Olympic medalists Victoria Pendleton and Michael Jamieson visit The Wave Project

Laureus Ambassadors Victoria Pendleton and Michael Jamieson spent time surfing with young people from Wave Project surf therapy programme this weekend in Newquay.  The cycling and swimming stars have both spoken about their own mental health challenges and are advocates for using sport to address issues. ‘When you combine sport with the mentoring and mental health support these young people receive, you can really transform lives for the better. That’s what Laureus is all about’ – says Victoria Pendleton

Laureus Ambassadors and British Olympic stars Victoria Pendleton and Michael Jamieson have underlined the powerful role sport can play in supporting young people with their own mental health and wellbeing, following a visit to the Laureus-supported Wave Project surf programme in Newquay.

Victoria and Michael, who both reached the pinnacle of their careers at the London 2012 Olympic Games, are both advocates for the role sport can play in improving mental health among children and young people. Both Victoria and Michael have also been outspoken about their own mental health challenges and have worked with Laureus to help raise awareness for the challenges young people face, promoting the role sport can play in enhancing mental wellbeing.

The Wave Project is a ‘surf therapy’ programme that uses the sport to improve the lives of young people suffering from mental health issues. Supporting young people with mental health disorders ranging from mild to severe, the programme aims to build confidence and reduce anxiety through the power of surfing. The programme is the world’s first ‘surf therapy’ course funded by a government health service as the NHS funded a pilot scheme back in 2010. Today, young people with mental health issues are directly referred to the programme from GPs and other external agencies.

Laureus Ambassador Victoria Pendleton, said: “It’s an honour for me to be in Newquay today in my role as a Laureus Ambassador, supporting the incredible work The Wave Project are doing to improve the lives of young people through surfing. Sport has an incredible power to unite people towards a common purpose and what myself and Michael experienced today was a clear example of that.

“Mental health and wellbeing is an issue close to my heart and it is so important in today’s world, I’m proud that Laureus are supporting surf therapy programmes like this one. I’ve been lucky enough to spend time learning to surf in the past year and it has been so helpful for me in my own life. When you combine sport with the mentoring and mental health support these young people receive, you can really transform lives for the better. That’s what Laureus is all about.”

Laureus Ambassador Michael Jamieson, said: “Sport has given me so much throughout my life and it means the world to me to have a chance to give something back through Laureus. Spending time with the young people from The Wave Project today you could get a sense of the role surfing plays in these young people’s lives, reducing anxiety and building confidence.

“Throughout my career, sport was always about bettering myself and striving for silverware. Days like today remind me about the real value of sport and how powerful it can be in improving the lives of young people who need it most.”

The Wave Project Founder Joe Taylor, said: “Having Victoria and Michael join us here in Newquay has been an incredible experience for our participants. Hearing their stories of competing at the highest level in sport is special, but hearing how they have dealt with their own personal mental health challenges was so inspirational for the young people here.

“We are so thankful to both Laureus and Spirit of 2012 for their invaluable support in helping introduce more young people to the benefits of surfing and taking them through our transformational surf therapy programme.”

Spirit of 2012 Chief Executive Ruth Hollis, said: “We are delighted to partner with Laureus to fund The Wave Project. It’s great that our funding can help open up surf therapy, which, based on the work The Wave Project has already done, we know has a profound impact on participants. Reaching both young people in London – who would never otherwise consider surfing, let alone have access to it – and young people in Cornwall, I’m delighted to see how the project brings young people together with a common sense of purpose and joy to improve their wellbeing through surfing.”

With the support of Laureus and Spirit of 2012, The Wave Project is now able to expand the reach of their surf therapy interventions into new regions. The programme is now bringing isolated and vulnerable young people from inner-city London to locations such as Brighton to experience surfing and enhance their mental health and wellbeing through surf therapy, as well as delivering surf therapy sessions for disadvantaged young people in Cornwall. Working with over 160 programmes worldwide, Laureus Sport for Good uses the power of sport to end violence, discrimination and disadvantage, proving that sport can change the world. One of Sport for Good’s six key focus areas is to use the power of sport to enhance mental wellbeing and encourage healthy behaviour change among young people around the world.

In 2020, Laureus will celebrate a milestone 20th anniversary of using the inspirational power of sport as a force for good. Special anniversary plans are underway with further details to be announced soon. To stay up to date with Laureus activity, follow us at @LaureusSport and #SportforGood on social.