Depending on where you live and who you surf with and how long you’ve been riding waves, you may think of surfing as some kind of “therapy.” The Mauli Ola Foundation is proof that it can be. Surfers Healing, too, as well as countless other organizations that put people on surfboards and make them laugh. Which, as they say, is the best medicine. You might surf every day to clear your head of the everyday bullshit that bangs into it at work. You might surf every day to get exercise. Or you might surf every day because surfing every day is fun and fun is, well, FUN. The Wave Project knows that which is why they take kids who are “struggling with their emotional well-being” surfing. Although it’s still in the pilot phase, the project looks to be an early success. “Our evidence-based surf therapy program is proven to help young people feel less anxious and more positive,” the organization claims.
Based in the UK, The Wave Project takes kids who have low self-esteem, anxiety, or who feel lonely—basically, the vast majority of teens at some point—and, through surfing and mentoring, makes them feel a little bit better. It’s a very simple concept: having fun with friends can make almost anyone feel better, which is probably why you like surfing so much. The problem is that many kids don’t exactly have that option. The Wave Project gives it to them.
Each course lasts for six weeks, and the students are referred by professional agencies, doctors, or school principals who feel as though it might be beneficial. According to the BBC, “The Wave Project says it has published two independent reports looking at its surf therapy programs, one of which found it resulted in ‘a significant and sustained increase in well-being.'”
The project’s coordinators have received fantastic feedback from parents. “The parents have expressed a lot of gratitude for the course and many have noticed an increase in confidence and resilience in their son or daughter,” said coordinator Carla Magee. “One mother commented how much calmer her son has become since taking part in our surf therapy course.”
Since the kids are surfing in the Atlantic, however, it’s not exactly the warmest of experiences—which doesn’t seem to matter all that much. “The young people have all given very positive feedback,” Magee continued, “even if they’ve been colder than ever before, they have all had so much fun and have a great sense of achievement in their skills. We have witnessed great improvements in skills each week, both surf skills and personal attributes of the kids. And with it, we have seen a huge improvement in their confidence.”