Wave pools emerge as community event & health hubs

By now many of us are aware of the pluses of surfing to one’s health and well-being. Today wave pools are providing access to these benefits for people living in areas where, only a few short years ago, surfing wasn’t a feasible option. As these new, non-coastal demographics jump into the pool we are seeing surfing through a new lens where directly and indirectly the act of riding waves is making the world a better place.

The Wave in Bristol is at the forefront of this movement with the Blue Health and Surfing program, which the company initiated in addition to their well-publicized autism and adaptive surf outreach. One course uses surf therapy experts to help the mental wellbeing of vulnerable children while the other works with recovery.

“We have run two surf therapy pilots this autumn with an NHS group called Recovery Through Sport and with a charity called The Wave Project,” said Abby Richardson of The Wave. “The programs have gone brilliantly and we are looking to support further courses with them and other charities going forward.”

The Wave founder Nick Hounsfield surfing at The Wave
The Wave founder Nick Hounsfield surfing at The Wave. Photo by Image Cabin

Outside of direct immersion in the water, there is enough mojo and vitality in wave pools to benefit communities even if they aren’t in the water just yet.

The Coachella Valley Surf Club was formed last year in anticipation of providing surf access to area youth at one of the four expected desert surf parks. The group’s goal is to build community relations and provide surfing to kids who can’t make the two hour trip to the coast.

“Our club has been keeping busy while we wait on our valley pools to open,” said David Hilts of the CVSC. “Currently as all schools are closed, our focus has turned to the needs of many out-of-work families here in Coachella Valley.”

Most recently the club donated $1,200 to the Neighbors 4 Neighbors hunger outreach program in Palm Desert, a group that assists approximately 700 families a week with food and clothing. The club has also donated surfboards and wetsuits to the surf club at Desert Mirage High School in Thermal.

The Coachella Valley Surf Club is active in the desert community despite there being no public wave pools in the area.

On the other side of the equator Urbnsurf in Melbourne is throwing the inaugural Rubber Duck Party Wave in partnership with Movember, Waves of Wellness Foundation and Salty Social Club. The event will raise money for essential mental health and wellbeing services

100 rubber ducks will get tossed into the wave pool and donors will place bets on the duck of their choice to finish first to the shore. Shares in a Duck or a full Duck can be purchased with donors collecting a surf session or lesson during the event, and lunch at Three Blue Ducks Melbourne. Organisers of the event are hoping to raise thousands of dollars.

“Our surf park is an ideal venue for the event, as we can have the rubber ducks racing in The Bays, while those who donated can be getting barrelled out the back at The Point,” said Rupert Partridge of Urbnsurf.

The main target of Urbnsurf’s Duck Party Wave is to address men’s mental health, particularly suicide. The World Health Organization reported the rate of suicide in Australia at 10.4 per 100,000 people per year. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America.

The Rubber Duck Party Wave in partnership with Movember will use the Urbnsurf wave pool to raise funds for a host of men’s health issues including depression and suicide prevention.

The Wave’s Blue Health report points to wave pool benefits in a recent UK-wide survey of more than 5,000 people. In the report, 75% of surfers say that the mental health benefits of surfing are more important than the physical health benefits.

“Promoting the mental health benefits of surfing and helping people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to experience these (benefits) is a core part of Nick Hounsfield’s original vision at The Wave,” added Abby Richardson of The Wave.

As more wave pools pop up around the globe, it will be interesting to see what role they will play in the health and well being of both individuals and the larger community.

Endless Surf 2023A