A recent BBC report has highlighted the growing interest in surfing as therapy for those with physical and mental health problems. Anecdotally this seems promising; however the Blue Gym’s Dr Mathew White warns that more robust evidence is needed.
The BBC article suggests that surfing has encouraged improvements in children with autism and children and adults with other mental health difficulties. Organised by The Wave Project, more than 40 competitors took part in a surf challenge at Fistral beach in Newquay in June for what is believed to have been the first surfing contest for people with learning disabilities.
Blue Gym researchers have been working with local company Global Boarders to evaluate their ‘Surf to Success’ programme, which targets children at risk of exclusion from school. The findings suggest that surfing did bring about positive changes in the attitudes and behaviours of the children, however Dr White cautions ‘it may depend largely on the professionalism and dedication of those delivering the program and it is not going to work for everyone’.
Surf Action, a Cornish charity working with combat veterans are also great believers in the benefits of surfing as therapy. Although they acknowledge that it is not ‘medically proven’; they have seen vast improvements in combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and physical injuries after taking part in their surfing programmes. In true military style, Surf Action founder Rich Emerson will be raising money in July by paddling 26 miles on a lifesaving race board as part of 'Paddle Round the Pier' in Brighton. If you’d like to help the fundraising effort, please visit the Surf Action just giving page.