To many surfing is a cure-all. Be it a rough day at work, a long day of class or just day-to-day stress, there is no medicine quite like getting in the water for an hour or two. However, there are others out there for whom surfing provides actual medical treatment. Research is being done around the world testing surfing’s therapeutic effects for all kinds of maladies. In a world full of symptom-specific pills and IVs, doctors and patients alike are beginning to understand the value of treatment that addresses a patient’s overall well-being. Surfing uniquely provides both broad and specific benefits. Engaging in a challenging ocean sport like surfing encourages overall health, happiness and a sense of personal accomplishment. However, surfing also provides physical exercise while giving patients the benefits of hydrotherapy.
Experts differ on what they believe the most significant benefit of surf therapy for PTSD. Occupational therapist, Carly Rogers, who developed the Jimmy Miller program, based it around Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow theory.” The theory asserts that once a person can get “in the zone,” a positive, focused state of being, for one activity, a person can feel fulfilled and happy. Surfing allows those struggling with PTSD to get in their zone, and this can flow into all areas of their life. Others argue that the body movement spurred by surfing causes a shift in the metabolic processes of the brain. This changes brain chemistry, translating into healing and relief from PTSD. Another answer could be that surfing is so physically taxing it allows those with PTSD to sleep soundly, and the focus required from surfing distracts their thoughts from disturbing memories.