The Wave Project extends surf therapy project in St Andrews

  • After a successful six-week pilot, surf therapy courses will continue at West Sands beach
  • From the end of August, surf therapy will be accessible to vulnerable children for another year in the local area
  • Marks the 33rd UK and second Scottish location of the UK’s leading surf therapy charity

St Andrews, 2 August 2021: The Wave Project has extended its surf therapy programme at West Sands beach in St Andrews for another year, after a successful pilot which saw vulnerable young people from the local area complete an initial course of surf therapy.

The new site, which becomes the charity’s 33rd project location in the UK and the second in Scotland in addition to a project in Dunbar, will offer courses of surf therapy for vulnerable children and young people from the end of August. 

The charity is hoping to reach another 80 young people in St Andrews by August next year through their surf therapy programme, which aims to build confidence, self-esteem and resilience.

Launched in May this year, the pilot was generously funded by the University of St Andrews Charities Campaign, which donated £21,000 to The Wave Project in 2018. The pilot marked the first time that a university has actively fundraised to start a new surf therapy project to support local children.

Modelled on other Wave Project courses throughout the UK, courses of eight young people were run on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays after school for six weeks in partnership with surf school Blown Away, reaching 24 young people between the ages of eight and 19.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact of resulting lockdowns, two main issues affecting young people in St Andrews – mental health and social isolation – were identified as primary drivers of referrals to the pilot course. 

Following the pilot, self-evaluation undertaken by the young people referred showed a 41% increase in feeling confident, a 32% increase in feeling calm, and a 35% increase in being able to ‘laugh when things go wrong’ – demonstrating a positive effect on reducing anxiety, a key reason for referral to the programme.

The scheme also generated significant interest from local volunteers, with 123 people aged between 16 and 65 signing up for volunteer sessions and a final 40 completing the full training – meaning all surfers benefited from 1:1 or 2:1 support.  

Volunteers included a mix of university students, wild swimming enthusiasts, local residents and surfers, allowing young people attending the course to be paired with an appropriate volunteer depending on their needs. 

Joe Taylor, founder and CEO of The Wave Project, said: “Our initial ambition with the pilot was to show the benefits of surf therapy as a mental health intervention for young people in St Andrews and the surrounding areas, and demonstrate the positive benefits it has not only for clients and their families, but for the whole community.

“We’ve more than surpassed this ambition, with huge volunteer interest from a range of different people in the local community, and the results of the self-evaluation speak for themselves.

“As a graduate of St Andrews University myself, I’m delighted that we are able to extend our surf therapy programme in St Andrews for another year and look forward to welcoming more young people to our courses.” 

Lyndsey Proctor, a parent of an attendee of the pilot, added: “My son is a lot more confident, he seems happier and believes in himself a lot more. He is a lot calmer in situations where normally he would freak out straight away, he has taken a step back and is thinking about things more. He still struggles, but he is more chilled out and can deal with situations better. I am so happy for him. 

“He is always buzzing when he comes out of the water and when he gets in the car he is relaxed and falls asleep straight away. It normally takes him hours to fall asleep because he is worried, but this chills him right out. I am so happy for him. Every week I go home with a sore face from smiling.”