Il The benefits of Surf Therapy in post-Covid life
Covid 19 forced us indoors for months, reminding us that our body needs both exercise and a profound contact with the natural element in order to achieve wellbeing. Surfers know pretty well that there can be no physical health without sport, and no peace of mind without nature. These last months spent indoors in ‘sanitary confinement’ spread this message to everyone.
The physical and psychological spheres represent two faces of the same coin and find an area of interesting experimentation in water sports like surfing.
Science teaches us that the energy of the sun, the contact with the shore and sea salt as well as outdoors exercise, are vital variables in the pursuit of well-being. Sunlight allows a greater production of serotonin, the hormone of happiness. The sea, and in particular the foam of breaking waves, through its negative ions, contributes to reducing stress. And again, physical exercise on the beach actively participates in the release of accumulated tensions, restoring balance, even in our social relationships.
The perception of vulnerability to which the virus has exposed us, combined with the forced change of daily habits, has created a harmful environment. A real ‘prison’ from which we emerged stressed and physically debilitated.
If not properly released, anxiety can easily lead to physical symptoms, with all related disorders, and even more fearfully, depressive syndromes.
Surf therapy fits perfectly in this perspective of psychophysical balance and has proved useful in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), a depressive syndrome common among war veterans, inmates and ex drug addicts.
What is it all about? Can it be applied to post-Covid life? Various scientific researches have shown that riding waves favours the development of stress management and positive reactions to emotional states such as fear and anxiety. The sea, by definition unpredictable, is a perfect metaphor for life.
It puts us under a healthy test, requiring us to develop active physical and psychological mechanisms, or ‘coping strategies’, which can then be used in daily life.
In this regard, since 2017, Isola Surf has been promoting the “Mana Project”, a social initiative that involves inmates of the Malaspina Penitentiary in Palermo (Sicily) and aims at their gradual recovery into society, through the practice of surfing.
Our Surf Therapy Program, the first of its kind in Italy, was attended by inmates aged between 14 and 21, living in a condition of social hardship, therefore at risk of deviance. The initiative, now in its third edition, was promoted by Isola Surf and by architect Paolo Pavone (who drafted the project) with the technical support of psychologist Martino Lo Cascio.
The outcomes of Surf Therapy are immediately visible, in the joy of the participants exposed to the regenerating power of the waves and to the enthusiasm of our instructors, happily involved in a socially useful project. But the real benefits are the long-term ones, linked to overcoming of an important challenge. Danilo La Mantia, founder and president of Isola Surf, explains it to us.
“For newbies, one meter waves are already a challenging condition. The sound of the breaking waves, the vision of the green wall that rises vertically and crashes down, puts our students in a weak position, they feel threatened, in danger. Condition from which they can get out by adapting, developing adequate strategies and trusting their mentors. Reading the wave cycles, understanding where to position and how to stand up are an essential part of this process of physical and psychological liberation”.
In fact, when the brain reveals a danger, it sends adrenaline to every part of the body to prepare us for action. Once this danger is overcome, once the wave has been successfully confronted, our brain produces dopamine, a chemical substance capable of bringing well-being, relaxation and self-esteem.
The cycle of fear-analysis-physical reaction-success, once experienced at sea, is successfully replicated in the inmates’ daily lives, full of challenges and hardship. The parallels between waves and their new life outside of jail (we all know this feeling after months of quarantine) are intuitive.
“Our friends from the penitentiary accomplished their technical goals and all stood up during the first lesson”. Reports Danilo with a proud smile on his tanned face. “In a week’s time they managed to overcome their fears and fully adapted themselves to rhythm of the swell. To see them walking away from the beach, smiling and confident was the best reward for our team of instructors. In the following week Mr Lo Cascio confirmed that the self esteem and physical shape of the inmates had had a tremendous improvement. That’s how powerful surfing can be in peoples lives!”
And you don’t need to be in their condition to enjoy the benefits of outdoor sports and surfing in particular. A day in the waves, accompanied by qualified instructors, can work miracles for you and your kids in these months of difficult return to normality.
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