Ever wonder why the ocean feels so darn good? Or why you can start a morning feeling like utter crap, only to be pulled out of the mental and emotional turmoil with a solid surf session? There’s a reason for this: According to recent research, there are a ton of variables that contribute to the “feel awesome” powers of surfing, both mental and physical. So if you’ve ever needed a reason to score some more time on the waves, read on.
Physically, surfing is a great cardiovascular workout, and uses muscles all over the body. The upper body muscles are used to do the paddling work, whereas the leg muscles help to guide the board once you’re up and riding. And since surfing involves more time paddling and balancing, you get a kickass core workout. Combine this with the sheer time commitment (most surfers are out paddling for at least an hour), and you’re building endurance and stamina as well.
Yogis will appreciate surfing’s ability to increase balance and flexibility. The skills gained in surfing help carry over to one’s yoga practice, and vice-versa. Perhaps this is one of the reasons we see so many opportunities for combo surfing-and-yoga retreats. (Can you say full-body bliss?) The two also demand increased focus, helping to create all around feelings of presence. Many surfers will describe this as “being in the moment.” This mind-body connection is exactly what we strive for in yoga. Snagging some more time outdoors while you find that connection is a wonderful additional perk.
In fact, the benefits of surfing are so apparent that a group of French doctors and health professions started prescribing surfing to their patients, describing the practice as “miraculous.” Biarritz, a cute little French seaside town has become the first in the world to prescribe surfing lessons as a form of medication. The lessons are said to help ward of all sorts of ailments, from heart disease to depression. About 20 doctors have come together to advocate this new prescription, insisting that the practice works wonders.
The authorized prescription consists of a 12-week course in surfing, paddleboard, swimming, or Nordic walking, depending on the patient’s situation. And it’s not costing their social security system a single euro.
From Telegraph UK:
The €300,000 (£211,000) required to offer surfing or other sports lessons to the current 200 beneficiaries comes from the Biarritz town hall and two private health associations. Patients are only asked to contribute €10 per session.
Guillaume Barucq, a surfer and Biarritz doctor, states “the waves that break in the water or on the sand break molecules that liberate negative ions. They improve the oxygenation of tissue, your mood, tone, quality of sleep, and concentration.”
Other benefits of surging include exposure to water and sunlight (hello, Vitamin D!), which have both been proven to have mental and physical health benefits. And here at Wanderlust, we’re big believers that you can never get enough play.
From Surfer Today:
Outdoor physical activity is key to success. The 12-week surfing therapy will likely be intended to other French regions. So, even if you’re not a doctor, remember to prescribe surfing to your friends and family. Sooner or late, they will thank you.
But the encouragement of surfing as a form of treatment isn’t just about getting people healthy. It’s about changing the way the European health care system functions.
Barucq adds, “It’s also about enacting cultural change in a country where 90 per cent patients who come out of the doctor’s surgery do so with a medical prescription.”
While we’re not one to take an medical authority, getting outside sounds a heck of a lot better than getting in the doctor’s office. If you’re able, find a way to hit the waves and notice any healing benefits it might provide. At the very least, you’ll get a killer workout.
Amanda Kohr is the editor at Wanderlust. You can find her exploring new highways, drinking diner coffee, and on Instagram.