Proud partners of the world’s first surf therapy charity
We’re proud to announce our newest charity partner, The Wave Project, a surf therapy charity that’s inspiring young people in the UK to take to the waves to help improve their mental health. Through a variety of schemes, from surf clubs and beach schools to a ‘wave ranger’ programme, the award-winning charity is introducing children to the benefits of the coast and encouraging them to connect with the natural environment.
The idea that the coast has a positive effect on our mental health has gained huge momentum in recent years, but one charity in Cornwall has taken this to the next level. Supported and funded by the NHS, The Wave Project offers the world’s first surf therapy courses, which aims to improve children’s wellbeing through surfing.
Although the Wave Project has become a national charity, its roots are in fact much closer to home. In 2010, a group of young people with a range of diagnosed mental health disorders, from anxiety to schizophrenia, were taking surf lessons in Watergate Bay on the north coast. They discovered that being by the water had a hugely positive impact on their mental health, and that getting in the sea and connecting with others in this environment made them feel calmer, more confident and less angry.
The following year The Wave Project was born, and started reaching out to struggling youngsters across the UK, introducing them to the benefits of surfing and being in open water. It quickly gained the support of health professionals across the county and surf therapy hubs began popping up in coastal locations throughout the rest of the UK. The charity runs a number of programmes, from a six-week surf therapy course and regular surf clubs to beach school — aimed at those who struggle with conventional education — where children take part in beach activities that include elements of the curriculum in a range of subjects, from maths and literacy to science and art, helping to inspire and motivate them with their daily school life.
Inclusion at its heart
At the surf hub in Croyde, north Devon, The Wave Project strives to make their sessions inclusive and accessible with their range of facilities for children with physical disabilities. The team of specially trained Adaptive Surfing coaches use specialist equipment that allows children who may not have previously been in the water to experience it first hand, including beach wheelchairs, large seated boards, and prone boards with handles that give children a greater sense of independent surfing.
The project is only made possible thanks to the 900-strong team of volunteer ‘surf mentors’ who provide one-to-one support to the children and are at the heart of The Wave Project. The charity is funded by donations from supporters, which ensures that the courses remain free of charge to the families seeking support. It has some prestigious ambassadors, such as Sir Ben Ainslie and Olympic gold medallist Victoria Pendleton CBE.
At the start of the six-week course, each young person is paired with a mentor and receives one-to-one support suited to their needs for the whole course, after which they can join the Surf Club, which provides regular surf lessons and other beach activities; an incredible 70% of young people are still regularly attending surf club one year later, which is testament to the importance of these coastal sessions.
Surf to Work scheme
Surf to Work is aimed at 16-24 year olds and runs in partnership with job centres in Devon and Cornwall. The four-week course helps young people gain the confidence and self-esteem they need to get back into the workplace through regular surf and beach sessions delivered by trained Wave Project surf instructors.
Over the last decade, The Wave Project has impacted over 2,200 young lives across the UK, from Cornwall’s southern shores to St Andrews in Scotland. The pandemic saw them take centre stage in the fight for children’s wellness support and, given sessions take place on the beach, were one of the few children’s wellbeing services that were allowed to continue during lockdown. A recent survey showed that changes to wellbeing increased dramatically when children took part in the sessions, with increased confidence, calmness and resilience, and a marked improvement in friendships. We’re proud to be supporting this fantastic organisation and look forward to our lasting partnership.