The Connection Between Mental Well-being and Surfing
There is no denying that surfing is somehow intrinsically linked to feelings of joy, happiness, relaxation and purity. That is unless you’re an angry local who feels entitled to every wave, hassles everyone and never seems to be having that much fun. But that is a story for a different time. The average surfer can’t deny that surfing provides them with some sort of mental release and well-being, despite it being one of the most overused excuses for partners to get out of something less attractive for a quick surf. 2020 further validated the fact that surfing can be used as a tool for mental well-being, with many people using it as an escape from a strange society that encountered a pandemic, financial strain, more stress and a rise in mental illness.
Surfing in many ways exists in the same category as mediation and yoga, and provides many of the same goals that are the focus of these arts. Surfing allows you to direct your focus on specifics, whether it be watching the movement of the ocean, catching a wave or feeling the sensation of the water. Like mediation and yoga, time in surfing exists in a different category, where it feels less relevant than places like work, where you’re constantly looking at the clock or counting down the seconds to lunch. For example, catching a wave can feel like it goes for a few minutes, where in fact it lasts for only a few seconds and time in the tube can sometimes feel like it doesn’t exist at all. The parallels between surfing and meditation and yoga are undeniable, and clear research points to the benefits of meditation and yoga for mental well-being, so it is almost fair to assume that there must be some scientifically proven form of mental well-being connected to surfing, which most surfers agree with. The more you do yoga and meditate the better you feel physically and mentally, the same can be said about surfing!
Furthermore many new programs are now being set up to align with the mental benefits of surfing, which can provide an outlet for people being dealing with Mental illnesses. Waves of Wellness promote ‘surf therapy’ and had a total of close to 600 new participants in 2020. They support the idea that surfing provides an additional aspect of group therapy, which has been a cornerstone of surfing since the beginning of time. Let’s face it surfing isn’t the same without your group of surf mates and local surf community. Groups of surfers can often help each other through traumatic and unpleasant experiences, which is what Waves of Wellness try to provide in their sessions. The charismatic Gudauskas brothers are also tapping into the positive changes and mental well-being that surfing can provide through their program Positive Vibe Warriors. The boys assist local communities by providing better access to the surf, through education, funding and provisions of surf equipment. They often focus on specific areas, where poverty and crime are a serious problem, which is also closely linked to mental well-being. A big shout out to these groups and the many others who are tapping into the connection between mental and social well-being and surfing. Let’s see where this heads in 2021, where mental health will still be a hot topic that many people will be trying to figure out.
Words: Sam Shearer
Photo: Mexi Log Fest 2019 · Photo: Sarah Lee (www.sarahlee.photo)