Surf Therapy: Offering Hope, Healing And A Different Approach To Mental Health Treatment

Just a reminder for all the mental health/ addiction treatment programs out there.
I Found this great article online at https://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2018-11-27/surf-therapy-offering-a-different-mental-health-approach/10549952 Please contact us to schedule surf therapy sessions for you in Orange County California.

Surf therapy offering hope, healing and a different approach to mental health treatment

ABC Health & Wellbeing

The way Layne Beachley describes being in the ocean makes it sound like an almost religious experience.

“Diving in the ocean, I feel this sense of being cleansed from my head all the way down to my toes … almost like it cleanses my mind, my body, and my soul,” she says.

“It’s a place where I feel connected. It’s a place where I feel a sense of freedom.

“And as a self-confessed control freak, it’s a great place to surrender — because it’s a force way more powerful than me.”

Beachley, who won seven world surf titles before retiring from professional surfing in 2008, is widely regarded as one of the most successful female surfers in history.

But her time in the ocean has brought her more than professional success. Surfing, she says, has “at times saved [her] life”.

“In the mid ’90s I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, and it was a really challenging time because I didn’t want to acknowledge that I was sick,” she says.

“I ended up in a state of depression … I was thinking of ways to end my life on a daily basis.”

After seeking professional help, and making a “full mental, physical and emotional commitment to [her] health”, Beachley returned to surfing.

“It was the desire to go surfing again that kept me alive in the deepest, darkest moments of my life,” she says.

“Surfing gives me that healthy dose of perspective and balance in life. If I’m ever feeling overwhelmed, I know I’ve been away from the ocean for too long.”

Surfing as therapy

Beachley describes herself as a “huge supporter” of surfing as a form of therapy.

“You go in there, you release yourself of the fears or anxieties or pressures of life … and it really brings you into your own state of being.”

Chief executive officer of the International Surf Therapy Organisation (ISTO) Kris Primacio says the idea of surf therapy is to embed therapeutic services in the “intrinsically motivating” activity of surfing.

“Each surf therapy program takes a structured approach to surfing to achieve a therapeutic benefit,” she says.

“The programs were developed to heal mental and physical illness through surfing, and in doing so, we enhance participants’ self-efficacy, and provide them with a sense of achievement.”

Surf therapy programs typically involve talk-based group therapy led by a mental health practitioner or informal peer support, followed by individual surf instruction.

“We’re not really reinventing the wheel — there’s creative art therapy, there’s equine therapy, there’s music therapy … we’re going to walk behind the path that they’ve carved out under experiential therapy,” Ms Primacio says.

Brisbane psychologist Christine Bagley-Jones says although surfing is not a formally recognised model of therapy, incorporating physical activity into mental health treatment can have immense benefits.

“Our physical health is very closely linked to our mental health, and vice versa. If we’re not feeling well mentally, it’s a good idea to start to explore how we’re looking after our bodies,” she says.

“Surf therapy looks very much at the physiological components of mental health.”

She adds that in addition to the benefits of physical activity, surfing — and other forms of exercise — can help to bring someone into the present moment, creating a sense of mindfulness.

“It allows us to be distracted from things that might be bothering us, to get a shift of perspective,” she says.

“With surf therapy, you have to be 100 per cent focused on the activity at hand … and while you’re fully focused on what you’re doing, you can’t be dwelling or engaging in anxious or depressive thinking.”

The ISTO work with 30 surf therapy organisations from around the world, including two from Australia. Surf therapy participants include young people who have experienced trauma, young people with autism, people with physical impairments, and people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“Surfing is such a physical activity — it builds strength and balance — but it also builds confidence,” Ms Primacio says.

“We know that physical activity reduces our stress and can reduce our anxiety. Now research is being done around the globe … to see if people are receiving a therapeutic benefit from the ocean, and more specifically, surfing.”

Programs for PTSD

Last year, the United States Navy embarked on a $1 million research project to investigate the therapeutic potential of surfing for military personnel with PTSD, depression or sleep problems.

It follows research by Los-Angeles based occupational therapist Carly Rogers, who investigated the therapeutic benefits of surfing after experiencing the positive impact of it on her own mental health.

Dr Rogers designed a surf therapy program in 2004 (which has since been used as the basis of many programs) and undertook a small study with veterans experiencing symptoms of PTSD.

“Our participants attended five sessions, and we found they had decreased self-reported PTSD and depression symptoms,” she says.

“We also found there was an increase in their attendance rates … which really showed a preference for this treatment.”

Michael Burge, director of the Australian College of Trauma Treatment, says exercise has long been seen as an effective adjunct therapy “to reduce stress and trauma”.

When it comes to the treatment of PTSD, he says group activities like surfing can be particularly helpful because of their social aspects.

“Social isolation is well known to be a phenomenon of PTSD. People often feel like they’re odd and strange because of the flashbacks,” Mr Burge says.

