Surf therapy charity launches new year '22 Challenge'

Torbay Weekly

A charity that runs surf therapy sessions for children and young people has launched a new year appeal to raise much-needed funds.

Wave Project - based at Goodrington, Bigbury, Croyde, Sidmouth and Westward Ho! - decided to use the winter months to do something ambitious - a campaign to raise £22k for 2022 by the end of February.

The '22 Challenge' will see people challenge themselves to 22 different things - such as going for 22 cold water dips, 22 surfs/SUPs, having 22 people to a coffee morning, walking 22 miles of coast path, or any 22 ideas of their own.

Wave Project is a registered charity that supports children and young people who experience a range of physical and mental health issues, social deprivation or social isolation.

They are referred and can attend Wave Project courses and surf clubs and are supported through surfing to build confidence and self-esteem, develop resilience, and make friends.

And £22k will allow for Wave Project to pay for 80 surf club/surf therapy sessions which cost £15,000 to surf schools plus the cost of core staff for those sessions.

A Wave Project spokesperson said: "It would be fantastic to know we have the money to be able to be able to commit to these sessions.

"While this might seem an unrealistic challenge, we really believe we can do it if we all pull together. Across the UK, we have 7,000 volunteers, 1,012 surf club parents/carers and 2,039 referrers in the Wave Project, and we really need everyone's help with this.

"One in six children in the UK struggle daily with their mental health. Issues including anxiety, loneliness, bullying and isolation have been compounded by the pandemic, resulting in rising cases of self-harm and suicidal thoughts amongst our young people.

"The Wave Project works closely with our local communities to offer as many children and young adults as possible, a safe place to build resilience, self-confidence and friendships."

Supporters include Brixham-based celebrity chef Mitch Tonks, whose Rockfish restaurants have a £1 donation on bills.

This fundraising has proved invaluable, allowing Wave Project to keep making a difference here in Devon.

"Because of Rockfish, we have been able to offer a safe umbrella," said the charity spokesperson.

"Funding for children's mental health is not keeping up with the rise in demand and it falls to charities like the Wave Project to fill the gap.

"Without generous donations and continued support, none of this would have been possible.

"In Devon, we have worked with more young surfers than ever before: 197 young people completed Barnardos' short courses before the surf therapy season started, and we've run more surf therapy courses than ever, with 20 in total in Devon, 10 on each coast!

"Surf clubs have kept growing with 280 young people in a Devon surf club.

"The Wave Project ran a pilot called 'Surf to Work' for 16 to 24 year olds on universal credit referred by the job centre, with courses run from Torbay and Barnstaple.

"Wave Rangers has continued to expand and grow this year with over 270 young people joining this year and having over 25 hours of sessions each.

"Adaptive surfing - a seated surfboard to make the surf accessible for all - has really taken off with 140 sessions, seeing more than 60 adaptive surfers.

"Wave Project have added to its specialised equipment and even more importantly have invested in instructors and volunteers.

"Devon residents won national Wave Project Awards - Frank won Young Volunteer, Brendon Prince was Fundraiser of the Year for his round-Britain SUP adventure and Max was Adaptive Surfer of the Year.

"It's been an incredible team effort, and we thank everyone involved for helping to change the tide, the ripple effect of this will continue to make a positive impact for years to come."

The last surf session of the year is always a special one - a Santa Surf took place on Bigbury Beach and Croyde as the final events in the Wave Project's year in Devon.

Unfortunately, the wind didn’t allow for the Santa SUP to take place in Goodrington.

This year in South Devon Santa arrived on an adaptive surfboard pulled by a team of volunteers, who donned reindeer attire to make Santa feel at home on the water.

Lots of our surfers wore Santa hats and brought Christmas accessories to add to their wetsuits with the volunteers also joining in with some festive accessories.

As Santa appeared from around the estuary, the surfers were stood along the edge of the car park with their parents and families waving and cheering before joining him on the beach as he surfed in before everyone headed out to catch some fun waves.

With pressure on mental health services, Wave Project are looking for more businesses to get on board. If you would like to help support, email katies@waveproject.co.uk

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