Surfing is well known to make you feel energised and more confident Catching a wave after a stressful day can wipe away all your stress and help your mind to escape. But could it be used as a form of therapy to help improve mental health?

Six years ago, a project started that aimed to do just that. The Wave Project was set up to give young people with emotional problems the chance to use surfing as part of their recovery. It was an innovative idea, first funded by the NHS in England – and quickly proved to be a success. Over 1000 young people, mainly teenagers have taken part in the programme since 2010, and found they felt more positive about their lives and motivated to try other things.

One of the unique aspects of the project was that it was run by local surfers rather than medical staff. These volunteers built up a good rapport with the young people, and talked to them about their problems while teaching them to surf.


The concept quickly took off, spreading from Cornwall across the South West of England to Wales and Scotland. Now the project runs at over 10 locations in the UK, and in November, The Wave Project will start its first project in Torquay, Australia, at Jan Juc beach. 

Rachael Parker, who is running the project in Australia is super excited! “This project is awesome, and Torquay is the perfect place for The Wave Projects maiden voyage into Australian waters. The support we have received from the local community has been overwhelming. It’s a real testament to the community placing a great importance on the health and wellbeing of its young people.”


Recently we had a quick catch up with Wave Project Ambassador Lucie Donlan to find out more.

Lucie, how did you get involved in the Wave Project?

I had just completed my ISA Surf Instructor course and once you’re qualified you have to do 20 voluntary hours of instructing.  One of the surf schools mentioned to me about The Wave Project and  when I got home I looked up their website to find out a bit more about what they did.  I then dropped them an email about possibly volunteering with them and they invited me to their next induction day to find out some more information.  I remember going along and being inspired by the other volunteers and instructors, everyone was really friendly and I was quite moved by some of the stories I heard.  I decided from that point that I just wanted to volunteer anyway and have been doing so for the last couple of years now.


How does surfing help people with disabilities or mental health problems?

Surfing is great therapy and just being out there and enjoying the wide open space of the beach can have a fantastic effect on your state of mind and you’re mental wellbeing.  I have found some of the children with the greatest disabilities are the most enthusiastic and engaged learners.  Learning to surf fills them with confidence knowing that they are doing something that most able bodied people can’t do!  

How stoked are the people you take surfing after they’ve been in the water?

I love how stoked everyone is in and out of the water.  When we’re in the water there’s plenty of laughs, smiles and high fives and out of the water all the children are buzzing around, jumping up and down and can’t wait to share their experience with their friends and family.


What do you feel you personally achieve by helping others?

Volunteering with The Wave Project has given me a whole new outlook on surfing.  It gives me a great sense of achievement that I can bring some happiness into someone’s life just by sharing the sport that I love so much.  

If others reading this would like to get involved, how do they go about it?

If they were looking to find out a bit more information about volunteering I would advise them to to go to the website and click on ‘Get Involved’

What’s your favourite motto to live by?

I think it has to be, “making someone smile CAN change the world, maybe not the whole world, but their world.”

To get involved in The Wave Project as a volunteer, or to find out more about it, go to