Surf Therapy: Beat Depression & PTSD

You could’ve never imagined how fast the ocean and surfing can change your life. Surf therapy as a treatment for PTSD, anxiety, and stress has helped hundreds of people recover and return to their normal lives.

Research on Surf therapy started in the 90s but didn't quite get the attention it deserved. It was later, in 2017, that the International Surf Therapy Organization emerged, creating a place for researchers and surf programs folks to collaborate and help people get rid of their mental health disorders.

Not only has surfing proved to be a great physical exercise, but it has also helped the patients in developing positive behavior towards life. Most participants accepted that surfing helped them become stronger mentally and emotionally.

As per the American Psychiatric Association, 3.5 % of U.S. adults become a victim of PTSD every year, with the ratio being higher in women.

Surf therapy works for everyone, regardless of their age or gender. Surfing is an adventurous sport and has its own unique healing powers. (You’ll be amazed by your transformation)

Keep reading the article to know why people call surfing therapeutic and how an individual suffering from mental health can take advantage of it.

What is Surf Therapy?

Surf therapy is a blend of surfing with organized activities customized to participants’ needs, enhancing both mental and physical well-being while fostering social connections.

While there are many risks and hazards involved with surfing, experienced instructors are there to make sure you enjoy a safe experience.

Why Should You Join A Surf Therapy Program 

It’s not necessary for an individual to be diagnosed with some sort of disorder to be a part of surf therapy…Anyone can do it!

It goes beyond just catching waves. Surf therapy provides a sensory, soothing experience that benefits the individual in many ways.

Effects on Mental Health

Surfing is great for your mental health. According to research, it helps ease stress, lower depression, treat the symptoms of PTSD, and boost your self-esteem.

Surfing is also helpful for people suffering from insomnia. In addition, the release of happy hormones like serotonin and dopamine kicks stress to the curb and uplifts your mood.

Help Treat Disorders

Surf therapy helps people battling with substance use disorders that may cause cases of drunk driving, violence, or even death. 

According to the CDC, “In 2021, 106,699 people in the United States lost their lives to drug overdoses.”

Another way it works on your brain is to lower the levels of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Surfing helps you stay focused on the task and keep your hyperactive and impulsive nature in control.

Participants diagnosed with autism also benefit from surf therapy sessions as it helps them establish better coordination, strength, and balance. By working with a group, their social interaction is enhanced, and they feel like they have a place they belong to.

With the amazing healing powers the ocean holds, it helps reduce chronic pain syndrome that otherwise may last for months.

Physical Health

Surfing is a sport that relies on your muscle power. It’s a full-body workout, strengthening muscles from head to toe. A study suggests that. Consistent regular exercise can help you kick depression and anxiety out of your life. 

Chilling out on a sunny day lets your body have the essential Vitamin D it needs to make your bones and teeth strong.

Cardiovascular Fitness

The twisting and turning on the surfboard makes your body more flexible and quick. When you are out there catching those amazing waves, your heart gets pumping, sending oxygen into your blood to keep those muscles working properly.

Staying Away From Electronics

While surfing, you have to say goodbye to your dearest tech gadgets like your cellphone, which means less screen time for everyone. It’s just the sea and you!

The detachment from tech stuff helps you concentrate 100% on the coming waves. It teaches you mindfulness by helping you focus, observe the changing patterns, catch the flow, and enjoy riding in the present moment.

Makes You Fall in Love with Nature

As the gentle waves kiss the shore, a sense of tranquility washes over you. The salty wind has its own therapeutic touch, allowing you to take a deep breath and making you forget all your worries for a while.

The calm and soothing feeling you get and the beautiful marine life you come across make you appreciate Mother Nature.

How It Works

No one’s pushing you in water. Your instructor will let you decide or have a conversation with you if you feel shy about getting into the water. You can easily learn things at your own pace. Your group will be there to support and cheer you on your remarkable efforts.

With tons of options available, you can do your own little research and find the program that suits your needs. Different organizations offer different surf therapy programs for individuals with mental health issues as well as workplace well-being.

Volunteers join the crew to make everyone feel included and connected. Each week, they tackle different mental health topics, sharing stories and tips.

You can either take a one-time session or opt for a monthly or weekly participation. After receiving proper guidance from your mentor, you are allowed to get on your surfboard and learn surfing at your own speed. 

Can Anyone Join Surf Therapy Programs?

There are no issues of age limits or other biases for getting into a surf therapy program. If you can get depression at a young age, why not start curing it at an early stage, too? 

There are cases of how surf therapy has helped children with autism, college students undergoing massive depression, and adults having suicidal thoughts.

Most people believe that they are too old or too fat to surf. But trust us, and there are surfers thin as shrimps and fat as grizzly bears on a surfboard, busy ripping those awesome waves.

Joining a surf therapy program would mean traveling out of your comfort zone, but later, it becomes more like a place you feel most connected to.

Remember, you are not competing to be the champ of the pipeline. Rather, enjoy a great time on your board and absorb the positive energy that surrounds you.

If you’ve never surfed before in your life, it’s recommended to practice swimming in a pool or take a few surfing lessons.

Inform the lifeguard about what you have in mind, and if there aren't any lifeguards around, don't even think of going solo because nothing is more precious than your life.

Risks Associated With Surf Therapy

Surfing, like any other sport, comes with its own set of hazards and injuries. But don’t worry, with expert mentors keeping an eye on you, you won’t get in trouble. Some of the potential risks you’ll find are

  • Surfer’s ears, which can damage your hearing
  • Accidents and injuries
  • Drowning
  • Getting exposed to bacteria, toxins, and harmful algae
  • Shark attacks (chances are quite low)
  • Skin Irritation
  • Breathing issues


Now you know how mind-blowing surf therapy can be. Beyond its physical benefits, surfing works wonders for the mind. It naturally reduces stress and symptoms of PTSD and makes you feel happier, stronger, and more resilient.

The best part is that this therapeutic approach does not involve the use of medicines or other costly methods. It’s all about healing yourself with the magical power of the ocean. Surf therapy is not designed just for the pros, and it’s for everyone. 

So, get yourself out of life’s misery – join a group of like-minded people and give your mind and body a chance to experience something exceptional!

James Davis

Written by James Davis

I'm a true California local, and I've spent my life riding the waves along our stunning coastline. Surfing has always been my greatest love, and in my writing, I try to capture its genuine essence. My words aim to transport you into the heart of the surf culture, where the ocean and surfers come together in perfect harmony.

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