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The Inertia

The modern professional Championship Tour surfer is a specimen of physical health. Doing everything in his or her power to gain a competitive advantage in the lineup.

An often overlooked, dare I say stigmatized, component of health, though, is what goes on between a surfer’s ears. Kelly Slater is often lauded for his incredible displays of athleticism in heats, but among his competitors, he’s also known for playing mind games. On the flip side, any CT surfer knows that winning a heat, multiple heats, an event, and especially a world title begins with being of sound mind.

Still, men overwhelmingly find it difficult to express themselves when it comes to struggles with mental health, despite the prevalence of mental illness.

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According to statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health, 44.7 million adults age 18 or older in the United States are living with mental illness. That’s about 18 percent of all U.S. adults. Mental illness is also most prevalent among 18-to-25-year-olds who account for 22 percent of that 44.7 million.

That’s precisely what propelled Dragon to take its Aussie and Kiwi team riders on a different sort of trip that was totally mental. But not in the way you might think.

Riders Owen Wright, Ace Buchan, Barney Miller, Kehu Butler, Caleb Tancred, Xavier Huxtable, and Noah Stocca all recently gathered for a surf trip where they not only shared waves but also personal struggles with mental health.

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Owen Wright spoke candidly about recovering after a traumatic head injury in 2015, and the highs and lows of fighting his way back on tour. Ace Buchan spoke about the pressures of competing.

And while the video alone won’t erase the stigma, particularly among men, about vocalizing personal struggles, it serves as the latest example of high profile athletes encouraging a much-needed conversation.

As Barney Miller says at the end of the video, “It’s not weak to speak!”

If you or someone you know is currently struggling with mental illness, here are just a few of the resources available: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255);
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

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