Salvation from the sea.
We all know that surfing makes you feel better; that it washes away the dirt and grime, and that people can find salvation in the sea. It has an incredibly powerful effect on the mind and body. It’s what keeps us addicted and heading back to the ocean, time and again. The very act of surfing, of riding waves in the ocean, has therapeutic properties. We take it for granted. We get in a bad mood and we go for a surf, or we have a bout of bad health, a cold or a bug, and after it you go for a surf and flush it all out and away. A surf generally leaves you feeling better than you felt before you paddled out. Imagine if you can bottle it; if you can use that power to help people?
The International Surf Therapy Organisation (ISTO) is a NGO that is out to prove that surf therapy is an effective treatment in a number of areas, including those of mental health, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and autism. It has become a common treatment for soldiers returning from the frontline, battle-scared, physically and mentally damaged, and unable to fit back in to normal society. They go surfing as part of therapy, and they all show improvement over various areas.
ISTO has a brain’s trust – it is a collective of the world’s leading surf therapy organizations, researchers and influencers working together to share practice, collaborate on research, and advocate about the benefits of surf therapy. Their goal at this stage is to simply validate the positive affect of Surf Therapy, document case studies, and develop and utilize the possibilities going forward. With a collective of learned people, skilled educators scientists and researchers, they are piecing together the documented effects that surf therapy has on people suffering from a number of mental illnesses.
In South Africa it has proved a massive help for those from destitute and challenged backgrounds, those who come from drug and violence cultures, and those who have grown up – in townships and in cities – with little parental and elder guidance. Going surfing has proven to be a way of quelling the disquiet, of settling the unrest, and of dissipating the hunger of alcohol and drugs.
2nd Annual International Surf Therapy Organization Conference
In line with this, the 2nd Annual International Surf Therapy Organization Conference was held in Jeffreys Bay. Twenty-eight individual representatives attended, representing Surf Therapy and research institutions from 11 different countries around the globe.
Now in its second year, the ISTO conference brought together practitioners and researchers from across the globe to share best practice and present emerging research in the Surf Therapy space.
The results from the first global survey of the Surf Therapy sector were also shared. The survey documents surfing’s impact on at-risk populations around the world. Organizations working with veterans, children with different abilities, survivors of trauma, children in conflict with the law and adults with anxiety and depression submitted aligned data that shows Surf Therapy is improving the mental and physical health of children and adults from myriad backgrounds.
One of the goals of ISTO is one of advocacy and influencers, making sure that they get support from the correct high profile players that can help to make change. These profiles can make a huge impact on people who are hungry for help and for guidance.
Going surfing as a part of therapy is somewhat removed from the psyche of people who surf every day, and who take it for granted, but maybe for a moment imagine that surfing was taken away from you, forever. It’s not the best place to start from…
The best practices of ISTO state that:
• To provide best practice, we must consider a holistic approach to healthcare, including the outdoor environment. Nature-based therapies provide added benefits to those carried out in traditional settings.
• Surf therapy, like all therapy, should be strengths based and recovery focused, centered around the ‘whole person’.
• Surf therapy must include a rigorous approach to safety provision, governance, evidence and inclusion in practice