“Once you enter the water, you leave all your baggage and your worries on the shore,” says Katy, Project Coordinator for The Wave Project in West Cornwall. “And for that hour or whatever that you’re in the sea, you don’t think of anything else.”
Started in 2010, The Wave Project is a charity that runs six-week therapeutic surf courses across the UK. Despite initially targeting kids with autism, they now benefit young people aged eight – 18 experiencing physical and mental health issues, social deprivation or social isolation.
“We’re trying to reach the young people who need this intervention the most,” explains Katy. “Kids are referred to us by professionals working with them – often a doctor, teacher or social worker – if they’re experiencing very high levels of anxiety and they’re socially isolated.”
“Obviously the more isolated you get, the worse your mental health becomes, so we’re trying to break that cycle by taking away every barrier possible to get them to join in in our surf therapy sessions.”
Given the breadth of the anxiety spectrum, a typical surf session might include people with physical disabilities, learning difficulties, family problems or issues at school with bullying.
“That’s one of the reasons it works because there isn’t any box they’re fitting in to,” says Katy. “It’s just a random group of people and because there’s also a random group of volunteers, it’s just a big group having fun together.”
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