Updated: Mar 14
Updated January 7th 2022
It feels like only recently mental health issues have really been brought to people’s attention and more openly spoken about. Within the mainstream media and high-profile sports, the topic of mental health has been broadcasted, spoken openly about and celebrities have been used to help bring awareness by offering advice and ways to deal with any problems they have. But what about in those smaller, less mainstream sports? The board sports we all love, surfing, snowboarding, wakeboarding, skating etc… These high adrenalin rush sports still feature a lot of people who carry weight on their shoulders. Why are we still shying away from it?
In 2020, the year the entire world was hit with a pandemic, it seemed as though everyone’s mental health took a beating. During that summer, after remaining so positive and trying my hardest to keep everyone’s spirits high, I felt the cracks starting to appear, I did my best to put tape over them and hold my head up high, but that tape didn’t hold, and I finally fell apart. Drawing from my own experience, when I finally plucked up the courage to reach out, it surprised me as to how many comments I received from people saying, “but you’re a cool surfer dude, you can’t be depressed” or “but you’re too awesome to be sad”. And that’s when it hit me… These sports we love to do, throwing ourselves down a mountain or trying not to drown whilst going at speed, they come with an attachment that’s seen to be, and I hate to say it, “cool”. There seems to be a notion that being a surfer,wakeboarder or any other board sport fanatic, means you can’t suffer with a mental health problem, because people might think of you as not being “cool” any more. This is where an outsider is wrong! This is something that we need to try and change over time, we need to make people feel more open to talking without being worried of how they will be perceived or what the consequences will be.
For many of us, getting in the sea, charging around a lake or being on snow offers a sense of relief, a distraction from what is going on inside us. It helps us to unwind and think about the problems that are affecting us. There’s so much image and status based around board sports that many people who suffer with anxiety, depression or any other form of mental health problems might see themselves as not “cool” enough to even consider hopping on a board. And then, on the flip side, there’s those of us who are struggling, but don’t want to admit it to anyone as its seen as a weakness. But ask yourself this, is it a weakness to admit you are struggling or is it a strength? Now, one thing that I’ve noticed over the past few years, is when watch a segment on tv about mental health and how a public figure copes with depression or a problem, it always seems to be something that for many of us, we do not have the access to. “I like to take a stroll around my many acres of land or swim in my private pool”. That’s not really setting realistic achievable ways of therapy for us. Neither is the seeing a private therapist twice a week due to many of us not have thousands in the bank. How can we make it more realistic and adapt it to our lives? So, what can we do within the sports we love?
It's been proven that not only do board sports help increase our physical fitness without having to set foot in a gym, but, getting in the sea for example, for a paddle can actually clear your mind and be an emotional stabilizer. Doctors have started offering water sports as an alternative to prescribed medicine. Patients that have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have reported major improvements in their sleep pattern after taking up surfing and has helped in other aspects of their life when maintaining regular time in the ocean. Many studies have shown that taking up a water sport and adding it into your exercise routine will help you not only keep your body in good shape and minimise the possibility of chronic disease, but also provides you with a way to cope with the stress and anxiety brought on by the day-to-day life. Further studies have shown that being in cold water helps delay any possible onset of Alzheimer’s and in some cases, even subside it altogether.
Speaking from experience, I know that there is definitely a calming effect that takes over me when in the water. It does feel like your problems within you either temporarily disappear, or you are distracted by something that encompasses the elements of nature, that maybe it makes you feel more grounded whilst feeling free at the same time. Those of you who spend time in the ocean, rivers and lakes will know there’s no real way to describe the feeling. When you strap into your snowboard, just the act of being in the fresh cold air Improves mental concentration, relieves stress, and helps refresh the mind. The same goes for Wakeboarding. The adrenaline alone is enough to distract a wakeboarder from daily grinds that can adds pressure to your body and mind. Throw into the mix the release of endorphins from the physical activity whilst being out on the water, and it leads to a change in mood and wellbeing. Now, I’m not saying that these sports are a cure to many of the mental health issues affecting people, but, being involved, calling yourself a surfer, wakeboarder or skater and regularly getting out there can have a huge effect on uplifting your mood and energy levels when you allow yourself to gain more Vitamin D and Oxygen, all while getting that adrenaline fix. So, why are we all a little reluctant to address our mental health within these board sports? Who knows? There’s a reason why we do these adrenaline rush sports, and the benefits maybe a lot better than we originally thought. All we need to do now is work on the awareness of mental health within board sports, check in with each other, lose the stigma and break down that barrier… Afterall, if you’re reading this, we all have something in common and we can make a difference one day at a time. Organisations Involved with Mental Health https://www.radicalclothinguk.com – Clothing brand with its roots in surf, skate, snow whilst raising mental health awareness within these sports. https://www.waveproject.co.uk – Charity set up to help kids, teenagers and young adults who suffer with mental health issues by taking them surfing, a form of therapy called surf therapy. http://www.surfaction.co.uk/index.php - Charity that helps the needs of military veterans (including TAs and reservists) and their families, especially those affected by PTSD and physical injuries or those struggling to re-adjust to civilian life. https://www.foundationwow.org – A surf therapy charity that has a vision to see a world where people understand mental health as a normal part of everyday life.