Surf therapy is now an established global movement which we’re very proud to be a part of. Why? Well research shows that having fun in the sea makes a huge difference to the mental health of people of all ages. Moreover, an experiment by Professor Viren Swami revealed that just viewing images of the ocean could significantly improve a patient’s mental well-being.

The Wave Project

One of the charities at the forefront of the surf therapy movement is The Wave Project. We’ve been working with the team for a number of years and consider them part of our family. The Wave Project was founded by Joe Taylor in Newquay over eleven years ago and supports children and young people experiencing a variety of issues such as mental or physical challenges, isolation and social deprivation. Surfing is therefore used to help build confidence, increase self-esteem and develop resilience. Above all, it’s used to make friends and have a great deal of fun.

International Surf Therapy Organisation

During 2017 the The Wave Project and six other surf therapy programmes from around the world got together to form the International Surf Therapy Organisation (ISTO). The purpose of the ISTO was to understand, grow and advocate excellence in surf therapy. As a result of its success, the ISTO now has at least 90 member organisations, all of whom use surfing for social good.

ISTO Surf Therapy Conference

In October of 2021 The Wave Project team announced they would be hosting the three day ISTO Conference in Cornwall. This was the largest surf therapy event of the year and brought change-makers from the world together. This included pro surfers, scientists, non profit organisations, policy makers and volunteers. Many more tuned in from five continents to share knowledge, positivity and to bring global perspective.

dog at welcome message outside

Surf Therapy Themes

Topics included:-

The thread between volunteers and participants
ISTO and Organisations
UN Sustainable Development Goals (Good Health & Well-being)
The National Health Service
Mental health in emergency services

Keynote Speakers

Firstly, we were delighted to support Yvette Curtis of Wave Wahines CIC who poignantly spoke about “Surfing Away From Trauma”. Here stories about working with Syrian refugees and women from North Devon Against Domestic Abuse, had the room in tears.

There were twenty nine other keynote speakers who also took to the forum, each of whom spoke with passion for their subject. They included:-

  1. Easkey Britton, Ronaldo Gabriel & João Zamith from INCLUSEA who spoke about the need to foster inclusion and surfing accessibility for people with physical or sensory disabilities.

  2. Professor Sachi Cunningham, Dr. Marialida Marcotulli and Asha Magee whose topic was surfing as a tool for female wellness and self-esteem.

  3. Hannah Green, author of My Journey Home who beautifully described how surfing had helped her recover from PTSD and homelessness.

  4. Alison Carney along with Frazer Riley, Founder of Queer Surf Club, Catryn Grundy, Director School of Hard Knocks Charity, Kalyani Subramanyam, COO The Naz Foundation Trust and Nicci van der Merwe, Director Waves For Change ~ who all discussed the need for building inclusion for the LGBTQIA+ community.

  5. Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage whose impassioned plea for the protection of our green and blue spaces had attendees riveted.

  6. Nick Hounsfield, founder and visionary of The Wave, Bristol who spoke about the use of surfing therapies at wavepools.

Kris Primacio

Finally, Kris Primacio, the inspiring Executive Director of ISTO concluded the event by saying, “ISTO’s mission was always to create inclusive access to surf therapy for everyone. This also includes the universal acceptance of surf therapy through prescription. As we have seen, The Wave Project is leading the way with this through their work with the NHS. Now it’s time to make this happen on a global scale.”

For more information about ISTO