Paddle boarders 'stand up' to mental health
- Credit: Alex Walton Photography
Sea and surf lovers Evie Smith-Woolley and Charlotte Norton have been making waves in Sidmouth by helping people who live with the challenge of poor mental health and inviting them to join their ‘tribe’.
“Depending on the sea conditions, we surf, body board, paddle board, kayak or simply just have a dip in the sea to wash our worries away,“ explains Charlotte, a volunteer ‘tribe leader’ of OneWave Sidmouth.
OneWave is a non-profit surf community raising awareness of mental health with a simple recipe: salt water, surfing and fluorescent clothing to make an invisible issue visible.
Started in 2013 by Grant Trebilco in Australia, OneWave has spread all over the world with around 200 groups now taking part.
In 2019 Sidmouth joined the initiative and ‘tribe leaders’ Evie and Charlotte now run frequent sessions on the beach.
Speaking to the Herald, the duo said: “We believe that everyone should have the chance to feel the benefits of the sea and talk openly about mental health without fear of being judged.
“Our aim is to break down the stigma surrounding mental health and to make it easier for people to speak out and to know that it’s ok to not be ok.
“In the challenging times we are experiencing with Covid, mental health issues are on the rise and it’s very easy to feel isolated with our problems. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to look after our mental health and to know that we are not alone.
“Anyone can join in, there’s absolutely no pressure to talk but there is always someone to listen if you do. Sometimes, all it takes is a friendly face and a healthy dose of ‘vitamin sea’ to feel better than when you arrived. All the participants feel the benefits, it’s a free therapy that can really make a difference.”
One attendee told Evie and Charlotte: “OneWave has given me the opportunity to integrate my love of the sea with my need to look after my mental health in a more proactive manner. It is a safe space where I can go and either let off steam about the week I’ve had, or I can say nothing at all and just enjoy the existence. Coming together with like-minded people for chats and fun is always a good thing, and it has encouraged me to try things other than swimming. There is something so special about the sea and for the few hours I’m at OneWave all my troubles ebb away with the tide.”
According to OneWave, research has shown that ‘blue therapy’ is incredibly beneficial for both mental and physical health conditions along with general wellbeing. The joy of being out on the water in a group setting allows people to laugh, open up and communicate more freely.
Evie and Charlotte have set up an online fundraising page to purchase more equipment for the group.
“Sadly we no longer have use of the water sports equipment we used to have but we are hoping to find funding to be able to continue the project,” said the pair.
“We have set up a justgiving page to ask for donations to ensure we are able to offer the same experience, any help would be gratefully received.”
Evie and Charlotte are hoping to raise £1,500 to help towards the cost of the equipment. You can support the fundraiser by visiting: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/onewavesidmouth
Unfortunately under the new restrictions, OneWave has been forced to postpone their sessions but will restart as soon as allowed.
To keep up to date with OneWave Sidmouth you can follow them at @onewave_sidmouth on Instagram and Facebook.