Todd Piluk

Matt Fratus

Before the joining the Marine Corps, Todd aspired to become an architect as he grew up bouncing back and forth between South Carolina and Rhode Island. At 18-years-old, Todd enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1997, but didn’t travel far to attend boot camp at Parris Island. Following Marine Corps boot camp, he attended various schools end up where he ultimately attained the Military Occupation Skill (MOS) as an Assault Amphibious Vehicle (AAV) crewman. In the following years he deployed multiple times to Okinawa, Japan, with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) from 1998-2002. During the time he was deployed to the southeastern region that brought him to several different countries. He returned to Camp Pendleton, California, to work in the Amphibious Assault Schools Battalion as an instructor.

Top: Iraq 2006; Bottom: Ron, Rich, and Todd (right)

While working as an instructor from 2002-2005, Todd deployed to Taiwan. “I was handpicked to teach the Taiwanese Marines how to run, operate, and fix their amphibious vehicles,” he said. Following this deployment Todd relocated to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and from 2006-2009 he served two combat deployments both to Iraq; his first to Fallujah and his second to Ramadi. After these combat deployments, it was here where Todd began to notice increased symptoms of anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress (PTS). Since the combat deployments, Todd deployed two more times back to Okinawa, Japan, and the Middle-East Region between 2009 and the present.

Surf Therapy

While stationed in Camp Pendleton, located not far from San Diego, Todd was introduced to One More Wave (OMW) through fellow OMW Ambassador Pete Slayden  as they are close friends and work together at the schoolhouse. Pete was able to convince Todd that surfing can help alleviate anxiety and the stress that resulted from combat. “The days when I don’t get to surf, it really sucks”, he said. “Carrying a board out is fun. The second I hit a wave and it crashes over you, it’s like getting baptized every single time. When I’m out there, I take a breath and relax, you’re at one with the wave and it drains away all the bullshit that is stuck on land.”

Todd said he enjoys the challenge of hitting a wave and describes the exciting feeling he gets in his stomach, “Dropping in fast as hell is exhilarating! The ten footers are scary and humbling. It reminds you how insignificant all of your problems may seem as all your focus is on you to catch the wave”.

Customized Surfboard Art

“Originally I had a smaller board but it didn’t feel just right,” he said. “My new one is a longboard with the One More Wave logo on it, a red lining with cream color base and ox blood. You know, I’m a big guy covered in tattoos, I tried to keep it simple with nothing too flashy.”

Next year (2019) Todd plans to retire after 22 years in the Marine Corps. He said how hard it was on his family with the constant deployments and time spent away from home. Todd said that he made a promise to his wife that once he retired they would go anywhere she wanted to go, “I married young and my wife was forced to move with me everywhere I went because of my job”, he said. “So now I might have to move to Texas”, he laughed. For now, Todd enjoys surfing, working on his house that he describes as “an unintentional fixer upper” and spending time with his family.