Surfing ‘Therapy’ for Psychosis Experiencers in Wiltshire

During Mental Health Awareness Week in May, Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) NHS Trust teamed up with Bristol’s inland surfing destination, The Wave, to embrace the power of nature and boost the mental health and wellbeing of a group of people who are living with psychosis.

Participants from the AWP Recovery Through Sport programme took part in a mindfulness session at The Wave, where they were encouraged to embrace the sound of the water and the environment around them, with the aim of boosting their mental health and wellbeing.

In October 2020, patients and service users from the South Gloucestershire Early Intervention in Psychosis service, which runs the Recovery Through Sport programme, were invited to take part in six surfing sessions at The Wave to see if it improved their mental health and wellbeing. Each participant was asked how they felt before and after the sessions, with all those who took part reporting significant improvements in their confidence and happiness, as well as feeling more positive and hopeful for the future. A member of staff reported that they “not only noticed the impact of the physical activity on the patients’ wellbeing, but also for some of the spectators, just being close to water, listening to the waves and taking in the environment, made such a difference to their positivity.”

Nick Hounsfield, Founder of The Wave, added: “We are huge advocates for blue health – the belief that being in, or even just near, water can really help improve our mental health. The results of our pilot with the Recovery Through Sport group are so encouraging. It’s brilliant to see the substantial mental health boost that those who surfed with us experienced – but also great to hear that those who only felt ready to come and watch also experienced benefits from being by the waves.”

Todd, one of the participants on the surfing pilot, said: “Surfing is such great exercise, it’s both physically and mentally challenging, yet mindful at the same time, with such a feel good vibe. I managed to get to know some new people too, which is a fairly big thing for me. This really has been such an influence for me and I know it could be for so many others, it has helped me to not just survive but thrive with a smile on my face while I’m doing it.”

On the back of the success of the pilot, AWP NHS Trust and The Wave are progressing plans to deliver further surf therapy courses for adults with poor mental health.

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