How Surfing Improves Your Mental HealthAndrew Marsden
Surfing – A Girl’s Story.
Believe it or not surfing improves your mental health. Surfing has already been prescribed by doctors. Surfing heals. Because it an outdoor activity practiced in the water, it is highly recommended to those recovering from mental illnesses or traumatic events and to many is part of a daily, weekly or even monthly tonic that helps keep positivity and balance in their lives.
The world is changing and with it so is your everyday, recreational surfer. In an environment where you are the only human being hooked up to the great planetary rhythm of the ocean, it’s easy to mentally explore why we keep coming back to it and why it feels good. But don’t just take our word for it, real people and real stories make a difference.
We caught up with friend and fellow Wild Atlantic Surfer Ali who wanted to share some of her experiences of surfing and how a life of being connected to the ocean was the positive draw when she needed it and has been her sanctuary in so many ways.
‘The ocean…vast and humbling. From a very young age, I’ve been drawn to the sea.
A massive part of this comes from my dad’s influence. He has always spent a lot of time in the water, kayaking, surfing, bodyboarding, body surfing, paddle boarding and swimming.
My earliest memory of the sea was when I was around 4 years old, being thrown around in massive waves in Crete. I remember feeling exhilarated by the wildness of the waves…being picked up and thrown around by the water. I vividly remember the feeling of salty skin, bloodshot eyes and tangled hair. I loved it so much then and I still do today.
I started paddle boarding with my dad in my late teenage years. This was a calm, chilled way to be out in the sea. The feeling of getting on the board and paddling away from land has always appealed to me because I love being on my own. Out on the SUP (paddle board) there is only the vast sky above and the vast sea below. Completely peaceful. It can be time to enjoy thinking of nothing or processing thoughts that otherwise are interrupted in busy day-to-day life. Out in the sea, it’s only you and as many, or as little, thoughts as you want.
I’ve always felt that nothing else matters when I’m in the sea. Past things don’t matter, future things don’t matter, only the present moment matters. Totally disconnected from life but totally connected to what life really is.
It’s a place to absorb energies and to reset.
As the years went on, I fell even more in love with that feeling and developed an ability to connect deeper.
Getting my wetsuit on and getting into the water was something that I looked forward to doing more and more.
There have been so many times in the sea that have become a big part of who I am.
A couple of years ago, my life took a bit of a turn. I went through a significant relationship break up, resulting in everything feeling like it was turned completely upside down. At this point, I needed the sea more than ever. It was then that I decided to learn to surf. I wanted to experience another aspect of moving with the waves. I had a couple of surf lessons to grasp the basics, bought my first board (a soft top 8ft beginner board), and that was where my love for surf really began.
Every weekend I escaped to the sea. Sometimes with my dad, but mostly on my own. I improved a little and began spending a bit more time up on my board than being thrown off it, and I quickly became addicted to this feeling. I’m by no means a great surfer (very far from it in fact), but I am passionate about the ocean, connecting with the waves and in allowing myself to totally reset through this connection with nature.
Even when I felt like I was carrying heavy things through life, the ocean was a constant. When I’m surrounded by it, I’m weightless. The ocean takes it all away.
I’ve been on a couple of solo surf trips to Ericeira in Portugal over the past year, and the people that I’ve met and experiences that I’ve had there have shown me even more how a connection with nature, and particularly the water, can enhance your life more than anything else in the world. It’s free therapy. Time in nature, time in the water, however you like, is priceless. You soon realise that everything is connected and that making the most of the natural environment is what it is all about. It’s just you and the wave. Nothing else matters.
Everything in life is cyclical. Good times and difficult times come and go, exactly as the tides come and go. I’ve learnt not to resist these phases, but instead, embrace them all for what they are.
Almost two years down the line since I began to surf, I have now improved (a little), have progressed to my 9ft longboard (which I’m wildly in love with), and am just fully embracing the freedom and playfulness that I can experience through being in the sea. It really doesn’t matter if you’re catching massive waves, or just riding in on the white waves, or even if you’re not catching any at all. If you’re enjoying yourself and respecting the sea, then you’re succeeding.
The sea has been my saving grace in so many ways and I am endlessly thankful for that.
I’m not an accomplished surfer or anything even close, but I have learned so much from the sea, and that’s what matters to me. The mental, physical and emotional health benefits to be experienced through immersing yourself in the elements and all that this miraculous planet has to offer are endless.
So, go outside. Breathe. Have the sky as your ceiling and let the sea teach you how to fly. ‘
“Time in nature, time in the water, however you like, is priceless. You soon realise that everything is connected and that making the most of the natural environment is what it is all about. It’s just you and the wave. Nothing else matters”