How Learning to Surf Could Be the Best Natural “Medication” Against Depression and Anxiety

How Learning to Surf Could Be the Best Natural Medication

Surfing is a sport that is fun and challenging in equal measure. This article looks at the therapeutic potential of learning to surf and how heading out to catch a wave might just be the natural medication you need if you feel that your anxiety or depression level is getting out of hand but you are not so keen on taking meds for the rest of your life.

The Power of Physical Exercise

Engaging in regular physical exercise is a well-established method for combating mental health issues, and surfing is no exception. The rhythmic paddling, the dynamic balancing on the board, and the sheer effort required to catch a wave is definitely a full-body workout. Exercise causes your body to release endorphins, which lift your mood, promote a sense of well-being and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Surfing, with its combination of cardiovascular and strength training, provides a holistic approach to physical well-being that extends beyond the typical gym routine.

 “Anxiety is often understood at someone’s personal alarm system, which was very useful in older centuries when we had to constantly be aware of possible danger in order to survive. Ex. Where is the closest cave to hide and protect my family so that we don’t get eaten by a dangerous animal in the area.” Or “Where can I find food today to survive? “

However nowadays, many people struggling with anxiety have their alarm system triggered when it shouldn’t, and when our mind gets out of hand it can create a panic attack. We make up potential risks or negative outcome in our mind while in reality it’s not likely at all that such a bad thing will happen. When you are out there surfing in the ocean, fighting against the crashing waves, pushing yourself to pass the break, then to catch a wave, it’s not only a physical exercise:  You get into a fight of flight mode where your anxiety finally has a purpose and actually helps you in your “wave hunting session”.

Anxiety becomes your friend because it helps you be super focused about your environment, anticipate the sets of waves coming, other surfers’ position in the line up and your odds of getting to the right spot to catch a wave. When you finally catch a nice wave after all those efforts it’s so rewarding and it brings instant happiness, which then fights sadness and depression. Can surfing be a medication? Absolutely.” – Sebastien, founder of Surf Expedition, a Company focused on helping people through their journey of learning how to surf and becoming a competent surfer.


Nature as a Healing Force

Surfing also takes you away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and immerses you in the healing embrace of nature. The sound of crashing waves, the feel of the sun and sea breeze on your skin, and the vastness of the ocean all contribute to a sensory experience that can have a calming effect on the mind. Research indicates that exposure to nature reduces cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress, and promotes a sense of tranquility. Learning to surf becomes not just a physical activity but a therapeutic journey reconnecting individuals with the natural elements essential for mental well-being.

Mindfulness in Motion

Surfing is an activity that demands complete concentration and presence in the moment. The need to read the waves, maintain balance on the board, and navigate the ocean requires a level of mindfulness that can be a powerful distraction from intrusive thoughts and worries. The meditative aspect of surfing, combined with the rhythmic motion of the waves, helps us achieve a state of flow—a mental state where one is fully immersed in an activity, fostering a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that can combat the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Building a Supportive Community

Learning to surf often involves becoming part of a close-knit community of fellow surfers. The camaraderie among surfers, whether beginners or seasoned wave riders, creates a support system that goes beyond the shores. The shared experience of conquering fears, celebrating successes, and learning from failures fosters a sense of belonging and social connection. Research consistently shows that social support is a crucial factor in mental health, and the surfing community provides an environment where individuals can feel understood and supported.

Overcoming Fear and Building Resilience

Surfing is not without its challenges, and mastering the art requires facing the fear of the unknown. Learning to navigate the waves teaches individuals to confront and overcome their fears, building resilience in the process. The mental strength developed while tackling the unpredictable nature of the ocean can translate to increased confidence and coping skills in the face of life’s uncertainties.

If you are trying to fight back against depression and anxiety, learning to surf can be a holistic and transformative approach worth trying.


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