“When they get involved in sporting activities, it helps reduce their isolation — there is a sense of comradeship with other surfers … and that can help dramatically.”

Surfing removes barriers to traditional therapy

Occupational therapist Joel Pilgrim is the chief executive officer of Waves of Wellness, which runs surf therapy programs for people experiencing mental health challenges.

He says incorporating surfing into clinical therapy can help to remove some of the barriers people face when accessing mental health support.

“There are a lot of people that shy away from mainstream services because they don’t want to be associated with the stigma,” he says.

The Waves of Wellness workshops were inspired by Mr Pilgrim’s work with One Wave, a non-profit surf community that recently made headlines when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle joined the group at Bondi Beach in Sydney to raise awareness for mental health.

“The idea of being able to get outside and focus on your physical health is absolutely imperative to maintaining positive mental health,” Mr Pilgrim says.

“It’s not only the act of being around nature … it’s being able to switch off from the traumas that life can often throw at us.”

The Medicinal Practice of Surf Keeps You Off Drugs (surf therapy for mental health and recovery).

We provide surf therapy in Orange County California for Individuals and groups. If you are looking for surf therapy in Southern California please reach out to us. We specialize in helping people that would like to address their mental health issues, personal growth, and/or recovery from addiction/alcoholism. Being in recovery from a substance abuse disorder is not a prerequisite of our program. This article below is a great read found at https://stabmag.com/style/the-medicinal-practice-of-surf/

The medicinal practice of surf keeps you off drugs

Fleahab

Story by Morgan Williamson 

Without sounding too hippy-dippy; the ocean has a powerful vibrancy.There’s a healing energy in it, one that’s hard to explain, but any man who’s washed off a heavy hangover and cleared his sinuses with a mid-morning (or noon) session can contest to this. It’s tough to argue that surfing’s not therapeutic. It’s one the best ways to clear your head. It’s the epitome of escapism, the ocean wasn’t made for humans, but fuck neither was space. We’ve always been needy for new frontiers and environments. In the midst of crowds, mean-mugs and the surfing’s selfish nature, we all surf for the same reason; because it’s fun. I know personally my mood shifts when the waves have been flat for a week and become overwhelmed with this need to get into the water. At the very least grab a log and paddle around. There’s something about getting wet and going for a little wiggle that does wonders in the realm of uplifting mood. But I’m relatively healthy and don’t have any diagnosed psychological disorders.

There are plenty of organizations in place that utilize this notion of surf therapy. Some are geared towards autism, PTSD, the generally disabled; physical or mental, some as a coping mechanism for previous addictions, whatever the malady, all these orgs believe that surfing’s a way to alleviate symptoms of the ailed. “The combination of gravity-reduced exercise, open blue spaces, and soothing rhythmic auditory environments lowers cortisol (stress hormone) and boosts serotonin,” scientist and New York Times bestseller, Dr Wallace J Nichols tells me. “Cortisol is key here as it impedes the healing process and is implicated in many stress-linked diseases.”

Flea and the trials and tribulations of recovery.

With all these non-profits running for years on end, I figured something has to be working and have a piqued interest in why? Darryl “Flea” Virostko, Mavericks pioneer and Santa Cruz legend fell into the world of meth addiction and alcoholism. Once he got clean he opened a sober-living center aptly named FleaHab. “I try to get people back into the sports that they like and making healthy choices,” Flea tells me. “It can be anything. But surfing, being from my background is what I show them the most. It’s great to see these guys get back into something that’s fun. Especially with surfing, it’s the whole process, getting up, out, checking spots, it takes a long time. That really helps with addicts, once we get too much downtime we start thinking, what the fuck do I do? We all have addictive personalities, and once that’s combined with something physical the addictive side kicks in and guys just want to surf all the time. Addiction can’t be avoided, but it can be substituted.”

“Addictions of all kinds are about dopamine,” says Dr J Nichols. “The rush of surfing (and other action sports) gives our brain a burst of dopamine. Renowned neuroscientist Dr Mike Merzenich told me that if we can hook the addict brain to something that gives that dopamine hit without the negative side effects it may become a useful therapy. Surfing is perfect. Always changing, progressively more difficult, with all kinds of other benefits. Of course all surf addicts will tell you of the two major downsides: it can interfere with other aspects of one’s life such as career and relationships and long spans of flat days can become unbearable and lead to relapses.”

In San Luis Obispo an organization called Operation Surf uses this therapy to treat veterans and active duty military members suffering from PTSD. “A lot of guys struggle with their dreams being nightmares,” Amanda Curaza, co-founder of Operation Surf tells me. “They find that when they’re surfing they aren’t having the nightmares and are able to sleep through the night.” This could just be the result of surfing being an exhausting activity. “A lot of these guys are heavily medicated and still cannot sleep more than two/three hours a night. During our weeklong events they find themselves sleeping a full eight hours undisturbed.”

