The Wave, Bristol. Image Courtesy of Image Cabin.

Blog - Surfing to Help with Mental Wellbeing - The Wave publishes ‘Blue Health’ Report

Surfing to Help with Mental Wellbeing - The Wave publishes ‘Blue Health’ Report

7 minute(s) de lecture

The Wave, the inland surfing destination in Bristol, has announced it will be running an innovative surf therapy programme this autumn with The Wave Project, to help improve mental wellbeing and resilience for vulnerable children in Bristol. In addition, it is also going to be facilitating trial surf sessions for people involved in the award-winning Recovery Through Sport programme, run by Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust. 

This follows the publication of Into the Blue: Blue Health and surfing in the 21st Century, a report bringing together research into ‘blue health’, surfing therapy and its mental health and wellbeing benefits. It is hoped that the work with these two separate programmes will build on the theories explored in the report. 

Lukas Skinner surfing at The Wave in Bristol

The Wave will be partnering with The Wave Project, a leading surf-therapy charity, to run a pilot this autumn for anxious children in Bristol and the surrounding area. The charity has just been awarded £60,000 funding from Bristol charity Foundation For Children to employ a Project Coordinator for three years. The Wave Project’s evidence-based surf therapy courses have been proven to help children be more emotionally resilient and are now offered by GPs on prescription across the South West of England.

Joe Taylor, founder of The Wave Project, said: 

“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. We know that Covid-19 and lockdown has had a huge impact on many of the children we work with, so this pilot is especially timely."

Jacob Kelly, is Project Lead for Recovery Through Sport - an innovative programme that aims to harness the power of sport to improve physical and particularly mental wellbeing for adults involved with the Early Intervention in Psychosis team. He said:

“Our Recovery through Sport programme, which uses football to help those suffering with mental health issues, has been a great success and we are extremely excited to see if surfing can have the same impact on people's lives. We’re hoping to see significant improvements in participants’ self-esteem, happiness and the ability to feel more comfortable being around others.”

The Wave Founder, Nick Hounsfield, added:

“A belief in the benefits of being in water and in nature is at the heart of The Wave. Our report looks at the theories and research behind what many of us instinctively feel - that being in the water lifts our mood. The pandemic has had a detrimental impact on mental health for many people and we need the wellbeing benefits of water and surfing - now more than ever. It is brilliant to be working with two different organisations and look at the impact of surfing therapy on those involved in their award-winning programmes.”

Children taking part of a session run by The Wave Project

The new report from The Wave examines research in the field of Blue Health, a growing body of scientific evidence showing that spending time in, on or close to water is good for us; and moreover how blue environments might even help to tackle major public health challenges such as obesity, physical inactivity and mental health disorders. The report also looks at the emergence of surf-therapy, where prescriptive surfing is being used to treat people with physical disabilities, military veterans with PTSD and young people with mental health problems.

The Wave conducted a survey of almost 5,000 respondents (both surfers and non-surfers) in January 2020. Key findings included:

  • 75% of surfers say that the mental health benefits of surfing are more important to them than the physical health benefits 
  • Nearly 50% of non-surfers said that the mental health benefits would be their main driver to try surfing
  • Asked to select words that sum up what surfing means to them, 67% of surfers said ‘Happiness’, 52% said ‘Excitement’ and 49% said ‘Nature’

You can read the full report here.

Surf coach at the Wave

Talking about the power of blue space, Dr. Rangan Chatterjee said:

"Spending time in nature and outdoors has always been a consistent theme and message in my clinical practice, as well as for me and my family.  Personally the sea and open water is an environment that I enjoy from a physical but particularly a mental health perspective.  

“The latest research on "BlueHealth" that focuses on a free resource, accessible to all and which we are literally surrounded by in the UK, is a huge stride towards uncovering what could form part of a national mental health solution.  

“Though it may be early days for surf-therapy as a social prescription, as supported by the Wave, there is some fantastic data to suggest this is an effective intervention for young people."  

A number of leading surfers, environmentalists and researchers, were interviewed as part of the report. Many of them have experienced the therapeutic effects of surfing for themselves.

Sophie Hellyer, dryrobe ambassador and former UK pro surfer said:

“On a personal level, I struggled with depression when I was younger and for me the water has always been an amazing place to go. It can change your mood. If you think you're sad it makes you happy, feeling stressed it makes you calm. It has the power to change your mood, and it gave me the strength to deal with other things in life. It is like hitting the reset button, you get in the water and it resets everything for the rest of your day.” 

Sophie Hellyer on the beach. Photo courtesy of Jonny Weeks

Dr. Easkey Britton is a big wave surfer and marine social scientist, whose work focuses on exploring the use of blue and green space to restore health and wellbeing. She adds:

“Surfing is a really active, powerful metaphor for life for me. It teaches me to maintain balance in my life, and to remain connected to nature and have that escape from everyday stresses and pressures. It's also very humbling to be immersed in an environment that is so powerful and unpredictable, and it teaches you to surrender the need for control and just be in the moment.”

Talking about the therapeutic benefits of surfing for him personally, Nick Hounsfield said:

“Surfing to me has always been more than just a sport - it’s a culture, a way of life, my medicine and my reset button, the thing I do to rediscover the best version of myself.  Whilst working as an osteopath, it struck me how being around water and nature seemed to relieve some of the stress and anxiety my patients were struggling with, I wanted to find a way to give more people a chance to experience this. This was the catalyst to create The Wave. We opened our doors in November 2019 and it’s just the beginning for us. I’m so excited about the potential to be part of further research and pilots in the fields of blue health and surfing therapy going forward.” 

dryrobe® is proud to be the official changing robe partner of The Wave, surfing is where dryrobe started and we're excited to be working together to promote the benefits of being active outdoors. 

Follow The Wave

Facebook: The Wave
Instagram: @thewave
Twitter: @TheWave