A couple of weeks ago, I came across a news item on the BBC website about an NHS funded project to provide surf lessons as therapy for youngsters suffering from depression and low self-esteem. It really resonated with me and prompted me to write about it.
This pilot project taking place in Dorset is just one of many that have already occurred in the UK. In the past few years, schools, social services, GP’s, family support services and even bereavement charities have referred many young people and adults to the Wave Project – a non-profit organisation that runs surf programmes in Cornwall, North Devon and now Dorset. Thanks to them, so many people’s lives have been transformed by surfing – it has allowed them to overcome anxiety and depression, develop their confidence, take up a new sport and make new friends.
And it’s not just happening in the UK. In the USA and Australia, similar projects provide surfing as a form of therapy to war veterans and those suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). In South Africa, a youth project helps ‘at risk’ kids discover the potential of surfing.
I applaud the doctors who have prescribed surfing as a form of therapy for depression instead of the usual anti-depressant route which in some cases seems an easier option and doesn’t always help. Exercise releases endorphins and so why resort to drugs and potentially suffer horrible side effects when you can feel naturally uplifted by being so close to nature?
As someone who has suffered with anxiety, I can appreciate how surfing can help. It has got me through some troubled times this year, and the natural high I feel when riding a wave is the most amazing, uplifting and adrenalin fuelled feeling that I have ever experienced. To have achieved it the amount of times I have this year, I feel truly blessed and honoured. Surfing is the one thing that allows me to completely switch off. Some of the calmest, most peaceful moments I have ever known have been when I just sit out back, staring at the horizon – the rest of the world melts away and it’s just me and the ocean.
Surfing also helps those with physical disabilities and learning difficulties including Autism, and it’s something that could be of huge benefit to my cousin who has Aspergers Syndrome. But, like me, he is landlocked. Whilst I have been fortunate enough to break down the geographical barrier, others are not able to do so for a variety of reasons, which is a shame.
The benefits are amazing and the number of people’s lives that it can reach and transform is endless.