New research funded by Australian Rotary Health (ARH) will investigate the benefits of a Surf Therapy intervention for combat veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

ARH PhD Scholar Bryan Peck from the University of the Sunshine Coast is no stranger to the ups and downs of mental health, having battled depression himself for the last 7 years.

After finding that being on the water made a significant difference to his mental health, in 2017, Bryan became a qualified Stand Up Paddle Boarding instructor and later designed the ‘Brave Face’ Mental Health Stand Up Paddle Program – an 8-week program combining stand up paddle skills, outdoor blue-space activity, social support and mental health learning.

“I started Brave Face to help people to keep on the ‘brave face’, in the ups and downs, sadness and angers, to just try something – with all that needs to still be done every day with work and study, home and family, and health – to just keep moving, and enjoying the water,” Bryan said.

Bryan’s interest in PTSD began after researching the experience and effects of shame in trauma-based disorders.

“I wanted to understand more about PTSD; how someone can experience a trauma they didn’t choose, resulting in a debilitating negative sense of flawed self which could prevent optimal functioning in health and daily life.”

“With current treatments for PTSD such as medication and talk therapy presenting significant limitations for veterans worldwide, neurobiological and clinical evidence for adjunctive interventions that support greater components of health and wellbeing need to be better understood.”

Now, with a Rotary District 9750 (9675) PTSD PhD Scholarship, Bryan is examining the interaction between neurobiological, psychological, and physical measures of health and wellbeing in war veterans with PTSD, after completing his surf therapy intervention.

Bryan’s research project will employ a multimodal neuroimaging protocol examining structural and functional MRI, Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI), Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) and Electroencephalography (EEG).

“The findings of this project could identify brain imaging biomarkers for improvement in the symptoms of PTSD in response to an adventure-based physical intervention,” Bryan said.

“This could lead to a deeper understanding of the neurobiological foundations for the symptoms of PTSD, resulting in clinically important therapeutic options for veterans with PTSD.”

During the project, comparisons will be made between veterans following the 8-week surf therapy PTSD intervention, veterans participating in a standard exercise intervention, and healthy individuals.

We wish Bryan all the best with his research.

Visit the Brave Face website to find out more about Bryan and his program.


Media contact: Jessica Cooper – (02) 8837 1900 or