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Surfing

Wave of support for new surf therapy program

Turners Beach is set to host exciting surf therapy sessions this August, with a free six-week program from the Waves of Wellness Foundation aiming to break down stigma and provide accessible mental health support for local men and teens.

WOW Sand ‘n’ Surf pairs weekly wellness discussions with learn-to-surf lessons, adopting a ‘health by stealth’ approach designed to appeal to men from all walks of life through surfing and the ocean.

The initiative is backed by Movember, with the men’s health charity contributing close to $1M in funding over the past four years, seeing it rolled out successfully in locations including Sydney, Newcastle and the Sunshine Coast. Thanks to local surf school, Surf Camp Down Under, the program is now also available in Yamba.

Joel Pilgrim, founder of the Waves of Wellness (WOW) Foundation, said: “After working with teachers in the Clarence Valley, it was clear support like this didn’t exist in the area. With the level of mental health challenges experienced in the region, we made it a priority to get the WOW Sand ‘n’ Surf going in the local community.”

Landing a dream job combining her love of surfing with Occupational Therapy, Vicky Lord, 32, is set to run the program locally. Originally from England, Vicky is a new arrival to Yamba and is passionate about sharing the positive impact surfing can have on mental health.

“Having mental health awareness and education in a different environment, like the beach, can be so helpful for a lot of people who might feel confronted by conventional methods of support. Being outside in a familiar space and learning a fun skill like surfing, is a great way to reach people and encourage them to talk and open up.

“With teenagers who experience issues with their mental health, I notice them being so much more open when we do stuff outside, away from school or typically clinical environments.”

On average, men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women. And research shows men are

significantly less likely to reach out for help when they’re struggling.

“I’ve had a few male friends I’ve lost to suicide and it’s made me realise the widespread impact of mental health and how important it is that we work to normalise it. Especially amongst men, there is such a

taboo around talking about mental health, it’s just not spoken about enough.” Vicki said.

“What we’d like to see happen with WOW Sand ‘n’ Surf in Yamba is to help support and create more of a community, more awareness and importantly more conversations around mental health. We know the

importance of social connection and community has on our mental health and the ultimate goal of the sessions is to bring people together and provide an outlet for people to connect and share.”

Earlier this year, the Waves of Wellness Sand ‘n’ Surf program was one of just six projects globally chosen to progress to the next round of Movember’s inaugural Social Innovators Challenge, a project

which aimed to find, and test innovative ideas that increased men’s social connections and mental wellbeing.

Movember Global Director of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Brendan Maher said: “In smaller communities, like Yamba, who have experienced collective hardship, we recognise a need to provide accessible mental health support and challenge the status quo around how men seek help. One of the ways Movember is doing this is by investing in new and innovative ideas like surf therapy.

“Waves of Wellness is all about health by stealth — it breaks down those barriers and gets men out there, making new mates and talking about their mental health in a way that doesn’t feel forced or intimidating.

“The work these guys are doing out there among the waves has a real and measurable impact on those who take part, and we’re thrilled to play a role in bringing the benefits of surf therapy to more men

around Australia.”

WOW Sand ‘n’ Surf is a free six-week program open to people aged 16 years and over. The sessions kick off from 6.30 – 8.00am at Turners Beach on Wednesday August 12.

While designed for men, these sessions are open to both men and women interested in meeting new people, improving their mental fitness, and learning to surf. 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.

For support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800

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