“Some research by Nick Caddick and his team at Loughborough University in Leicestershire, UK in the journal Sociology of Health & Illness focused on post traumatic stress (PTS) in veterans,” says Dr J Nichols, “and considered the efficacy of surf therapy as a path to the development of positive masculine traits and better health.”

“Just being out by the sea is good in itself, being in it is far better, and learning how to ride waves doesn’t compare with anything.”  —Mathew, Northern Ireland veteran.

JR THERASouth Bay ripper, JR “Don’t call me Junior” Costello sharing the stoke. Photo: Therasurf

TheraSURF is a grass roots organization in Los Angeles that specializes in getting children with all disabilities into the ocean. “My step-son has special needs, he’s one of the reasons why we have theraSURF going today,” theraSURF founder and Malibu local Jimmy Gamboa tells me. “It’s the weirdest thing, you take a kid out and they don’t want to be there. Then it hits them where they’re at, all these kids have sensory issues and behavioral issues. When they hit the ocean it can be a sensory overload or it has the opposite effect. Surfing puts people at peace and that’s why it’s so popular, because it makes us happy. It’s amazing to see the kids go from one personality to the next.”

“My stepson wasn’t walking when I first met him, he was three years old,” Jimmy continues. “I started to take him surfing, it was amazing to see how stoked he was on it. I’d walk with my board up the point and he would follow the board. It’s what got him to start walking. He realised I have to walk if I want to go surfing.”

“Water/surf therapy doesn’t need to be considered as an alternative to traditional or pharmaceutical-based therapy,” says Dr J. “Rather it’s a complement that can allow other therapies to work better and for some people a reduction in the number of kinds and dosages of drugs. With that can come fewer negative side effects and more positive side effects such as being able to finally sleep…which leads to all kinds of good cognitive, emotional, psychological and social benefits.”

“In conversations with Jack O’Neill over the past five years I’ve joked with him that his wetsuits have probably cured and helped more people than many pharmaceuticals by extending their access to water,” Dr J concludes. “It’s cool to think about a time when medical professionals prescribe wetsuits, boards and two sessions per week.”

Summertime Surf Therapy Program Open To All In Recovery

Sea water: it will boost your mood, and improve your health | Photo: ShutterstockWe are excited to announce our summertime surf therapy program open to anyone recovering from addiction or other mental health issues. The program will include 4, two hours Surf therapy sessions. Gear and instruction will be provided within our Surf  therapy group format. Spots are limited and are at cost suggested contribution is $250 per person.  2 Locations one in south and north OC. Stay tuned for specific dates and locations

The Health Benefits of Sea Water

The health benefits of sea water

Article found on https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/the-health-benefits-of-sea-water. We love the opportunity to provide surf therapy for people in the Orange County and San Diego county area. Please join us sometime and get a dose of vitamin sea!

Sea water: it will boost your mood, and improve your health | Photo: Shutterstock

The list of sea water health benefits is nearly endless. But, even if it only had a placebo effect on our physique, our brain would still drive us to the beach.

Article found on https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/the-health-benefits-of-sea-water

It’s good to your mood, and it will boost your health. The only thing that sea water does not do is hydrate our body. But that is not even a downside compared to the benefits

Sea water can be a natural drug and medicine. It stimulates our body and promotes the feeling of well-being that surfers very well know. If you live by the beach or spend a lot of time in coastal areas, you know how receptive we are to sea-sprayed shores.

So, what does sea water contain? On average, sea water has 3.5 percent of salt (sodium chloride). In other words, for one liter of water, you get 35 grams of salts. And then, small parts of magnesium, sulfate and calcium.

Although still not scientifically proven, thalassotherapy uses sea water and sea-based products made from algae, marine salt, mud, seaweed, and ocean water to eliminates skin problems.

But salt water has many other surprising benefits:

Sea water cleans your skin

The mineral salts team up with the sun to regenerate your skin. As a result, ulcers, lupus, acne, and psoriasis are some of the diseases that can be easily cured with sea water.

Sea water strengthens the immune system

The number of red blood cells increases between five to 20 percent after a swim or bath in the sea. The number of white blood cells increases even more. Sea water is a fantastic medicine for people with a weakened immune system, anemia, and high blood sugar levels.

Sea water slows down the development of rheumatism

Ocean water combined with exercise is a great medication for bone and muscle pain, arthritis, circulatory, and postsurgical issues.

Sea water reduces and eliminates anxiety

Because it contains magnesium, sea water will calm you down. People who live a stressful life are advised to go to the beach, not only for its relaxing atmosphere but also because of the soothing medicinal properties of sea water.

Sea water: good for your sleep, breathing, large intestine, bones, liver, and kidney | Photo: Shutterstock

Sea water has cicatrization properties

Because it is rich in mineral salts such as sodium and iodine, ocean water has antiseptic and cicatrizing actions on you the skin.

