Amazing Surf Adventures (ASA) develops community programs which utilize surfing, along with other activities, to help individuals change their perspective and overcome their personal challenges.
We value the right of the individual to lead a happy, productive life. We are dedicated to providing opportunities for veterans and those struggling with physical and mental disabilities to reach their full potential, accept their past, and overcome their perceived limitations through our programs.
Amazing Surf Adventures provides the opportunity and possibility for a positive change in our community by:
- offering alternative and healthy educational and recreational options for those with disabilities and disenfranchisements;
- providing information on alternative and healthy community educational and recreational options to public and private entities;
- providing ongoing advice, recommendations and support with regards to alternative and healthy educational and recreational options for the community.
ASA Board Members
Van Curaza President & Founder, Amazing Surf Adventures
If there is one word that defines the surfing career of Van Curaza, it's EXPERIENCE. Whether surfing competitively, giving surf instruction, traveling to surf spots, shaping custom surfboards or surf retailing, Van has devoted decades of his life to the sport. These experiences have made him into a trusted professional with a passion for sharing his knowledge through close guidance and attention to students and clients.
Van gained extensive knowledge through his years as a traveling professional tackling from Indonesia and Tahiti, contesting waves on Hawaii's famed North Shore and surfing the coast of his home state, California. He has instilled the fundamentals of the sport and a stoke for the ocean in students from age 5 to 83 since his first lesson in Pismo Beach in 1984. Van now runs his own surf school in Avila Beach. His enthusiasm and experience as a highly qualified surf instructor are as deep as the tubes he tows into at the reefs around his central coast home. "I don't want to be characterized as the common board pusher," says Van. "When you see surf instructors out there just pushing someone on the wave. I don't do that. I teach people to understand the beaches and to be a surfer. Just to glide along the water on a board is the greatest thrill I can think of. I like bringing that to the people. It's my passion."
Van began helping with Adaptive Surfing programs in 2006. As an instructor. Van successfully helped disabled students — many of them wounded veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — catch and ride waves for their first time. In September 2008, at the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic (NVSSC) in San Diego, Van Curaza Surf School participated in surfing instruction to help make surfing the most successful event of the clinic. Drawing on his life long passion to help underprivileged and at-risk youth and his experiences with our wounded soldiers and veterans, Van created Amazing Surf Adventures.
“Through my love and dedication to surfing and going through life I realized that my love for surfing saved me. I found I was lost as an only child to a single parent. Surfing was the one thing that kept me focused on staying positive in life. It made me question my actions and think about what I was doing.
In my youth, I experienced divorced parents and broken up family. I started to cover my pain through drugs and alcohol, finding myself getting deeper and deeper into the addiction. Surfing inspired me to correct and better my life. In order to be able to go surfing I had to obey and avoid any wrongdoing. When I was surfing I would forget about all my life's struggles and heartaches. I felt it gave me a reason to continue to press on. Surfing was my therapy.
Looking back on my life as a professional surfer, having gone through years of addiction and recovery, I realized surfing was the one thing I never wanted to be separated from ever. It gave me that sense of self worth and uplifted feeling of personal freedom. My passion for surfing and staying in the ocean saved my life. Seeing how it helped me as a young man, I want to share my experiences and mentor others as a positive role model to share the beneficial and value of surfing and its lifestyle.”
Mike Harvison Board Member, ASA
Mike graduated from the University of North Texas with a Bachelors of Science degree in Rehabilitation Studies. He has years of experience in the natural gas and oil industry. He has worked in the real estate business, banking and has participated in other entrepreneurial investments. Mike is an avid surfer, snow skier and cyclist who has a heart for service and giving back. He has a son and a daughter and he currently resides in Colleyville Texas.
Carolyn O'Connell Board Member, ASA
BA/Business Adminstration/Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA 1970Escrow Officer and Escrow Manager combined 20 years 1976-1996; Orange County, CaliforniaMarried since 1970. Two married daughters and six grandchildren; spouse is retired LAPD Captain and US Marine Captain, Viet Nam Veteran.Resident of Redondo Beach 1971-72, Manhattan Beach 1972-1975, Huntington Beach 1975-2002, Shell Beach 2002-present.
My husband John, is a Viet Nam Veteran. It is common knowledge how those Veterans were treated upon their return - those who did return. When the opportunities presented themselves to work with the wounded military personnel of OEF and OIF, we knew we really wanted to be involved. Our involvement with one organization transitioned to having the opportunity of being on the ground floor development of Amazing Surf Adventures and all of its current programs. Operation Surf is near and dear to us because we know and understand how important it is to make sure that the current generation of returning Veterans, wounded, affected or not, are welcomed home and shown appreciation for their service. Those who come home wounded, physically or psychologically, deserve the very best to assist in reassembling their lives, regardless of what it takes. Rehabilitative Recreational Therapy was born and embraced by those returning Warriors who needed this outlet. Thankfully, a variety of adaptive sport programs were born.
I'm very proud to be a part Amazing Surf Adventures. I'm proud of the organization's accomplishments and I look forward to help in developing more programs, not only for military personnel, but also other populations who can benefit from Amazing Surf Adventures' Programs.
Brent Edwards Board Member, ASA
Brent Edwards wears many hats on a daily basis. Being the father of two competitive surfing daughters and acting as Owner/Director of the premiere Mortgage lender in Santa Cruz, Ca, are just two. Brent is also a Board Member of Amazing Surf Adventures, and past director of many Operation Surf Santa Cruz events. Brent also is a Marine veteran, having served during the Gulf War Era. He received his Bachelor of Science from San Jose Sate University in Business Finance. He enjoys surfing with his daughters, teaching others how to surf, fishing, travel, and mountain biking.
