The WOW Surfing Experience (WOWSE) is an eight-week evidence based learn-to-surf program for people experiencing mental health issues. It facilitates functional recovery, while promoting social inclusion, engagement and enhanced quality of life. The primary focus of the program is to introduce surfing to participants as a way to improve physical health, mental health and well- being in a neutral, non-intrusive environment. The program uses the ocean and surfing as a conduit to explore, stimulate and facilitate positive therapy outcomes.
The program is facilitated by mental health clinicians who are also trained in learn-to-surf instructing. Each program contains 10 volunteers to match participants on a 1:1 ratio, which strengthens inclusion and social connection. Each week, the program addresses a different mental health theme allowing participants to learn new skills and strategies through lived experience storytelling and connection with like-minded individuals. Clinical expertise facilitates functional recovery and meaningful connection. A therapeutic graded approach is essential to promote recovery in a supported environment rather than overwhelming participants. Through involvement in this program, participants gain the opportunity to learn how to use surfing as a coping strategy for their mental health.