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The success of surfing and mental health

Posted on: 16/10/2020

Local mental health charity Dorset Mind has contributed significantly to the first surf therapy in the world designed specifically for emergency Services. It’s a groundbreaking, innovative project.

They worked with Surfwell, who created the programme. They recently announced they are rolling out their initiative nationally and internationally. Their pilot supports emergency services to better mental health via surfing and peer support. It improves staff’s mental wellbeing, resilience and workplace performance through the proven scientific benefits of surfing.

Eighteen months ago, Dorset Mind’s Blue Light Emergency training for Dorset, Devon and Cornwall Police caught the attention of one of Surfwell’s founders, James Mallows. James brought the charity’s expert training team onboard at the outset of his project.

Dorset Mind identified the skills needed to have effective conversations to help engage in their recovery and improve their wellbeing. They created specialised bespoke training to support the delivery of the surfing therapy in water with a real sense of safety.

This was particularly important, as the emergency service personnel attending Surfwell were likely to suffer with complex needs, including suicidal tendencies and PTSD. It was essential to keep them grounded and in the present moment.

The result of the programme has been phenomenal. It has empowered service personnel to overcome fears and make significant inroads in their recovery journey. Not only that, it encouraged them to talk openly about their experiences.

The key to its success was that the programme is delivered by emergency personnel for emergency personnel. They all have shared experiences in the workplace. As a result, participants are far more responsive to peer support as they were likely to understand what each other were going through.

Surfing was simply the hook to get people interested. The physical act of surfing was a distraction from the true aim of the sessions. It made accessing support acceptable for people in a notoriously tough sector.

For further information about Surfwell’s programme, head to their website.

For details about training that Dorset Mind offer individuals and organisations, please contact: [email protected]. The charity also offers 1-2-1 and group support across Dorset in the form of Active Monitoring, Befriending, Counselling and Mentoring for Eating Disorders. They offer volunteer/CSR opportunities and charity partnerships, details of which are also on their website,

Photo by Guy Kawasaki on Unsplash



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