David Hergenroeder Board Member, ASA
David is a California native and has spent the better part of his life on the Central Coast in Morro Bay where he lives with his wife and three children (#4 on the way). He is the CEO and Founder of All Ways Clean Corporation but planted his roots deep in business during his long tenure as General Manager of the Mission Linen Supply plant in Morro Bay. His love of and passion for the preservation of nature and the ocean has been expressed through his years of dedication as a board member for the CCNHA (Central Coast Natural History Association) and now via his current seat on the Board of Directors for Amazing Surf Adventures. In his leisure time he enjoys his family, surfing, hiking, fitness, reading and writing.
Erik “Spike” Thiesmeyer Board Member, ASA
“Spike” is a native Californian. He was born and raised in Southern California. He grew up riding skateboards, water and snow skiing. After graduating from high school, he joined the US Army and became a helicopter mechanic and crew chief. He served in South Korea and Colorado. Later he returned to SoCal and joined the California Army National Guard. He graduated from Officer Candidate School in 1987 and was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant. He later attended Army Flight School and flew OH-58A Scout helicopters during statewide disasters and other emergencies including the Rodney King Riots, the Northridge Earthquake, the Malibu Fires and many others. During these years, Spike worked for Oracle Corporation as a facilities manager until he was recruited by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to perform similar work for them. His group designed and built the Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. By this time he had transitioned from helicopters to airplanes and was activated on 9/11/2001 and flew over 400 hundred hours in four months supporting Operation Noble Eagle. In 2004 he was ordered back to active duty and deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In early 2006, he and his family moved to the Central Coast and he began flying helicopters to the oil drilling platforms off shore. In 2008, he returned to Iraq and served another tour flying a total of 178 combat missions. He retired from the Army in 2009. Having amassed nearly 5000 flight hours in both airplanes and helicopters, he has visited 27 countries around the world. He has earned many medals and decorations over his career including The Air Medal twice for actions in aerial combat, The Army Commendation Medal four times, and upon retirement was awarded the Legion of Merit for his 28 years of service.
Spike has a Bachelor of Science degree in business and management from the University of Redlands.Spike is married to his wife Mja of 18 years. They have a daughter, Nina (14) and a son, Buff (11) who both surf and are Pismo Beach Junior Life Guards each summer. Spike is totally committed to the mission of Amazing Surf Adventures and Operation Surf. His recent combat service helps him to identify with the veterans of today. “I’ve been through some of the same training and deployment experiences they’ve been through and it helps me relate to them and earn their trust very quickly.” He knows first hand how this program can help our wounded service men and women, for it has helped him as well. As a veteran who was not physically injured, but bears the scars of multiple deployments, separations from family, and the loss of comrades in combat, Spike knows what a healing process Operation Surf is for these veterans, because as a volunteer it has helped him as well. Spike is also learning to surf.
Dr. Richard Martin Board Member, ASA
Dr. Martin works in the Acute Rehab Unit as a Solo Practitioner in Arroyo Grande, CA, specializing in Electro-Diagnostics, Pain Management, Interventional Pain, Workers Compensation, Musculoskeletal Medicine, General Physiatry, Sports Medicine, Fee Basis Physician: General Physiatry. Dr. Martin Studied at the California State University of Northridge, University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Minnesota. He received degrees in Art, Biology, Internal Medicine and Physical Medicine, and Rehabilitation.
Amanda has been with ASA since 2010, beginning as a dedicated volunteer who helped with any small task or need that was present. The impact ASA had on her life inspired a deep dedication to continue helping the organization with designing, implementing, and carrying out programs and events. In December 2013 she started working for ASA full time and became the Chief Operating Officer. Today she enjoys seeing the growth and expansion of ASA as it continues to help those in need, and she fully believes in the mission to help change lives one wave at a time.
Ben Albracht, MSW
Program Director, ASA
Ben is combat veteran of the US Army who was deployed with the 101st airborne to the Middle East and also served in Korea with Long Range Surveillance Detachment. After his military service he worked as the logistics coordinator for the Stanford University Police Department. He was a regular volunteer for Palo Alto VA programs serving veterans in recovery from alcohol and substance abuse. Ben earned his BS in Psychology, with an emphasis in Counseling, at California Polytechnic University, SLO. He then earned his Master’s degree in Social Work from CSU Monterey Bay. He has worked in mental health as a case manager for clients with Axis I diagnosis and psychotic features. Ben also has experience in medical social work and as a therapist, and has worked in every unit of the hospital from birth center to emergency room. His most recent position was clinical director of a substance abuse recovery center.
As a nonprofit organization, Amazing Surf Adventures is largely dependent upon private donations (both cash and in-kind.) Our mission can become a reality only with the help and support from partners, sponsors, volunteers, friends, and families of ASA.
We thank you for your unrestricted contribution to Amazing Surf Adventures. Together we can inspire, empower, and heal the lives of others.
Going forward, we plan to expand each of our programs and gain all of the necessary equipment, resources, volunteers, and partnerships to make Amazing Surf Adventures a huge success in your community and in the lives of each participant. As you probably are aware, the cost of providing quality rehabilitative surf programs for our underserved populations does not go away.
We greatly appreciate all your support. Thank you.