Bruce Boyle, sharing his love of the ocean one wave at a time ~ from the Coast Star, August 11, 2016
For Bruce Boyle, the ocean is just as much a part of him as his skin and bones.
He began surfing at the age of 3, cultivating adoration and respect for the ocean unique to those who ride its waves.
Surfing has taken him around the world, from Mexico to Indonesia, chasing down the perfect wave.
But today, Mr. Boyle is less focused on chasing waves and more intent on, as he says “sharing the stoke.”
SHARING HIS LOVE OF THE OCEAN
Operation Beachhead is a Sea Girt-based nonprofit organization that supports disabled veterans and civilians by providing them with adaptive recreational and social activities. As the organization’s “head water man,” Mr. Boyle oversees Operation Beachhead’s summer beach days, during which disabled participants can surf, boogie board, kayak and paddleboard. During the beach outings, Mr. Boyle can be found in the water, helping participants catch a wave. “You push someone into a wave and you see some smiles like you’ve never seen before,” said Mr. Boyle, who has worked with a wide range of participants, from autistic children to disabled military veterans. “You see the inner stoke in these people and that’s all the reward I need, to see somebody who’s kind of down in the dumps, a little grumpy on the beach, a little nervous, they get a couple of waves and they’re smiling ear to ear,” he said.
Mr. Boyle has spent seven summers leading Operation Beachhead’s water events. He was initially turned on to the restorative nature of the ocean after getting involved with the High Fives Foundation. Started by a friend whose spine was broken in a skiing accident, the foundation supports individuals with spinal injuries. “I took a couple of guys surfing who had spinal injuries and it was great,” he recalled.
“I got them back in the water, they were smiling and it was just a great form of ‘sea-hab,’ ” Mr. Boyle said. Once he heard about Operation Beachhead’s mission, Mr. Boyle said he immediately signed on and hasn’t looked back.
“It’s just really rewarding to get these people in the water and share some stoke,” he said. “Anyone who needs assistance, I’ll share my love of the ocean with them and show them how much it means to me.” Operation Beachhead was founded with the mission of supporting wounded and disabled veterans, Mr. Boyle explained. While serving veterans will always be at the core of its mission, Operation Beachhead has since opened itself up to any willing participant with a disability, civilian or military. “It started out as vets and that will always be our core, but anybody who needs to get down and would like to get in the water we want to support them and supply some stoke,” Mr. Boyle said.
Most recently, Operation Beachhead has begun working with individuals with autism, which Mr. Boyle said has been a real game changer.
“You get these kids on the beach who are going 100 miles an hour and you get them in the water and it’s so soothing to them,” Mr. Boyle said of working with the children. “It’s really special because you see all the difficulties these parents go through on the beach with their child who has [autism] and ... the water is so soothing, it soothes them to their core,” he said.
Looking to the future of Operation Beachhead, Mr. Boyle said he hopes to expand the program to sponsor disabled individuals who could not otherwise afford to spend a day at the beach. “We already have enough money for the boards and all the gear, now I think the money should go to getting participants to us that can’t get to us on their own,” he said. “That’s where I want to take this program.”
A FAMILY TRADITION
Mr. Boyle’s love of the sea was instilled in him at a young age by his parents.
He started surfing at just 3-years-old, he said, encouraged by his siblings to go after waves he would have otherwise bailed out of.
With his two brothers and two sisters riding the waves alongside him, surfing was a family tradition, one that he carries on today with his own family.
“It’s just a real deep love of mine ... the ocean is a big part of me and my family and now I have all of my kids surfing,” Mr. Boyle said.
Raising the next generation of Sea Girt surfers, Mr. Boyle and his wife, Elizabeth Boyle, have four children: Emma, 8, Gage, 6, Luke, 5, and Bruce Lee, 4.
“They’ve all started under a year old and I take all four kids surfing as much as possible,” he said, recalling that he would take his children out on the board with him in their infancy.
Today, the Boyle groms are riding right alongside their dad.
Just as Mr. Boyle is passionate about sharing his love of the surf with Operation Beachhead’s participants, it is just as important to him to inspire that passion in his children — not only for surfing, but for service. “I’ve surfed all over the world and I’ll still continue to do that, but now it’s my kids’ turn. Now it’s my chance to get my kids surfing and get them giving back too,” he said. His children regularly attend Operation Beachhead’s beach events to lend a helping hand where they can or simply cheer on the participants. “It’s just great to get them involved,” Mr. Boyle said.
Family is central to Mr. Boyle’s life, both on and off the beach, and without the support of his wife Elizabeth, he said none of his work with Operation Beachhead or his time spent on the water would be possible. “I have four kids and two dogs, so we have our hands full,” he explained.
“I’m lucky enough to have a wife that will pick up the slack, watch all the critters and free up my time to go do what I love to do,” he said.
And, according to Mr. Boyle, he doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.
“After you see some smiles from pushing people into the waves,” he said, “it’s something I’ll do for the rest of my life.”
Operation Beachhead kicks off 2015 summer season ~