Sea water improves breathing

People who suffer from asthma, severe cough, phlegm and other respiratory problems should go to the beach to breathe the breeze and swim in the sea. The salt water helps eliminate toxins and other elements that attack the lungs.

Sea water cleans out the large intestine

The ingestion of small amounts of ocean water facilitates the cleansing of the colon, detoxifies the body and renews the body’s energies, especially in children.

Sea water helps fight liver and kidney problems

Ocean water accelerates the process of cell regeneration, especially those damaged by diseases such as cirrhosis. It also helps eliminate the excess water accumulated in the abdomen that occurs as a consequence of the disease.

Sea water prevents insomnia and reduces depressive symptoms

Because it helps normalize blood pressure and treats nervousness, a day at the beach will help you sleep better, and will naturally boost your mood.

Meditation and Surfing: A Guide to Zen, Waves and Mindfulness

I Found this article a while ago and have found it to be a very good discussion piece in many of my surf therapy groups that I run in Orange County California. Enjoy!

Found at https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/meditation-and-surfing-a-guide-to-zen-waves-and-mindfulness

Meditation and Surfing: A Guide to Zen, Waves and Mindfulness

SURFING

Meditation and Surfing: clear your mind and surf with your heart | Photo: Shutterstock

Meditating and surfing. For many surfers, it’s the ultimate experience. Learn how to add meditation to your surfing routine.

A meditation session is a rendezvous between you and yourself. It’s all about training and soothing the mind, and entering a mode of freedom and self-awareness which induces relaxation, joy, patience, emotional balance, and love.

Meditation can be a path to achieving a spiritual end, but it is not necessarily linked with religions and sacred activities. As you may have noticed, there is a growing number of people who meditate to clear their minds from stress, tension, anxiety and depressive disorders. Meditation also increases the level of focus and attention, bringing serenity to our lives.

Western societies are slowly turning to meditation, and surfers, as always, are leading the way. The empathy between meditation and surfing is evident. Surfers are, or should be, in perfect sync with nature, the ocean, and the waves.

Whether you’re a pro surfer or a recreational, weekend surfer, you constantly need to build your concentration, focus, and attention so that you’re in tune with the elements water, air, earth, and most of all, yourself. For many of us, surfing is a spiritual experience, and riding a wave is an indescribable moment of zen.

Have you ever closed your eyes between sets? Try it, and simply stay in the moment. That’s the first step towards a meditative state of mind. But don’t think it’s as simple as that. Training the mind is a continuous process that involves practice, patience and compassion. Just like surfing.

So, why do we only exercise our bodies and almost never train our minds? If our brain commands our muscles, why don’t we keep it healthy and clean? What are we doing with the brilliant machine that produces our thoughts and decisions?

Meditation: strengthen your concentration, focus, and attention for surfing | Photo: Creative Commons

If you want to include meditation in your surf training program, here’s how you should start doing it.

You can meditate with or without music. There are plenty of new age songs and soothing sounds of the ocean available online that will help you enter a meditative status. A serene, low light environment will also improve your first meditation session.

Guided meditations can be extremely helpful in the beginning of your practice. And you ask: what do I need to start meditating? It’s easy. All you need is will, and certain conditions that invite your mind to relax:

1. Choose a day when you feel relaxed and ready to give meditation a go;
2. Find a comfortable spot: it can be your home, the office, your local beach, or even an empty lineup;
3. Wear loose clothes;
4. Turn the music on or off;

Once the environment is set, how can a surfer start meditating? Just like in surfing, there is not a strict formula to start it off. The best meditation technique is the one that works for you. However, you can follow a few simple relaxation guidelines, specially designed for surfers, while they wait for waves:

1. Sit on the surfboard with the spine in the upright position;
2. Place your hands on your thighs;
3. Slowly close your eyes;
4. Make the necessary body adjustments until you find a natural, comfortable position, and straight posture;
5. Steadily inhale and exhale through your nose only;
6. Relax your jaw muscles;
7. Concentrate on your breathing rhythm;
8. Forget any pressure to reach a relaxed state;
9. Ignore everything around you including sounds, smells, touches, and tastes;
10. When you feel it’s time, stop your meditation, and slowly open your eyes;

Surfing: learn how to meditate while you wait for waves | Photo: Shutterstock

Meditation is never a waste of time. A meditative state of mind is extremely beneficial for your mind, and will rest the brain for long periods of time. A daily practice is good for your wellness – you’ll discover the inspiration, peace, and liberation needed to challenge crowded lineups, snaking, dangerous beginner surfers, and even fear of big waves and three-wave hold downs.

