Surf Therapy + Hope in Lockdown
How do you find hope in lockdown? Where do you look for kindness, encouragement and positive action, particularly with regard to the mental health of children and young people right now?
I recently had the honour of being part of hope and kindness in action when I joined The Wave Project in Whitby for one of their Sunday morning surf therapy sessions.
The Wave Project is a charity that helps young people lead more confident and positive lives. Celebrating it's 10th anniversary, it is the world's first surf therapy course funded by a government health service.
A pilot scheme funded by the NHS was evaluated by clinical psychologist, Dr Kathryn Lovering. The results showed that wellbeing rose among the group overall, with participants feeling calmer, less angry and more connected with each other after surfing. (Source: The Wave Project website).
I have spoken and written widely of my own anxiety - especially during the perimenopause - and the benefits of being by the sea as a swimmer and paddleboarder. I know how much calmer, uplifted and better I feel after time on & in the water.
I was therefore keen to support The Wave Project by fundraising for them, and the 2MinuteBeachClean Foundation, on my coast to coast paddleboarding adventure in summer 2019. My target had been £1000.00 for surf therapy sessions and thanks to everyone's generosity, we almost doubled that figure. My visit to Whitby was an opportunity to see how that money was making a difference.
It was a fairly wild and windy day on the Yorkshire coast as I arrived in Whitby, cosy in my wetsuit and Dryrobe. Matt, the Wave Project coordinator, Mark, a volunteer and Josh, owner of Whitby Surf School greeted me enthusiastically and welcomed the young boy who joined us for the session. They can usually look after up to 10 on each session and this was week 5 of a 6 week course.
After a warm up and stretch on the beach, we all went into the sea and the surf coaching began. Matt is an experienced surfer and surf instructor, running his own business in Scarborough and has until recently been a member of the RNLI crew.
Watching the volunteers teach, encourage and celebrate was such an amazing experience. Their approach was enthusiastic and yet very chilled and encouraging. A wonderful balance of expertise and professionalism with a down to earth understanding of young people and their needs. The cheering as waves were ridden, big smiles and laughter was a joy to watch. I felt truly honoured to have been their to witness surf therapy in action.
On the way home, after doing a #2minutebeachclean, my heart was so full of gratitude for the morning and for everyone who had donated to my goal, I am not ashamed to say I shed a few tears.
In the 10 years since it's founding on a beach at Watergate Bay in Cornwall, The Wave Project has helped 2239 young people access their courses and 2587 people have trained as volunteer surf mentors. 2 international surfing medals have been won by their surf club members!
Thank you to Matt, Mark and Josh and all The Wave Project family for giving me such an amazing experience and to everyone who donated to my fundraising. You are making a positive impact on young people's lives.
This is my story of finding hope and kindness in action on the North Sea waves in lockdown. Where have you found yours? I'd love to know, please do share.
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Credit: Frit Sarita Tam