Westward Ho! Wave Project helps youngster learn new skills

Youngsters taking part in The Wave Project's activities in Westward Ho!

Youngsters taking part in The Wave Project's activities in Westward Ho! - Credit: Roy Riley

In September and October this year the national children’s mental health charity The Wave Project partnered with Westward Waves Surf School is set to deliver a six-week Surf Therapy Course at Westward Ho! 

Nine young people took to the water for the first session on Saturday, September 11, and continued to attend throughout the course. 

The Wave Project began in Cornwall just over 10 years ago, and first came to North Devon in 2013. Working with partner Surf School Surf South West in Croyde, the project has flourished over the last eight years. 

Youngsters taking part in The Wave Project's activities in Westward Ho!

Youngsters taking part in The Wave Project's activities in Westward Ho! - Credit: Roy Riley

The Wave Project supports young people who have been referred to them for a range of different reasons including autism diagnosis, learning disabilities, physical disabilities, bullying and social isolation, challenging family life, anxiety and mental health struggles. 

Through surfing, the Wave Project creates a safe space for young people to build resilience, learn new skills, make new friends, feel part of the surfing community and connect to nature. The Wave Project North Devon aspires to make everyone to feel welcome and valued – inclusivity is at the heart of everything they do. 

The Wave Project works with referrers such as schools, social workers and GP’s to pinpoint which young people need support and get it to them as soon as possible.  The local Wave Project coordinator then works with parents/carers and families to understand the needs of each child, and work out how they can best be supported during a session to access the calming and therapeutic benefits of spending time in the ocean. 

Youngsters taking part in The Wave Project's activities in Westward Ho!

Youngsters taking part in The Wave Project's activities in Westward Ho! - Credit: Roy Riley

The Wave Project also works with volunteer surf mentors, whom undertake an online training, and a sea training session (and of course a DBS check). Once trained, volunteers can attend as much or as little as they like – helping the young people in the water on a 1:1 basis within a group setting. Helping to choose good waves for their young ‘surf buddy’, lending a hand after a wipeout and celebrating great rides – the role of a surf mentor can be really rewarding. 

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This year, the North Devon Wave Project coordinator noticed more referrals in the Bideford and Torridge area, in line with increased demand across the whole of North Devon. In order to meet the need, the decision was taken to run a pilot course in Westward Ho! Working with Mark Murray from Westward Waves, based at Sandymere on Northam Burrows, the six-week course was a real success. 

From unsure and anxious on the first week, all the participants gained confidence and enjoyed the thrill of catching waves, many of the group even progressing to riding unbroken waves by the final week of the course. 

The Wave Project have been overwhelmed by the support of their incredible and ever-growing team of volunteers – especially those stepping up to support this new pilot project. 

This included young Surf Life Savers from Bideford Bay Surf Life Saving Club, who proved themselves to be a real asset to the volunteer team. 

Youngsters taking part in The Wave Project's activities in Westward Ho!

Youngsters taking part in The Wave Project's activities in Westward Ho! - Credit: Roy Riley

Wave Project North Devon is delighted that Westward Waves has agreed to continue working with The Wave Project in delivering Surf Club sessions in 2022. Every young person who completes a six-week course is invited to come and join the Wave Project Surf Club. These are surf sessions as well as extras such as team beach cleans, rock pool safaris and surf movie nights in the colder months. The Wave Project are delighted to be running Surf Club sessions in Westward Ho! next year and hope to also deliver more Surf Therapy six-week courses there too. 

Fancy getting involved? 

Wave Project volunteers are ordinary people whose time and commitment make the service that the Wave Project offers extraordinary. If you’re comfortable in the water and a friendly face, you’d be very welcome to join the team. 

Other ways you can help include heading to the Wave Project website - www.waveproject.co.uk – and becoming a supporting member.

If you are business owner, you can email to find out how to become a business sponsor.

If you a professional working with a young person who might benefit from The Wave Project you can email jaz@waveproject.co.uk to find out how to make a referral.

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