Many surfers meditate: Dave Rastovich, Shaun Tomson, Gerry Lopez, Taylor Knox, Dick Brewer, Greg Long have their moments of mindfulness on a regular basis. Scientists have already concluded that mindfulness practice is an effective therapy for chronic low back pain, a recurrent issue in the sport.

Surfing is totally compatible with meditation, and vice-versa. They complement each other, especially for those who believe in wave riding as a lifestyle, and a path to self-awareness. Include meditation in your surfing activities. It doesn’t matter if it’s just for five minutes. Start meditating now: channel positive energy into your inner self, and free your mind.

 

If you are looking to learn how to surf but not interested in surf therapy please visit this Siteand sign up!!

Surf Therapy: A new way to treat anxiety, stress, PTSD, and more

Here is a great read about surf therapy found @

https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/surf-therapy-a-new-way-to-treat-anxiety-stress-ptsd-and-more

Surf therapy: A new way to treat anxiety, stress, PTSD, and more

NOVEMBER, 20 | SURFING

Surfing: a therapy to treat anxiety, stress, PTSD, and more | Photo: Shutterstock

The Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) is among the institutions that are researching the possibility of using a new form of therapy to treat PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), anxiety and stress.

The physical and psychological benefits of surfing are something many enthusiasts can attest to. Scientists have been working to establish the exact mechanism and value of this form of rehabilitation.

The NMCSD studies were prompted by studies that show an increasing number of people diagnosed with PTSD. More than 8 percent of adults in American will have PTSD in their lifetime.

Between 2001 and 2011 the number of active duty military personnel diagnosed with the condition increased by 65 percent.

Researchers believe it can be effective for treating a number of other mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and stress.

Surf therapy can be thought of as a form of adventure that can be appealing to young people who are underserved by other forms of treatments.

Surfing: a holistic form of therapy | Photo: Shutterstock

Benefits of Surf Therapy

Surf therapy could prove to be beneficial for treating mental health conditions for the following reasons:

Emotional Wellbeing: According to the Wave Project

A British surf therapy charity study indicated an improvement in mental and emotional well being for young people who had experienced trauma and other psychological issues.

The therapy yielded consistent week-in week-out improvements in self-management, communication, and cultivation of positive outlook on the young participants.

Non-Pharmacological Therapy

The therapy does not require medication and is free from the side effects that come with medication-based therapies.

Holistic

It is a holistic form of therapy that promotes mental, psychological and spiritual well being. A holistic approach is much more effective compared to therapies that are non-integrated.

Cost

You only need a surfboard and the ocean. You may initially require a trainer, but the therapy will prove to be cheaper than other alternatives in the long run.

Surfing: it gives the opportunity to unplug and engage in therapeutic, outdoor activities | Photo: Shutterstock

Why it Works

In order to make the most of this form of therapy, researchers are trying to establish why it is effective for psychological conditions such as PTSD, anxiety and even substance abuse. Here are the reasons why it could be one of the best forms of rehabilitation:

Adventure Therapy

Surfing is a form of adventure or outdoor therapy. Research indicates it is particularly effective in treating anxiety and stress. Researchers say it is beneficial because:

Unplug

Adolescents and adults are constantly engaged in activities that involve a lot of screen time on the computer and the smartphone.

Surf therapy gives the opportunity to unplug and engage in therapeutic, outdoor activities.

Alternative Psychotherapeutic Intervention

It gives an alternative to those who are not responsive to other forms of intervention. It has been found to be effective for adolescents who may not find traditional therapies appealing.

Recreation

It is a form of treatment that is fun and enjoyable. Participants are therefore likely to see it as a form of recreation rather than a monotonous treatment protocol.

It engages participants who voluntarily involve themselves physically and psychologically.

Surfing: nothing inspires awe like the vastness of the ocean | Photo: Shutterstock

The Psychological Power of Awe

Awe is defined as the feeling of wonder and reverence mixed with feelings of fear when experiencing something vast or novel. Nothing inspires awe like the vastness of the ocean.

It may be compared to looking at the stars and contemplating the universe that appears to stretch into eternity.

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology indicates that awe inspires a sense of wellbeing, loving-kindness, and magnanimity.

Why does it work? According to the researchers, the feeling, though short-lived and hard to define, encourages us to look beyond ourselves and consider our situation without the temptation to be preoccupied with narrow self-interests.

In addition, they believe this sense of reverence can inspire people to be more loving, more likely to volunteer, and to adopt a more loving attitude towards others.

Focus

Surfing requires a fairly high degree of concentration or focus. You are forced to maintain focus as you glide through the waves.

Therefore you tend to gravitate from other negative thoughts even if for only a limited period of time. The fact that it is done outdoors and is a fun activity makes it easier to keep the mind focused.

Adrenaline Rush

Surfing is a good form of exercise that promotes physical fitness. In one hour an average person can burn around 240 calories per hour. It is also a low impact form of exercise suitable for people of all ages.

