tapp decided to create a project that would help wounded vets tap into the freedom that surfing offers. “Nothing is more freeing than surfing, and I wanted these veterans to experience that and be free of the constraints that injury might have imposed on them.”
Tapp made a phone call to a military base, and it turned out that the base’s liaison officer, who picked up the phone, was himself a surfer and immediately took to the idea. “It was completely grassroots,” Tapp says. “I just called and said, ‘We’re a group of surfers and we want to honor veteran soldiers and give back to the people who have been over in wars (past and present)’”
Operation Amped has snowballed from a small, one-day affair to multi-day events held annually. Other people and corporations like Billabong, Chipotle, and Monster Energy Drink have sponsored events.
The organization is also expanding its activities for veterans who want both to master surfing and get a head start on their careers. According to Tapp, “We’re going to pair each veteran with an older professional and surfer, who can not only buddy with them and teach them how to surf, but also work with them on creating a future after the military. Veterans who want to go into business will be paired with a CEO, those who want to go to art school will be paired with a professional artist, and so on.”
“It’s inspiring to see the commitment and compassion of these surfers combined with the courage of these veterans,” says Tapp.