How we started
The Wave Project started in 2010 as a voluntary group funded by the National Health Service in Cornwall. The initial aim was to use volunteers to provide one-to-one surfing lessons for young people with mental health issues as a way of getting them outside, doing physical exercise and feeling more confident about themselves. The first project achieved outstanding results.
The results of the pilot showed that going surfing once a week helped the young people we worked with to feel more confident, improved their outlook and gave them a sense of fun. The participants were young people who other services had been unable to reach. The evaluation showed that the surfing course had led them to feel more accepted, positive and comfortable with their lives. Encouraged by the results, The Wave Project was established as a not-for-profit company. Further funding was obtained, initially from BBC Children In Need and later from the Big Lottery Fund and other funders, and the project began to grow.
The Wave Project ethos
Since then, The Wave Project has developed an award-winning intervention that uses the local surfers to help young people reduce anxiety and improve their emotional health. New projects have been set up all over the UK, including in Wales and Scotland.
All of these projects use the same methods employed on the original pilot scheme in Cornwall – getting local surfers to work with young people and teach them to surf. The sessions are delivered by a mix of paid staff and volunteer surf-mentors who work in partnership with established surf schools. Some of our surf mentors started out as participants in the programme themselves.
Most importantly, our sessions are free of any pressure to succeed – participants work at their own pace and achieve their own goals. They can work 1:1 with their mentor, or get more involved with the group. Our ethos is to be totally participant-led. The role of the surf mentor is to encourage and enable, not to push participants towards an arbitrary goal. We have found that this approach reduces anxiety and allows the young people we work with to feel empowered, enabling them to overcome challenges and develop a sense of pride in their achievements.
We take referrals from professionals working with vulnerable children and young people, and also run private lessons for schools, charities and companies. Regular referrers include the NHS, social services, mental health services, GPs, family support services, counsellors and children’s charities.