The focus required to surf combined with the adrenaline rush helps to promote a sense of mental and physical well being.

There are many studies that have confirmed the benefits of exercise in promoting self-confidence, the mind’s ability to cope with stress and alleviate anxiety.

Additionally, dopamine promotes a sense of well being that counters the distress experienced by people struggling with various forms of addiction.

This makes it ideal for addressing mental health conditions, alcoholism, and substance abuse.

Surfing: a low cost, evidence-based treatment suitable for people of all ages | Photo: Shutterstock

Taking Up Surf Therapy

If you are struggling with anxiety, depression or PTSD, you can take up this form of therapy by signing up for programs arranged by charities and non-profit networks.

These programs have trainers that guide participants so that they can overcome the mental health challenges they are going through.

There are treatment programs near you that you can find by doing a quick search online.

Conclusion

Researchers have established that surf therapy to be effective in treating conditions such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, and prevent suicidal thoughts.

Surf therapy is particularly impactful for adolescents and adults that are not responsive to conventional therapies because it is not appealing.

It is a low cost, evidence-based treatment suitable for people of all ages. There are several programs that you can sign up for even if you don’t live near the sea or have never surfed before.

Further, research is being conducted to establish the exact mechanisms and modalities to enhance surf therapy for the treatment of a number of mental conditions.
Words by Patrick Bailey
Professional writer | Mental Health, Addiction, and Living in Recovery | patrickbaileys.com

Your Brain on Surfing

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Here is a great read we found on https://www.booksurfcamps.com/news/surfing-impact-brain-mood

 

Surfing feels good. There’s no denying that. Time slows down when you’re riding a wave, you don’t really think about anything and the rest of the world just vanishes. You are in awe. You are in the flow. But what does that mean, and how does that translate into your brain activity?

Our mind is the ultimate puppet master. It controls our emotions, fears, decisions and thoughts, our motivation and energy levels. What if we understood more about how our brain works? Would we be able to trick it into working more to our advantage?

Exercising in natural environments has greater benefits for your mental health than exercising anywhere else. The same goes with surfing, a total workout that engages both the body and the mind, with health benefits that go far beyond the sheer thrill of catching a wave – it can be a form of treatment for depression, stress, anxiety, insomnia, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.

Have you ever wondered what goes on in your brain when you surf? Looking for the science, logic, and reasoning behind the stoke you experience when out in the water? We often hear that “Only a surfer knows the feeling” and “There’s no greater high,” but that never seems to satisfy us. So, we’ve decided to get to the bottom of things and to take close look at what happens inside a surfer’s brain. Well, not literally, but we do have some interesting answers for you!

Your-Brain-on-Surfing

Surfing releases a cocktail of feel-good chemicals into your brain

According to Harvard Medical School, regular exercise improves memory by stimulating certain chemicals in the brain, which, in turn, help new blood vessels to grow and brain cells to survive. It also improves sleep and mood, and reduces stress and anxiety. The same happens when you surf – the brain gets a good shot of some cool chemicals.

feel-good-chemicals-brain

This cocktail of chemicals helps you stay focused. Not only that, but it also makes you feel happy. Therefore, it is safe to say that surfing is a strong mood enhancer. Each great feat of catching a new wave is rewarded accordingly, with a rush of neurochemicals that lead to a state of euphoria, often associated with the term “runner’s high.”

surf-stoke

Let’s take a look at some of the chemicals being released:

Adrenaline – In medical terms, this is called epinephrine, and is being produced by the adrenal glands in response to danger and fear. There is another hormone, very similar to adrenaline, called norepinephrine, which is produced by the brain. Just like adrenaline, it triggers the fight-or-flight response, increasing the heart rate, the breathing rate, and the blood flow, helping you deal with stressful situations.

Serotonin – Also known as the “happy chemical,” this neurotransmitter is responsible for our mood. Low levels of serotonin are associated with anxiety and depression, and higher levels of this mood enhancer reduce stress and increase your overall confidence. It is also responsible for that stoke you experience during and after a surf session.

Endorphins – These feel-good chemicals are often referred to as the body’s natural painkillers, masking pain and discomfort, and helping you power through any situation. Release of endorphins is also linked to a state of euphoria. In fact, surfing is used in rehab facilities, where the high from drugs and alcohol is replaced with the endorphin rush one experiences when riding a wave.

Dopamine – Even more powerful than endorphins, this neurotransmitter controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. The anticipation before a surf session releases dopamine, with incredibly high amounts being produced as the result of an unexpected success, such as catching your first wave or riding that gnarly peak you never thought you could. Dopamine is associated with addiction because it keeps you coming back for more.

The positive impact of negative ions

negative-ions-beach

For centuries, doctors have recommended beach sessions to their patients. The ocean has a naturally soothing effect on the brain, and simply being around crashing waves will make us feel at ease and happy. But have you ever wondered why this happens?

