WOW (Waves of Wellness Foundation)
Bondi Beach, New South Wales, Australia
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
Noosa, Queensland, Australia
Office phone: 0402 933 481
WOW (Waves of Wellness) provides specifically designed surfing programs to support those who are struggling with their wellness or just want to have real conversations about wellbeing.
It was designed to offer a less confronting mental health service to individuals who enjoy being outside and close to the ocean, but don’t always have the ability to access this.
WOW’s roots were formed within the OneWave movement, which has been running mental health and wellbeing programs since 2014.
In February 2017 Waves of Wellness (WOW) Foundation launched as an official surf therapy charity and began delivering programs in various locations across Australia.
WOW holds ASI accredited surf school status for locations around Australia.
Joel Pilgrim, a mental health Occupational Therapist and former OneWave Mental Health manager leads WOW nationally.
The organisation addresses the need for innovative solutions in the mental health space with a range of instructors who are experienced surfers and ocean enthusiasts, while also being accredited mental health professionals. The approach to surfing with participants is very different, providing them with skills to promote overall health and wellness.
The WOW instructors have been drawn to surfing because of the positive impact getting into the ocean has on the participants wellbeing, regardless of surfing ability. At WOW, instructors focus on surfing skill development but also the importance of having fun in the water.
All WOW instructors are qualified ASI surfing instructors, as well as trained mental health professionals. This means the instructors are also psychologists, occupational therapists, social workers, and mental health nurses. Staff have also completed specialised mental health training such as mental health first aid, suicide prevention courses, and wellbeing workshops.
WOW provides 6 and 8 week surf therapy programs. Each session has up to 10 participants, 2 facilitators, and runs for a duration of 2 hours. The first 30 minutes involves an “expression session” where WOW staff facilitate a wellness discussion with the group. Following this, participants receive a 1.5-hour surf experience tailored to their ability, whereby the weekly mental health concepts are put into practice.
To reach these individuals in need, WOW works closely with local health and community services to ensure that at risk individuals have access to the programs. Programs are provided for all ages ranging from youth, to adults, across not only mental health and wellbeing, but also veterans and emergency services personnel experiencing PTSD.
After completing the WOW program individuals are encouraged to continue to surf through linkage with local surf schools, come back as volunteers, and support others in their wellness and learn to surf experience.
WOW delivers programs nationally. Each location is perfect for beginner surfing. WOW teaches cultural awareness, beach safety and environmental awareness at each of their sites.
All participants are encouraged to reflect on their wellness and check in with each other before any surfing takes place. This allows everyone to soak in the elements around them, and get into a positive headspace to embrace the natural environment before starting to surf.