1. ITV Report

Newquay charity using surf therapy to help young people

The Wave Project offers surfing lessons to help teenagers feel more self-confident. Photo: ITV West Country

A charity in Newquay says surf therapy can help young people cope with a number of mental and physical disorders.

The Wave Project offers lessons across the West Country to help teenagers feel more confident about themselves, and is now appealing for volunteers to become instructors.

The charity says it offers 'surf therapy'. Credit: ITV West Country

The Wave Project uses surfing to help young people who are dealing with a range of issues in their lives.

Ethan says he is often judged on his Autism or dyslexia but the project allows him to enjoy socialising and concentrate on catching waves.

It's a lot of fun and today I did a cut-back and it's like you shouldn't really be afraid because there are adults there to help you and they are there to support you.

– Ethan

The project says it promotes 'surfing therapy'.

Young people who have been involved with the charity talk about how much of a difference the project has made to their lives.

I've got quite bad anxiety, not very confident just in general and I feel that this has boosted it a lot.. They praise you when you're getting it all right when you're out there and you're surfing, if you fail as well, they still praise you for it because making mistakes is learning.

– Alicia, aged 14

I love it and if you are with somebody it is company and everybody is cheering you on when you are standing up, giving you a confidence boost and all that and there are always people to talk to as well for help and advice.

– Rafael, Aged 14
People involved with the project say it has made a huge difference to their lives. Credit: ITV West Country

Established in 2010, there are now 13 of these projects across Britain.

Children are referred by health care professsionals.

Some of the young surfers have mental health issues, some behavioural issues, some are refugees and some have physical disabilities.

The charity funds a taxi service for children who cannot get to the beach so there is no excuse for missing a lesson.

But The Wave Project says it needs more voluntary mentors.

I'm obviously from a professional surfing background and people often ask me, do I have to be a really good surfer to help the children, you don't have to be the best surfer. We do volunteer training so you understand more what to do with the kids when you get out in the sea.

– Tom Butler, Co-ordinator, The Wave Project
The project says it needs more voluntary mentors so it can give more lessons. Credit: ITV West Country

Joe McAlpine was nine when he was referred to the project.

He says he had had a really difficult start in life and surfing helped save him.

Mr McAlpine is now a surf mentor for the charity.

Surfing can change anybody's life no matter what, that's what I personally think because it definitely changed mine and I'm sure it can change other people's.

it's all about putting everything you have into surfing and forgetting about all your problems.

– Joe McAlpine

You can find more information about the charity and how to get involved on the Wave Project website.