The crashing waves release negatively charged ions, which trigger the release of feel-good chemicals in the body and alter the brainwaves. Negative ions cannot be seen with the naked eye or smelled, but they are around us in certain environments, especially around large bodies of water. To be more precise, these are oxygen atoms with negatively charged electrons that are produced through water molecules.

surfing-peaceful-mind

Negative ions are nature’s anti-depressant, triggering the release of serotonin and endorphins, those magical neurotransmitters that relieve stress and make us feel good. Negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain, which leads to mental sharpness and increased mental energy. They also promote the activity of Alpha brainwaves (keep reading to find out more about these). Therefore, it’s not just the pleasure of catching a wave that will put a smile on your face, but also the air you breathe.

Surfing alters your brainwaves

surfing-brainwaves

The breathing patterns used when swimming and diving stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. This has an impact on the brainwaves and calms the mind, releasing hormones that make you feel positive.

There are five types of brainwaves. In order from fastest to slowest, these are Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta. Whenever we feel tired and lazy, the more sluggish brainwaves are dominant. When we feel alert and energized, the faster brainwaves are in action. When being faced with a wave, you need to be focused on the task at hand, and the brainwaves start to move faster.

Gamma waves – the fastest brainwaves, Gamma waves are associated with memory, learning, and processing tasks quickly.

Beta waves – come into play when a sharper state of alertness, logic, or reasoning is necessary. Beta waves are associated with increased focus, but too much Beta waves can also lead to higher levels of stress.

Alpha waves – when we are relaxed or daydreaming, the Alpha waves are “to blame”. This frequency is at the borderline between the conscious and subconscious mind – when Alpha waves take over, we experience the flow state.

Theta waves – usually occur during sleep, but can also take over during deep meditation. Theta waves allow us to process information beyond our normal consciousness awareness, improving our creativity and intuition. Along with Alpha waves, Theta waves help you enter the flow state.

Delta waves – the slowest and the loudest brainwaves, these dominate during dreamless sleep or transcendental meditation.

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Experiencing awe quiets the frontal lobes, syncing the left and right brains, increasing Alpha and Theta brainwave activity. The state of flow is reached when the Alpha and Theta brainwaves take over, and could be described as the point where the conscious and subconscious meet.

When focusing on a task, be it catching the next wave, writing a great paper, or delivering an awesome project at work, we start with Beta waves and slowly progress towards Alpha and Tetha. When Alpha wave activity increases, we are reaching our peak performance. When intense creativity is involved, Theta waves come into play and we get an “aha! moment” – that precious moment of brilliant ideas, when we are able to connect all the dots.

Surfing is a form of meditation

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We know now that meditation doesn’t necessarily imply sitting still in a quiet room on a braided cushion. It can take many forms, and surfing is one of them.

Simply gazing at the ocean puts you in a meditative state. Once you get in the water, surfing forces you to direct your thoughts to the present moment, clearing your mind. Surfers undergo dissociative states, similar to those experienced by lifelong meditation practitioners.

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After the rush of chemicals in the brain, the parasympathetic system takes over and everything slows down, while cortisol (stress hormone) production stops. Alpha brainwave activity dominates, which translates into a relaxed state of mind and clearing of unwanted thoughts. That restless monologue in your head suddenly stops.

Surfers continue to feel good long after a surfing session and will be able to focus better on all the other tasks they are faced with.

Final words

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We cannot really tell what goes on in every single surfer’s brain; that would imply mapping their brains, and we can’t exactly hook a surfer to an MRI while inside a barrel. We are all unique, and what we feel in a particular moment is influenced by our life experience and by the different challenges we face. What a beginner surfermay see as over their limit might seem too easy for a pro. But in the end, it is the diversity of the experience that makes surfing such an amazing sport.


Get your shot of all-natural feel-good chemicals more often. Embark on regular surf weekends and try to squeeze in a session or two during the week if you can!

Welcome Kara to the S.W.A.T. team

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Kara Beres- 
RADT-1

Assistant Group Facilitator 

Kara is a recent transplant from Philadelphia, PA. She grew up near the east coast shores of South Jersey where she was an ocean lifeguard for 15 years on the Atlantic City Beach Patrol. Surfing, among other outdoor sports, have offered spiritual grounding as well as self-efficacy and motivation in maintaining her own mental health, well-being, and recovery. She has completed her coursework at Drexel University and is in the process of completing her thesis on the neuroscience of addictions and art therapy. She will graduate in December 2018 with an MA in Art Therapy and Counseling.
Kara has had two years of experience working in addiction and recovery. Her belief is that change occurs when we challenge ourselves through novel and creative experiences, activating both mind and body to open up new neural pathways that change the way we think and see ourselves, as well as the world around us. She enjoys facilitating in the process of helping others create new pathways that lead to self-efficacy, health and growth in mind, body, and spirit.

