Kelly Slater joins our St Andrews Surf Club

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The Wave Project Scotland we were joined by the 11-time world champion surfer, and greatest of all time, Kelly Slater. 

Kelly was in St Andrews to play golf in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, and we worked with the team there to get Kelly to come down to one of our Surf Club sessions. It was a perfect day for it, the sun was out, waves rolling in on the beach, and excitement in the air. 

Kelly turned up to the Blown Away Surf School and joined our welcome circle. We all introduced ourselves, thanked Kelly for coming to see us, and chatted about the conditions. Kelly had a look around the facilities and then we headed down to the beach. Walking down, I explained what we do at The Wave Project, how young people get referred, and how we use surf therapy to improve their confidence, resilience, self esteem and mental health. 

We did our surf brief and Kelly got involved, showing the kids how they could improve their technique. We gathered for a group picture and a few selfies, but these Surf Club members are true surfers and awesome waves were rolling in. It’s Kelly Slater, we know, but we need to get some waves!  

The kids jumped in the sea and Kelly watched on from the beach, chatting to media and parents. A few kids caught waves to the beach, and Kelly gave them some tips: 

 “My message for the young people here is just to keep doing it. Once you catch a wave you fall in love with surfing and it’s a life long passion. If you want it to be your pastime, just do it once in a while, but a lot of these young people will hopefully fall in love with surfing and want to challenge themselves on different waves.”  

Surf Club member Deryn told her mentor Hannah: “The rest of my class are on a trip this week, but I couldn’t go because of my anxiety. It’s okay though, because it means I get to be here with you. I love the Wave Project, it makes me more confident.” 

Standing on the beach with Kelly after the film crews had left, we got the chance to relax a bit and chat about surf therapy. Our Project Coordinator, Ru, explained our three stage approach – Surf Therapy / Surf Club / Volunteering. He pointed out a couple of volunteers in the water who were on stage 3 of this pathway, and chatted about a few of the young people and how much attending the Wave Project has helped them. 

Kelly told Ru about his own experiences with Surf Therapy. Kelly’s brother takes people with autism into the water, and he told us a story about someone who had never spoken, but after time surfing finally began to speak. He talked about his experiences with Surfers Not Street Children in South Africa, and his work with veterans in the US. He talked intelligently and naturally about surf therapy. We chatted about Covid, and how it has hit young people and those with additional needs the hardest. Time away from school, isolation, loss of routine and time spent indoors. Kelly recognised how impactful surfing can be to heal, and was stoked to see the Wave Project using surfing, to which he has dedicated his whole life, to help others. 

Ru was struck at how easy he was to talk to, and how kind, caring and cool he was with those he met. It was an amazing experience for the kids and for our project. One we will never forget. 

Clare – the mum of one our Surf Club members told us, “Shaun loved meeting Kelly, he as mesmerised by him. He’s 17 and has autism and anxiety, surf therapy helped him through a really tough patch. From a mum, thank you Kelly for taking time out to put a smile on some kids faces” 

Asked if the next Kelly slater could come from the beaches of St. Andrews slater smiled “we’ll see! I’m surprised at how well they are doing, their patience and balance is impressive. I love coming here, to see surfing the changing the lives of young people a short walk from the Old Course is special” 

His final message “keep on surfing!” 

Here’s some highlights of our session: