Trevor Petersen was born in Edmonton into a military family. He enlisted in 1993 and served with the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry. He served in Bosnia in 1997 and in 1998, remustered to Aeronautical Structure. In 2006 he deployed to Afghanistan to work on unmanned aircraft (UAV). When Petersen returned from his tour the following year, he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
According to the Canadian Forces Mental Health Survey conducted last year, cases of PTSD have nearly doubled since 2002. In 2013, 5.3% of full-time regular force members reported symptoms of the disorder.
Trevor Petersen was medically released by the military in July of 2010 due to PTSD. He has suffered some extreme symptoms – including blackouts, addiction, and suicide attempts. After his release he was unable to find work due to ongoing PTSD, in particular the confusion he experienced during times of stress.
Initially he looked to paddleboarding to stay in shape, especially after knee troubles forced him to abandoned skiing. But the paddle-sport turned out to be much more than a physical workout. “Paddleboarding for me is mindfulness therapy,” he says. Looking for a way to share his therapy with other sufferers, last year Petersen paddled from Edmonton to Winnipeg raising funds for Wounded Warriors, a non-profit support organization for ill and injured armed forces personnel.
“We found we were running into people with no military affiliation who were also struggling with symptoms of PTSD,” says Petersen. For his Ontario expedition, he has partnered with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). “We wanted to let people know that this can affect anybody,” he adds.
His Paddling With PTSD Ontario Expedition begins June 13 at Balmy Beach in Toronto and ends in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre. Once in the capital, he plans to compete in the Ultimate SUP Challenge on the Ottawa River. He expects the journey from Lake Ontario to Ottawa to take a month – or longer, depending on weather and water conditions – winding through the Bay of Quinte and the Rideau River canal system. He’s planning several stops along the way where he’ll meet with local legions, CMHA representatives, and various well-wishers. Though Petersen welcomes partners, he mainly paddles solo; his mother and project administrator Marie-Paul follows on land in a motorhome, where he sleeps.
Petersen will paddle in any weather, barring lightning. “Last year on Lake Diefenbaker I had a high wind behind me and waist-high waves, but I was able to paddle with them because they were behind me. I was able to downwind it.”
Beginning on June 13th you can follow Petersen through a SPOT Tracker here.
You can support Petersen and the CMHA here.