Why Surfing Makes You Feel Great

A GREAT READ FOUND ON MAGICSEAWEED.COM

THALASSO THERAPY: WHY SURFING MAKES YOU FEEL GREAT

By on 8th May 2017

You are getting a lot more out surfing than just a rush because frolicking in the sea has been proven to possess measurable health benefits.

And it certainly shows if you compare surfers to other athletes. Surfers in their prime invariably have clean white teeth, wide shoulders, slim hips, toned muscles, low body fat, great power to weight ratio, flexibility and very few skin ailments. And unlike our football and rugby playing brothers, horrors like athlete’s feet and crotch rot are nonexistent.

Surfing makes you feel better and has many health benefits. Though we don’t need science to back this up, it’s at least good to have that all confirmed.

Surfing has scientifically and medically also been proven to have remarkable healing and longevity properties. Historically, doctors have always recommended their patients go to the seaside to heal almost all ills. They would actually issue prescriptions detailing exactly how long, how often and under what conditions their patients were to be in the ocean. It was called Taking in the waters and was an actual accepted medical solution for everything from allergies to syphilis to nervous breakdowns. Using seawater for medical purposes even has a name: Thalassotherapy.

In 1769, a British doctor Richard Russell published a dissertation arguing for using seawater against scurvy, jaundice, leprosy and glandular cancer. Globally, today’s healing and spa resorts-by-the-sea abound. Places where people can not only let go of their troubles but even take a shot at curing their arthritis. But does the evidence actually stack up? Is seawater an actual cure? The answer is a definite yes.

Ocean water differs from river water in that it has significantly higher amounts of minerals, including sodium, chloride, sulphate, magnesium and calcium. This is why it’s highly useful for skin conditions such as psoriasis, acne, even sunburn. Bathing in natural mineral-rich water is called balneotherapy and has long been used to treat psoriasis. Patients suffering from all manner of things have always reported feeling better after swimming in the ocean.

Of course this may also have to do with sun exposure, which has been found to improve about every bad symptom on earth. Also magnesium-rich seawater improves moisture retention in the skin, making it stronger and more rigid. Which might explain part of our obsession with bikinis.

Also, because it is rich in other mineral salts such as sodium and iodine, clean ocean water is considered an antiseptic, meaning that is also has wound-healing properties. Nasal irrigation, or flushing of the nasal cavity, with salty solutions is used as therapy by people suffering from hay fever, respiratory ailments as well as inflammation and infection of the sinuses. (Which is why duck diving all those bombing close-outs is actually good for you. And we’re not exactly sure, but it probably builds character too).

It is also undisputed in the medical world that people who live by, and swim and surf in the sea have far healthier respiratory systems. This is because seawater is cleansing and it mimics the body’s own fluids in the lining of the airways, refreshing them without irritating them. (Unless, of course, you are one of those cigarette smoking hipsters. That would probably cancel that last one out). And don’t forget the exercise and meditation aspects.

Exercising in natural environments has been shown to have greater benefits for mental health than exercising anywhere else. This is because it combines the benefits of exercise with the restorative effects of being in nature. Surfing in the ocean being the ultimate case.

In his 2014 book Blue Mind, marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols found out why people find themselves in a meditative and relaxed state when they are in, on or under water. One reason is the breathing patterns used during swimming and diving. These stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. The system that controls organ function and quietens the brain and has effects on brain waves and hormones that influence the brain positively.

The weightlessness of water can also have a calming effect on the mind, even changing or slowing down brain waves, helping to provide a distraction from life, giving a sense of mindfulness, which is a state in which one is aware of one’s surroundings in a meditative fashion. Hydrotherapy, or water therapy and swimming have also been shown to decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety. One study showed the effects of balneotherapy and thalassotherapy were comparable to a commonly used anti-depressant drug called paroxetine.

 

Now for our cold water surfing brothers there is even more good news. Because cold water swimming activates temperature receptors under the skin that release hormones such as endorphins, adrenalin and cortisol. These have therapeutic benefits for musculoskeletal conditions, muscular strength and bone rigidity. Recurrent cold water also leads to enhanced function of the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest system), which helps with organ function, including the potency of one’s testicles. (Which probably explains the rampant misogyny present in our sport).

This has been linked to an increase in the release of dopamine and serotonin. Cold water surfing is also great for weight loss because surfing in colder waters burns up more calories when trying to keep the body warm. And finally, frequent exposure to cold water also increases the strength of the body’s immune system.

Which is all to say that the well-being we get from surfing goes far beyond just the joy of riding a wave. So kids, explain all this to your parents the next time they do not allow you to go surfing. And grown-ups? Keep surfing as hard as you can and enjoy a long healthy life. Because it no longer matters that most of the world considers our sport a goofy pastime. Because we are right. And they are wrong. And we have known it all along.