Jersey charity calls for surfing to be prescribed as therapy

Stewart Robson reports for ITV Channel News

A Jersey charity is calling for surfing to be prescribed by GPs as a form of therapy for islanders with physical or mental health conditions.

Healing Waves believes that the sport has medicinal qualities, allowing those in need to find comfort in the ocean.

Surf therapy is a non-clinical form of emotional support, and people as young as four are using it medicinally in Jersey.

In the UK, surfing as prescribed therapy is currently being trialled by the NHS, with a particular focus on the mental health sector.

Max Wiltshire, executive director of Healing Waves, hopes that Jersey will follow in the footsteps of the UK. He said: "I hope we might see more and more places starting to adopt this as a standard practice, and ultimately give GPs another option, somewhere else that they can refer to whilst people are either waiting to be seen, or to support and complement their existing interventions."

Max says surf therapy is about getting transferable skills from learning something new. Credit: ITV Channel TV

Max believes that the challenges associated with surfing, such as falling of a surfboard, teaches resilience which can benefit those suffering from certain mental health issue. He added: "It allows people to realise that if they can get out of the door and and access something like Healing Waves then maybe they can try the other things in life that they're wanting to do, whether it's going to work or school, or a football class."

Surf therapy is inclusive of people with disabilities. Ray Evans has a disability, and says learning to surf has been "invigorating". He said: "It's doing a lot of good for my wellbeing, and general fitness, and it's helping with my balance.

"It's given me a lease of life I've never had before, and I've been able to try new challenges."

Ray finds that surfing is a great way to learn a new skill whilst getting fresh air and exercise. Credit: ITV Channel TV

GPs across the island already prescribe other forms of exercise, such as Move More, to give islanders struggling with their health a chance to try something different.

Dr Julie Le Cornu, a GP at the Caste Quay Medical Centre, says she would like to see surfing prescribed as therapy in Jersey due to all the benefits it can bring. Dr Le Cornu said: "We see it in the natural endorphins that are produced by the body which are natural anti-depressants, to the mindfulness, particularly if you're outside in the waves, it's fantastic."

Julie says cold water immersion has anti-inflammatory benefits too. Credit: ITV Channel TV

She also recognises the happiness that surfing can bring, and believes that this can have a positive impact on mental and physical health. Dr Le Cornu said: "I saw some kids today with Healing Waves and the joy on their faces was fantastic. You don't need to know how to swim, it's very safe, so I think it's a very positive sport."