Surfing s therapy – riding these Waves of Wellness
Surfing s therapy – riding these Waves of Wellness

How surfing can wipe out COVID-19 blues

This may well be the “cure all” Sunshine Coast tradies have been administering every time the solid swells hit – surfing as therapy.

Surf therapists Nicole Currie and Will Dennis have been helping men facing serious life challenges ride their Waves of Wellness.

Nicole and Will are the Coast frothing facilitators of the WOW Sand ‘n’ Surf, a free six-week program from the Waves of Wellness Foundation that pairs weekly wellness discussions with learn-to-surf lessons.

The next free six-week program, which is open to people aged 16 years and over, kicks off from 6.30-8am at Noosa Beach next Thursday, August 13 and at Kings Beach from Friday, August 14.

These gnarly gurus of hanging loose out in the sets adopt a “health by stealth” approach designed to appeal to men from all walks of life through surfing and the ocean

These surfers are keeping on top of their life challenges with some liquid therapy of the best kind.
These surfers are keeping on top of their life challenges with some liquid therapy of the best kind.

The initiative is backed by Movember, with the men’s health charity contributing close to $1 million in funding over the past four years.

Nicole, 34, is a Kiwi-raised occupational therapists who has been involved with Waves of Wellness since the program started up on our local beaches almost two years ago.

“This year has looked very different for us,” Nicole said.

“With COVID-19 restrictions in place, we needed to take the Sand ‘n’ Surf online, to create a digital alternative that was still able to bring people together.

“We were getting people to practice paddling and standing up on boards, but from the safety of their living rooms,” she said.

Nicole said although technology allowed them to distance teach skills to better manage their mental health and wellbeing, “there’s nothing quite like being able to physically hit the beach and have those face-to-face, shoulder-to-shoulder conversations.”

This has become a vital pastime, and possible lifeline, as many were struggling with challenges such as “job loss, family issues and the uncertainty that comes part and parcel with COVID-19”.

Nicole said you don’t have to be a good surfer to get involved.

“People usually come along to the sessions to learn to surf but get a lot more out of the conversations,” Nicole said.

Feeling part of a group learning to surf is the best tonic for these men who are facing life challenges.
Feeling part of a group learning to surf is the best tonic for these men who are facing life challenges.

“There’s a lot of laughter that happens out on the water. The goal is to get past the superficial – to have those chats about what keeps us well.

“There’s this lightness as well as a seriousness that helps normalise conversations about mental health in a non-clinical, friendly environment.”

Certainly 43-year-old retrenched mechanical engineer Daryl of Caloundra loves every minute being out in the surf, first learning the ropes and now as a course mentor helping his new surf buddies.

“I was in one of the first groups on the Sunshine Coast,” Daryl said.

“I’d always tried surfing but had never really been successful.

“I’d just been made redundant a few months before so I needed to find someone to chat to and have some mechanism to counter that.”

He surfs now whenever he can and never misses linking up with Nicole’s groups.

“I feel I get as much out of it as a mentor as a participant, I get to help out guys that need it,” he said.

Will, also 34, is a Brisbane born-and-bred schoolteacher, raised on surfing.

“Nicole and I complement each other really well,” he said.

“Her strength is with the mental health side of things and my strength is teaching and surfing – so we work as a team.

“I’m passionate about mental health and surfing because I feel the benefit myself – I’ve used surfing as an outlet for what seems like forever without really knowing it.”

Working as a schoolteacher, he said there’s so many lessons and challenges surfers can take from their salty therapy sessions and apply to everyday life.

The group thrives on having a goal and “the need to look forward and leaning on others”.

“Last year, we had a group who really hit it off and became good friends, who now have coffee together and have continued their weekly Friday surf and beach chat,” Will said.

“It was the first sign to me that we were really making an ongoing difference here.

“We’d love to encourage more men to come down, have a chat and share some coping strategies for dealing with the chaos thrown at us sometimes, Along the way you’ll make good friends, learn the basics of surfing and have a good old laugh.”

Joel Pilgrim, co-founder and CEO of Waves of Wellness said he was stoked to provide a setting which had a huge impact on the lives of men.

“I can’t wait to see a world where men talk openly about, and work towards openly managing their own mental health, just like they do by going to the gym to pump weights,” he said.

Movember’s Brendan Maher said Waves of Wellness was about health by stealth, breaking down barriers and getting men to talk about their mental health in a way that didn’t feel intimidating.

To learn more or to register visit wowsandnsurf.com

Waves of Wellness programs will continue to be COVID-19 safe and move online as required by local regulations.



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