International Surf Therapy Conference 2019

By Emma Bracken

Posted on 09 Jan 2020

ISTO “Go Far, Go together”- the third annual International Surf therapy Conference 2019.

It was an incredible experience for Ability Surf to join forces with 35 other surf therapy organisations in California in November 2019 at the International Surf Therapy Conference held by the International Surf Therapy Organisation (ISTO). To be in the same room as 200 other passionate, like-minded individuals in the early stages of surf therapy being recognised internationally as a prescribed therapy, was nothing short of mind blowing.

Prior to this, I had been witnessing the significant benefits and changes in the lives of the surfers at Ability Surf through observations in sessions, goal-based measurements and parent reports. Prior to this I knew Ability Surf was meeting a huge need in our local community. I knew and could see the emotional, mental, physical and sensory benefits which were rippling (pun intended!) across to other areas of the surfers’ lives (e.g increased self-esteem, emotional regulation, social confidence).

What I didn’t know, was that Ability Surf was part of a growing collective of Surf therapy organisations which are paving the way for surf therapy to become recognised internationally as a prescribed therapy. Throughout those 5 days, we had incredible practitioners (Psychologists, Doctors, Researchers, Occupational Therapists, Exercise Physiologists) who presented to us about the growing evidence and research papers outlining the impact of surf therapy on various populations including people with physical disabilities, Autism, PTSD and other mental health challenges. Some of these surf practitioners have been providing their service for up to 15 years!

Being in the presence of all of these incredible people solidified the importance of surf therapy and Ability Surf in our community. It also provided me with an immense sense of belonging, that Ability Surf is part of collective group and together we truly can go further.

As highlighted in the ISTO Press release:

The best practices of ISTO state:

• To provide best practice, we must consider a holistic approach to healthcare, including the outdoor

environment. Nature-based therapies offer added benefits to those carried out in traditional settings.

• Surf therapy, like all therapy, should be strengths-based and recovery-focused, centered around the ‘whole person.

• Surf therapy must include a rigorous approach to safety provision, governance, evidence, and inclusion in practice.

Ability Surf is stoked to be a contributing member to ISTO, and so appreciative of all the incredible work they are doing to bring our organisations together. I am also so excited for opportunities for research for Ability Surf in the near future.

More information about the ISTO organisation here.



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