The Wave Project: helping young people with social and emotional challenges through surfing | Photo: Wave Project

The Wave Project is a British surf therapy charity that helps young people fulfill their potential.

In January 2015, a peer review published in the journal Community Practitioner stated that the surf therapy program developed by the Wave Project resulted in a "significant and sustained increase in well-being."

"One year later [...] parents and referrers noticed an increase in a positive attitude and better communication, as well as improved self-management and analyzing at both home and school," the report revealed.

However, the article went on to say that "further service evaluation of accessibility and long-term outcomes is also recommended."

That is why the Wave Project decided to study the long-term impact of surf therapy on young people.

The newly released report is the result of over four years' worth of evaluation and contains 412 case studies.

Hannah Devine-Wright and Catherine Godfrey analyzed data collected by the charity between 2013 and 2017, and ran a series of focus group interviews with Wave Project participants and their parents from across England, Wales and Scotland, to get a broad view of the impact surf therapy has had on young people over time.

"For the first time, independent research has confirmed what many of us engaged in surf therapy have witnessed week in and week out surf therapy works!" stresses Joe Taylor, CEO of Wave Project.

The conclusions reveal that youngsters increased their competence, overall satisfaction, reported resilience, fitness levels, and sense of belonging.

Surfing: A Pill for Youngsters and Carers

When delivered in a supportive environment, with opportunities for continuation and volunteering, surfing provides profound and long-term benefits on the wellbeing of children facing social and emotional isolation.

Researchers analyzed the results from 1,945 vulnerable young people aged 8-21 who experience physical and mental health issues, social deprivation or social isolation.

Amongst those facing social isolation are young carers, who often report low self-esteem and high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, and young people who have been bullied.

"We hope that this will be the first of many similar evaluation reports around the world to continue strengthening the case for surf therapy," adds Taylor.

Additionally, the six-week course ran by the Wave Project appears cost-effective. The initial program costs approximately £300 per child, and each follow-on surf club session costs £20 per child.

Assuming that a child attends ten surf club sessions per annum, the overall cost for a child to benefit from surf therapy provided by the Wave Project is £500 per child, per year.

Across time, as clients become surf volunteers, they may become cost neutral, experiencing additional benefit at no cost to the project at all.

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