The Wave Project is a charity that support young people suffering with poor mental health, by taking them for surf therapy. All our young people are referred to us by professionals such as teachers, Doctors, Social Workers or CAMHS as being at risk of mental health issues. This can be for various reasons, including trauma, bereavement, isolation, domestic violence or living in the care system to name a few. Young people suffering with poor mental health, often turn to negative risk taking behaviours, such as drug taking, self harm or antisocial behaviour.
Surfing is a positive risk taking pastime, which naturally promotes mindfulness and resilience. Supported one to one by a volunteer surf mentor, our young people are guided through their anxieties and taught a new skill, which they otherwise would potentially not have access to. Through the repeated action of falling off and getting back on again, young people build resilience. Being in the sea naturally promotes mindfulness, as your concentration automatically comes to within yourself, to keep you safe, keep you alert and pushing to progress. These exercises mean that, not only does the young person forget their concerns while in the sea, they have built tools that they can use on the land to help them manage their anxiety and decision making skills.
Surf therapy is a global movement, and The Wave Project is proud to be at the heart of it, as one of the founding members of ISTO (International Surf Therapy Organisation). Our surf therapy has been independently evaluated and peer reviewed, and consistently shows that our young people benefit from taking part in the therapy. In 2018 we won the National Lottery Sport for Social Change award.
Once the young person has completed their surf therapy with us, they then have the option to join our surf club. Here, they get to continue the great work that they did in surf therapy, and volunteers are still in attendance, but we step back from the young people slightly, and let friendships take a leading role in encouraging and supporting each other. Around 70% of our young people go on to join surf club.
When our surf club members turn 14, they are eligible to become volunteer surf mentors themselves. With this, they can support other young people who have potentially similar life experiences to them. We offer the young people support and training opportunities whilst they volunteer with us. Around 10% of our surf therapy participants have come back to be volunteers.