- Associated Press - Monday, August 28, 2017

RYE, N.H. (AP) - The ocean is a peaceful destination for everyone, where time can stand still as the waves continually crash along the beach.

But for a group of people who go to Safe Harbor Recovery Center for sober activities, the first time they successfully slide their lead foot up and stand up on a surfboard; it’s another step towards reestablishing their identity.

On Tuesday evening more than a dozen members of the Safe Harbor community and Phoenix Multisport, an active sober community, went surfing at Jenness Beach. The sober community has partnered with Safe Harbor to give its community members an opportunity to get out on the water with peers who are looking to stay active in their recovery and pick up a new hobby.

“Even when you make a doorway for recovery it can be intimidating to take that first step through the door,” said Sandi Coyle, New England regional director of Phoenix Multisport. Phoenix Multisport has been taking Safe Harbor members, as well as their members, surfing every Tuesday during the summer.

“We’ve grown seemingly every week and it’s one of those things that spreads by word of mouth because it’s such a cool activity,” said Coyle. “And you’ll see everyone walking away from this smiling and it’ll make others feel safe walking through the door.”

The activities put on by Phoenix Multisport are free for members of both recovery communities. Boston chapter manager, Chris Daggett, said the only condition for members to participate is that an individual must be sober for 48 full hours.

“I’m a person in long-term recovery and when I got sober, there weren’t any sober activities and getting into recovery meant you needed to get into a 12-step (program). Now with Safe Harbor Recovery Center and Phoenix Multisport, we have these sober activities that give people of all ages things to do; a new sober community, new groups of friends to hang out with,” said Daggett. “They have the ability to try things they probably only dreamed of. There’s a switch when you get people involved in some new activities and every time they come participate at surfing, instead of thinking of themselves as an addict or a person in recovery, they’re thinking of themselves more as a surfer or a cross-fitter.”

Lance Silva of Plaistow, has been in recovery for four years and said staying active and relying on peers he meets through the activities he participates in with Phoenix Multisport has helped him maintain his recovery.

“It’s really important to have a balanced recovery and a balanced life,” said Silva. “It’s good to be around people who think and feel the way I do. After a thing like this people may want to go and get a drink after and I know if I come to this I won’t have to worry.”

Phoenix Multisport runs their surfing evenings through Summer Session’s Tuesday night adult surf program and co-owner Ryan McGill said it was a no-brainer to team up with the sober community to help others through the hobby he and all of his employees are passionate about.

“For me surfing is my stress relief, so on top of the thrill of riding a wave it’s about being at the beach, the ocean, the smell, so getting folks here to be part of that; every single piece…whether it’s the sun, the sand, the salt or the people; that’s what’s most important to us” said McGill. “Everyone on our crew was excited about sharing our passion with these folks and possibly offering them a new direction.”

Tamara Collins is a Portsmouth-based poet and regularly attends the Safe Harbor speaker events and also participates in Phoenix Multisport events, she said she discovered the surfing activity through a friend on Facebook last summer and has been attending every since.

“We came to every single session,” said Collins. “Finding this was a saving grace for me because the piece that was missing in my recovery for me was the social aspect and it’s building my confidence, which helps every aspect of my life. So it’s changing my whole outlook and I’m really grateful for that.”

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Online: https://bit.ly/2wihMEx

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Information from: Portsmouth Herald, https://www.seacoastonline.com

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