By Sally Dunaway for Island Eye News
Last week, June 11 through 14, Sullivan’s Island joined together to celebrate our nation’s wounded war veterans with a four-day water sport retreat, Wind Sports for Wounded Warriors. This program, with branches in the Key West, Golden Isles, and Charleston, aims to help injured warriors “learn, cope, and heal” and offers personalized introductions to the ocean’s rejuvenating powers through kiteboarding. Across town, local businesses and individuals teamed up in gratitude for the five visiting veterans who, at the end of the retreat, returned home fully equipped with not only new skills, but also brand new kiteboarding gear.
Scott Hyland, owner of Sealand Adventure Sports, led the kiteboarding instructions for the retreat alongside Daniel Ware, Assistant Manager, who served as kiteboarding instructor.
Alejandro Ferreyros, General Manager served as business association liaison with WS4WW, and world-renowned paddle boarder Corey Taylor led a paddle boarding seminar. Ferreyros described the therapeutic nature of the sport, saying, “the atmosphere of kiteboating worldwide is very uplifting and positive, and we believe this is a great community to introduce our warriors to.”
Participating warriors were Neil Boekel from Fort Walton Beach, Florida; Drew Orr from Brunswick, Georgia; DJ Hoessle who has “lived all over the place,” including Charleston, but is currently moving to Savannah, Georgia; and David Sharpe from Saint Simmons, Georgia.
Visiting instructors were Carlos Poysky, CEO of WS4WW, from Saint Simmons, Georgia and Rob Van Wie who came up from Brunswick, Georgia. Patrick Fetter, the VP of WS4WW, and his wife Beverly Fetter, hosted these guys right here on Sullivan’s Island’s.
Imagine a group of eight men sprawled across three small Cafe Medley tables, all leaning comfortably into the conversation, their feet kicked-out below them. Between beats, they send off play punches, steal orange wedges from one another’s plates, and tip back their heads in laughter.
Now imagine that many of them met for the first time only the day before. These men are brothers in their experiences and now in their new sport.
Hoessle served in the Army’s Special Forces, the Green Berets, and later on a hostage rescue team for eight-and-a half years. After his military service, Hoessle didn’t wait to be introduced to kiteboarding; he taught himself.
“I bought a kite and said I was gonna learn,” recalled Hoessle, “I put the kite in the air and got dragged.” And now, with WS4WW’s support, he’s “like an open book” and is “ready to learn whatever they teach” him. “This program was the first thing I’d gotten into [that was] out of my comfort zone,” he said.
Boekel talks about how his typical-military reaction the first time he got some “serious air” on a board. He was whipped up into the wind and automatically grabbed for his parachute deploy strap before pausing, screaming on his drop back into the water, “wait, that’s not what I’m doing!”
But the WS4WW initiative isn’t all about the sport; the team believes in the curative powers of the, as Carlos puts it, “soulful sessions” in the water. There is a community in kiteboarding, an energy in the sea, and a brotherhood in the participants.
“At functions like this, even though we didn’t even serve together, it’s just kinda neat. You had different experiences, traumatic injuries, whatever it is, but each one of us has a bond because we’ve been through similar things. So we can talk about things that someone who has been in the military just knows,” Orr said. Until meeting Carlos, “nobody really took the time to say, ’Hey, lemme show ya something new.’ No one took the time outta their day. So this is pretty special,” said Orr.
“When I saw the amazing work that Carlos and his team at WS4WW has been doing, I instantly wanted us to be a part of it,” President of SportsInsurance.com, Mark Di Peron said, “Giving something back to those who have given so much is the least we can do. If this program helps just one veteran enjoy the freedom of being on the water, it is worth all the hard work and dedication.”
The retreat’s premier sponsors included Sealand Adventure Sports with professional instructors, iKitesurf with Pro Memberships and WeatherFlow Wind Meter donations, and Poe’s Tavern with free meals.
Many others embraced the opportunity to participate and donate, such as Slingshot Sports, Cafe Medley, Home Team BBQ, Xenon Boards, Charleston Shirt Factory, Dakine, Kite Zombies, Veterans United Home Loans of Savannah, SportsInsurance.com, Special Operations Wounded Warriors, Paintball Charleston, Richard Ellis Photography and the Fetter family.