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Healing through the ocean 

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The Wave Project is, quite literally, making waves in young Londoners relationship with the ocean and mental health.

Video Courtesy of The Wave Project

It’s no secret that the ocean has healing properties. Whether it’s mixing sea moss, a nutrient rich seaweed, into daily meals as a way to improve your immune system or by immersing yourself into deep sea water, a technique known to prevent diabetes and other lifestyle diseases; humans are continuously discovering the healing powers of the ocean and innovating new ways to take advantage of them. However, spending time in the ocean helps not just your physical health but your mental health also. The Wave Project, a U.K. based nonprofit dedicated to promoting the importance between humans connecting with the ocean through surfing, stands as a testament to the impact the ocean can have on one’s mental health. 

In England alone, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year and as mental health awareness continues to spread, many people are looking to alternatives to therapy or medication. Enter: The Wave Project. The project’s mission is simple: Intervene early and treat young people with respect and focus on a learning activity that they can relate to – surfing. Through a six week surf therapy course, students between the ages of 8-18 years old, will be introduced to the water and overcome their anxieties, leaving them more confident to take on new challenges.  Recently, the Wave Project unveiled new surf therapy sessions available for adults ages 18-24 years old, too.

“Surf therapy is unconsciously ‘mindfulness’ at its core. It is a fully immersive experience in its essence, whereby you connect with nature through all your senses,” Wave Project London Program Coordinator, Angelique De Raffaele said. “Surf Therapy is not clinical, in the way sitting in a room talking to a doctor is. It is out having fun with friends, it provides a space for positive risk-taking, full of adrenaline, surrounded by positive, emotionally available adults.” 

The Wave Project hosts surf therapy projects all over the coast of the United Kingdom, but recently opened its latest club right in the heart of London. Surfing in London may seem comical, it’s not like you can go surf the Thames; but The Wave Project is dedicated to making sure every young person has the opportunity to connect with the ocean, even if they don’t live right by it.  

“The London Surf Therapy sessions start with three sessions at Beckenham Place Park Swimming Lake, easily accessible from the Southwark Borough…The remaining three sessions take place at Southwick Beach near Brighton, where they get to develop their surfing skills. The young people are transported down to Southwick in a minibus with a small group of their volunteer mentors,” De Raffaele explained. 

No, students aren’t guaranteed to leave the Surf Therapy clinics as the next best surfer (maybe they will be) but they do leave with a newfound confidence than they had when they started. De Raffaele spent time observing this confidence develop in the young surfers. 

“Many young people were non-swimmers at the start and feared the water. By the last session…the young people showed eagerness to get tumbled by the waves and experience the power of the water. It was wonderful to bear witness to so many of the young people putting their trust in us and therefore trust in the water.” 

If you’ve been searching for a new way to connect with the ocean, you can definitely try adding sea moss into your next smoothie, but consider challenging yourself by picking up a surfboard and embracing all the ocean has to offer. You may find more than just a new hobby.  

Want to support The Wave Project? Head to The Wave Project’s website to find volunteer and donation opportunities near you.  

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