Surfing is Therapy
Survive. Surf. Live.
We are lucky. At least most of us are. We can travel, walk around, learn a great watersport, or skating, or skiing. We can walk out of a hut, grab a board and jump into the waves. We can have happy minds and healthy bodies. And we all want to live our life light-hearted and full.
If there is something that makes us grumpy, our favorite sport, named surfing can cheer us up instantly. There is so much power we can draw out of it.
There are people who are not so lucky. People suffering from poverty, disabilities, illness. Especially if children are the ones who carry the burden of a severe disease, life can show an ugly face.
And for them there is an interesting project we want to share with you. It is a story about the beauty of the „curing“ power of dedication, enthusiasm and most of all – surfing.
Florian Gränert is one of the founders of Therapeutic Surfing on the Island Sylt in Northern Germany, one of the few wavespots on German coasts. He is a passionate surfer himself and dedicated to giving youngsters the experience of riding waves.
Flo, you are part of the Therapeutic Surfing Project. How did it all start?
The idea of using the positive aspects of surfing in a therapeutic way was born in 2006 at the SyltKlinik which is a rehabilitation Clinic for families with children suffering from cancer. At that time, I was working there as an educator and was spending every free minute in the water myself. Surfing was so rewarding for me which led me to the thought, that all the kids suffering from illness could benefit enormously from surfing. Together with the medical and therapeutic team we developed a concept that made it possible for us to teach surfing also to those kids who where still suffering from the consequences of the cancer treatment. Today, the Surf Therapy is an essential part of the SyltKlinik’s portfolio and we proudly look back to more than 11 years of hands-on experience.
How does a regular day for you look like?
In the meanwhile, I have a half-time job at the SyltKlinik as a Sports therapist, supporting the children and adolescents in getting back to do sports and to master their everyday life actively. In the afternoon and on the weekends we go surfing or SUPing together, depending on the conditions.
In addition, as part of the project „Meer Leben“ I am organizing therapeutic Surf and SUP sessions for summer camps led by Parent Associations and Friends’ Associations for cancer-suffering children.
Particularly important to me is the realization of the „Stay Strong Surf Camps“, where adolescents suffering from illness who are not being treated at the SyltKlinik or implemented in one of the associations’ programs, can also experience the concept of therapeutic surfing.
Surfing is just like normal life – after a wipeout, you have to get back up and better carry on. Sabrina, 16
How old are the kids in your surf camps?
Each Surf Camp has a different emphasis. Generally, the young adolescents are 12 years and above. Medium to long-term, we are planning to offer camps for young adult as well as for siblings.
The focus of our camps is on stabilizing the kids both emotionally and physically. Due to the cancer treatment, most of the young people are still physically significantly impaired. Surfing helps in a playful and fun way to improve power and endurance, to train their body perception and to enhance coordination and concentration ability.
Besides the physical effects, the kids’ self-esteem is boosted and the relaxed atmosphere around peers makes it easier to cope with their disease. So a lot of positive resonance and vibes are created, helping the youngsters in their everyday-life.
Besides knowing how to swim, do the kids have to meet other criteria for joining the camp?
Of course it it helpful if the youngsters are able to swim. But this is for us and for the project not mandatory. We often have kids in our care, who can hardly swim or are unstable swimmers. Depending on the primary disease, it may be that due to amputated limbs or prostheses, swimming might not be possible at all. Our concept and our long-term experience enables us to pick up the individual exactly where he/she is, to facilitate the access to the ocean and the waves to everyone.
Who is covering the costs?
So far, the kids and their families had to bear the costs for the Surf Camp. We are currently working on a solution for the future, to reduce the costs as far as possible through donations, so everyone in need, regardless of financial background, has the possibility to join our unique program.
How does a regular surf camp day look like?
A day in our Surf Camp consists of a lot of time in and next to the water. The North Sea can be quite moody, so we have to be flexible with our schedule, planning the sessions according to the conditions. Of course there is enough time for resting and chilling to regenerate. Besides, the programme includes many other activities and workshops with sports-therapeutic and experiential value.
Which aspects make it so beneficial for the kids?
I think the kids benefit the most of the experiences and moments in the water. Many of the youngsters have never been to the ocean, let alone been surfing! When you are witnessing them riding their first waves, leaving all worries behind for this very moment – this is such a rewarding and beautiful thing.
These wonderful experiences are something no one can take away from them, making them stronger individuals.
Your contribution is very welcome and needed!
Donations can be made here directly: