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New Wave of Surfing Therapy

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Each summer, just North of San Francisco in Bolinas, CA, Spectrum Surf Camps helps kids learn to surf. Through a therapeutic program children with special needs, including, but not limited to, autism spectrum disorder, Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, and emotional disturbances, get out into the water. The camp is limited by the small number of campers, which in turn allows for a 1:1 or 2:1 camper/instructor ratio.

“When they’re in the water they’re just like any other kid....some of them are pretty profoundly disabled, but in the water they get just as much joy as any kid in any other surf camp.”
— Natalie Pepper, talking to the Marin Independent Journal

Special educator, surfer, and Spectrum Surf Camps founder, Natalie Pepper has gathered a team of behavior specialists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, and seasoned surf instructors. This team along with peer volunteers, often from local high schools, help to create the best camp experience for each camper. While the camp can’t guarantee standing up on the board by the end of the week, they can bring the joy of being in the water.

Surfing, while bringing joy, can also be extremely therapeutic. Benefits of being in nature for mental health benefits are widely known, but surfing is especially is beneficial. The U.S. Navy has been researching and working to bring surfing to veterans as a form of PTSD therapy, investing $1 million dollars on the project as of March, 2018. It seems, for people of all walks of life, surfing is the new wave of therapy.

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