How surfing can help your mental health

How surfing can help your mental health

By Anita Rosebury

| Dec 21 , 2020

2020 has been a tough year. COVID-19 and its associated lockdowns have had an impact on many individuals - many of whom may not have struggled with mental health issues in the past. We’ve all felt the stress and strains of daily life taking their toll, and we all have different ways of dealing with it.

Some people talk to friends and family. Some people (us) go biking. And some people go surfing. With this in mind, The Wave (an inland surf destination based in Bristol) recently released a report entitled “Into the Blue: Blue Health and Surfing in the 21st Century” which explored the concept of surfing therapy and its mental health and wellbeing benefits.

Surfing hasn’t always been associated with mental wellbeing, in fact, the realisation that it could only started around 2014. Back in 1984, a biologist at Harvard University named E. O. Wilson introduced the concept of ‘biophilia’ - a bond with animals and nature that is part of every human’s genetic makeup. This led onto many environmental and medical researchers exploring ‘green health’ in the late 1980s and 1990s - a branch of medicine which looked at the relationship between human health and the environment.

As part of their studies, many scientists began to discover that there were significant health benefits for people who spent time in landscapes which featured water - which led to the term ‘blue health’ being introduced.  This was backed up by research in the mid-2010s which shows that blue space had been shown to instil positive feelings and a sense of wellbeing. A report by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health stated that “outdoor blue spaces have potential benefits for health, particularly in terms of mental health, general wellbeing and physical activity.”

In fact, in the UK, green health is now part of the NHS strategy, as other studies have shown that viewing natural scenes can lower heart rate and improve focus - both of which benefit not only our physical health but our mental health too.

The “Into the Blue” report breaks down the benefits to our mental health we can access through surfing into these areas:

  • Attention restoration and ‘soft fascination’ - allowing our minds to relax and restore themselves
  • Access to pink noise - this helps to reduce stress levels and improve deep sleep and memory
  • Calmness from being close to the water
  • Becoming at one with nature
  • A feeling of awe
  • Boosting your sense of happiness and wellbeing

As part of this report, The Wave also undertook a survey of 500 people (both surfers and non-surfers) and they discovered that:

  • 75% of surfers believe that the mental health benefits of surfing mean more to them than the physical health benefits
  • 67% of surfers said surfing meant ‘happiness’, 52% said ‘excitement’ and 49% said ‘nature’
  • 50% of non-surfers reported that mental health benefits would be their main driver to try surfing

So it looks like spending time in, or close to, water is good for us and can help us tackle some of the major public health challenges we are facing at the moment, particularly mental health disorders.

So why not try surfing or outdoor swimming next year, and see if you can access the benefits of blue health? Surfing was one of the drivers behind the development of booicore, and we are excited to be able to promote the benefits of being active outdoors with our range of changing robes, changing mat, and kit bag.