16th May 2019

Why surfing therapy is great for mental health

We know from our own experience that surfing makes us feel great. After a session we feel more relaxed, revitalised and reconnected, and we aren’t the only ones noticing this dramatic wellbeing shift.

Abby Richardson
Wavemaker - Media Team

Increasingly people are recognising the positive effect surfing has on our mental health and there are a number of amazing organisations using surf therapy to help those in need. We wanted to give a big shout-out to one particular brilliant charity doing great things in this area.

The Wave Project

We are massive fans of The Wave Project, and the work they do supporting children’s mental health is inspiring. The charity started in 2010 when a group of 20 young people came together on a beach in Cornwall for a surfing lesson. They had all been diagnosed with mental health disorders, ranging from mild to severe, and they were about to start the world’s first ‘surf therapy’ course funded by a government health service. The NHS had agreed to fund and evaluate the pilot, with a view to providing further funding if it was found to be effective.

Fast forward, and it was a huge success. Results of self-evaluation showed that wellbeing rose among the group overall, with participants feeling calmer, less angry and more connected to each other, after surfing. Young people experiencing anxiety grew in confidence. One young man, who had a diagnosis of selective mutism, began talking freely again during the course.

The charity now supports over 1,200 children every year with surf therapy courses from Cornwall to North Yorkshire to Scotland. It recently won an award of almost £300,000 by BBC Children in Need to develop surf therapy on prescription – the first time this has been done for children anywhere in the world. The new project is part of a £10m impact programme called 'A Million & Me' which aims to transform mental health support for children aged 8-13 across the UK

Wave Project founder, Joe Taylor, said:

“We are so proud to have played a role in developing evidence-based surf therapy on prescription for children and young people in the UK. We know from research that 50% of mental health disorders form before the age of 14, so targeting younger children with effective therapy is an important way to tackle a major health crisis."

Surfing has been proven to have positive effects on mental health, particularly in children. And it doesn’t come with any negative side effects – being outside, in the water and surrounded by supportive people is always beneficial.

“Our goal is to help young people become more resilient and celebrate their amazing life. We help them to focus on what they can do, rather than what they can’t. Using surfing and the ocean as our tools, we help them realise they can overcome any challenge."

We are so excited to see the charity growing and bringing the mental health benefits of surf therapy to even more children across the UK. We can’t wait to see what the next few years brings!

Photography: The Wave Project Scarborough

You might like...

Health benefits of surfing for body and mind

Explore how taking to the waves can benefit the mind and body and discover the benefits of surfing for individuals, groups and even whole communities.

Cold water surfing - can I surf all year round?

The UK is home to a growing tribe of winter warriors who are out catching waves in all weathers and surfing is now most definitely a year-round activity.

International Leadership Programme

The Wave Founder, Nick Hounsfield, has been selected to be part of the UK Sport International Leadership Programme 2019. Just 15 people are chosen to be part of the prestigious programme, which is now in its tenth year.