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14 Aug

Into The Blue: Health and Surfing in the 21st Century

by The Wave Team

Nick Hounsfield surfing at The Wave in Bristol

How Blue Health inspired me

Being in the ocean and gazing at the far horizon, always brings an inner calm and puts me in a totally different mindset. I’d always find the best version of myself there. Whilst working as an osteopath it struck me how much being around water and nature seemed to relieve some of the stress and anxiety patients were struggling with. I wanted to create a place that would help connect people with nature, water and waves and share the positive health benefits of this. Fast forward 10 years and this original vision is still at the heart of The Wave.

Over the years I’ve become aware of thousands of other people using water and surfing to help restore people’s mental and physical health and boost their wellbeing. While most of us started this kind of work because of an instinctive belief, there is now a global movement of thinkers, scientists and planners dedicated to exploring what has become known as ‘blue health’. Thanks to them, the body of hard, scientific evidence for the beneficial effects of blue spaces is rapidly increasing.

In a recent UK-wide survey of over 5,000 people, 75% of surfers say that the mental health benefits of surfing are more important than the physical health benefits.

“It’s so amazing being able to jump in the sea and hit reset in that sense it’s always been therapeutic for me. There is often so much to learn and it’s very humbling to be immersed in an environment that is so powerful and unpredictable, that you have to surrender then need to control and just be in the moment.”Researcher, activist and Irish National Surfing Champion, Dr. Easkey Britton

Bringing Blue Health to the forefront at The Wave

We have compiled our report - Into the Blue: Blue Health and Surfing in the 21st Century - as an overview of this research. It looks at how blue health developed as an idea, what’s been proved so far, how we and other surfers use it, and where it’s heading. In some sections we focus on surfing because it plays a particularly prominent role in blue care, and also because it is something we are passionate about.

“Surfing really does teach you resilience, strength, confidence and courage. The Water has been hugely empowering, and I've seen it change other people’s lives. I've seen people who thought they could never go in the water, and then they do, and they feel that ‘If I can do this, I can do anything.”Former UK Pro Surfer, Sophie Hellyer

Our Blue Health pilots for mental health and wellbeing

A belief in the benefits of being in water and in nature is at the heart of The Wave. We will be putting the theory of our new report into practice by running two programmes in 2020. The first is with surf therapy experts, The Wave Project, to run a programme focused on building resilience and mental wellbeing for vulnerable children in Bristol. Secondly we are facilitating trial surf sessions for the Recovery Through Sport programme, run by Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust.

“It has taken 10 years to get here and we are so pleased to finally be working with The Wave to run a surf therapy project for children in Bristol. It will be the first time that children from an inner city will be able to access a surf therapy programme on their doorstep. With the growth of social prescribing across England, this will be a game-changer for improving children’s mental health and wellbeing.Joe Taylor, Founder of The Wave Project

“We’re hoping to see significant improvements in participants' self-esteem, happiness and the ability to feel more comfortable being around others.”Jacob Kelly, Recovery Through Sport Programme Lead

Read the Blue Health report

Blue health will undoubtedly become more important in the next decade, and thousands

of people are already providing or receiving blue care treatments, but many more have yet

to hear of it.

You can click on the links below to access a PDF version of the full report, ‘Into the Blue: Blue Health and surfing in the 21 st Century’. An Executive Summary giving an overview of the key findings is also available.

Into the Blue: Blue Health and surfing in the 21 st Century

Blue Health Report Executive Summary

“Overall, the studies suggest that blue care can have direct benefit to health especially mental health and psycho-social wellbeing.”Blue care: a systematic review of blue space interventions for health and wellbeing, 2018 (E. Britton, G. Kindermann, C. Domegan and C. Carlin)

Get in touch for our Blue Health media toolkit

If you are a journalist interested in interviews or images linked to the report and pilot trials then contact abby@thewave.com