Five Benefits of Surfing for People with a Disability
Surfing is a highly active sport that requires the focus of both mind and body. Here at the Calvert Trust Exmoor, we believe everyone should have a chance to experience and enjoy such a fun sport. Our accessible site is idyllically located near the beautiful North Devon coastal village of Croyde, where we offer surfing as an offsite activity. We are in proud partnership with both Surf South West and the Wave Project and are excited to include surfing into our current list of accessible activities. The lessons will be a step above our regular sessions, and instead of having ten people to one instructor, one to one sessions will be available for our guests.
A dedicated charity to surf therapy, an impressive 2239 young people have been involved in Wave Project courses to date. The Wave Project believes that surfing can help children and adults with disabilities, mainly by improving their feelings of anxiousness through surfing. In this article, we would like to explore how surfing benefits those who attend the sessions.
Surf Therapy Research
As a relatively recent breakthrough, surf therapy has not been thoroughly researched. However, there have been a couple of examples such as the University of Rhode Island’s study on the ‘Benefits of Surfing for Children with Disabilities: A Pilot Study’ in 2012. The study discusses how limited participation in physical activities has a wide range of adverse effects, including increased obesity and secondary health problems down the line. It also touches on the psychological impact of not completing activities for people with a disability. Our article will go on to discuss its findings on why surfing should be used to combat this.
The Wave Project also produces a yearly evaluation, which is based on the completion of questionnaires answered by participants before and after they attend a surf session, focussing on feelings of self-belief. It also advocates that providing people with disabilities the access to complete exciting and challenging activities should be wholeheartedly encouraged for both the positive mental and physical implications it can have, as our article will explore.
It Can Improve Physical Fitness
Surfing is widely acknowledged as an intense form of exercise which involves healthy levels of aerobic activity. The 2012 study by the University of Rhode Island found that overall, surfing improved the physical wellbeing of the participants, especially in terms of their upper-body strength and their levels of cardiorespiratory fitness. The reference to cardiorespiratory fitness is especially relevant to children who have physical disabilities, as it is understood that it is generally relatively low compared to those children who do not have disabilities. As a result, the study suggests that surfing is beneficial for the physical improvement for those who have disabilities.
It Offers Dedicated One to One Time
An essential part of the surf therapy sessions at the Wave Project is to ensure each attendee is looked after in a one to one environment. Where this arrangement understandably assists in health and safety precautions, it also helps to form trusting relationships between the attendees and the dedicated volunteers. One to one time with the Wave Project volunteers has been described as one of the most meaningful parts of the experience by the children who attend the surf therapy sessions with the charity. The surf therapy experience can feel enriched due to the high level of interactive instructing devoted to the children. Furthermore, it can limit distractions as outside pressures are contained in a one to one environment. This set up also encourages attendees to rely on themselves to achieve the activity under the supervision of volunteers. As a result, it may enhance feelings of independence due to the encouragement while being in a stable and committed environment.
It Provides Social Inclusion
The 2018 Wave Project Evaluation also emphasises the feeling of social inclusion which has emerged from the network of people attending the sessions. It is a sense of community that not only applies to the participants who complete the therapy but also their parents, carers and the volunteers. Some of the volunteers initially participated at the Wave Project as attendees themselves and with this empathy in mind, have successfully created an incredibly welcoming and understanding environment. Furthermore, because of the energetic nature of the activity, the friendship between instructor and child can blossom, and children don’t feel as distant as they may do in a school environment, for example.
It Supports Feelings of Confidence and Self Belief
Both research by the University of Rhode Island and the 2018 Wave Project Evaluation suggests how taking part in an organised activity has the ability to improve self-esteem. The Wave Project Evaluation in particular, found that the relationship formed between child and volunteer encouraged the sense of belonging, and therefore produced the feeling of acceptance. These feelings are incredibly important in improving a person’s self-esteem and personal perception. By sparking these feelings towards oneself, confidence can improve, and the desire to challenge oneself is boosted.
It Provides a Challenging but Fun Experience
Surfing is a truly unique sport, and teaches so many skills including balance, as well as furthering water knowledge. The Wave project discloses different stories in their Report, which emphasises the fascination and pride participants feel when completing a session. One parent from Devon describes how their child goes to school feeling elated by the fact they surf and other classmates are not familiar with the sport.
For inspiration on accessible holidays in Devon, take a look at the dedicated adventure breaks we provide. If your child is already attending an activity break, and you would like some guidance on how to get your child excited for a residential trip, take a look at our blog!