Benefits of Surfing?

Melissa Lyttle | Tampa Bay Times

Numerous non-profit organizations, such as Surfers Healing and Surfers for Autism, focus on the potential positive effects surfing can have on people with autism.  For example, on August 19-20, Surfers Healing will host its Annual Gala and international surf camp in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.  In addition, a recent Surfers for Autism event in Tampa Bay brought about 2,500 visitors.  At the Tampa Bay event, registrants paid no fees for the surf classes and local businesses provided refreshment.  Because the camp is comprised entirely of children with autism and their families, parents believed that their children felt relaxed and comfortable during the event.  As one parent noted, “here, nobody is strange.”

Organizations like Surfers Healing and Surfers for Autism support advocacy and promote the message that surfing can bring great benefits to people with autism, but according to a recent BBC News article, it is unclear where there is any direct positive benefit.  Dr. Mathew White, the Senior Research Fellow at the European Centre for the Environment and Human Health (ECEHH), believes that most of the evidence provided by these organizations has been anecdotal.  He also notes that the actual positive impact a surfing camp may have on a child with autism may be largely dependent on the quality of instruction being provided, and, while previous sessions have shown positive changes in behavior, positive changes are not automatic for every child.