Thinking what our lives might be like if we couldn’t take that quick dip, surf, paddle or simply stroll along the beach whenever we feel the urge. This luxury is something that not every Islander has the opportunity to experience and because of this, three local care workers who all share a passion for the water; Dominic Booth, Max Wiltshire and Seán Burke made it their mission to fix this.
“After taking a number of our service users out into the ocean and experiencing first hand the benefits it held for them, the brain wave that is now ‘Healing Waves’ was born.” said Dom. “Individuals that struggled with anxiety, sensory implications and other conditions were suddenly relaxed, positive and engaged in the moment.” Added Max. People with limited communication that previously struggled to make choice began requesting “surfing now” regularly, making it clear this was something that many truly enjoy. As Seán points out; “We couldn’t understand why something like this wasn’t already in place for individuals with disabilities, conditions and mental health within Jersey. Water sports are at the heart of Jersey’s culture and lifestyle, that many islanders live their lives around, so we knew this had to happen.”
Healing Waves has been set up as a charity so that anyone can access free of charge, with sessions being run in volunteer’s holidays and time off from full-time work. Unveiled in July 2017 HW received an overwhelming response, with first sessions running from September to October. Having teamed up with the Merton Hotel, they also utilise Flowrider sessions throughout December. “We didn’t want families and athletes having to wait until May 2018 to come together again, so this was prefect in keeping our community alive. The Merton Hotel was fantastic and really showed what a strong community we have here in Jersey.” says Seán. “It can be vital for parents to network and support each other, our sessions allow them this opportunity and much needed respite.” added Dom.
While fundraising events have been taking place, Healing Waves have been reaching out to local sponsors and grants to assist them in their mission. This summer season is already looking exciting. With the help of Enable Jersey they have managed to secure the Channel Island’s first wheelchair adaptive surfboard that is being delivered along with training in May by Surfability CIC, a surf therapy company from South Wales. They have also purchased a box trailer that will be converted into a disability changing facility, for those less physically able, or simply require extra privacy. The development is going to be a community project, with work being undertaken by La Moye Prison and input from the Occupational Therapy Department. Max explains their goals; “Our aim is to enable individuals, breaking down those unnecessary barriers providing each athlete with the opportunity for their own unique and valuable experience. We hope that in doing this individuals will leave feeling more empowered, relaxed and confident in their own abilities, transferring this into their everyday lives.”
It’s clear that Healing Waves are not just on a mission to make our waters inclusive for all, but to equally raise awareness of the ‘Blue Mind’ message. “The evidence of Ocean Therapy and Blue Health is on the rise with more research backing its health benefits, services and values.” says Max, “As Dr Wallace J Nichols – Author of Blue Mind states, “These can be cognitive, emotional, psychological and physiological. Ultimately the ocean holds something for us all.”
Not alone in their mission to make Jersey’s waters inclusive, a large number of members of the public have come forward offering time and experience to the cause, as Seán points out “We really have formed a little family and would simply not be able to run at the level we have without each and every one of them. We are beyond grateful and hope they know this.” Dom agrees, “Likewise, a huge thanks to all the public, business’ and professionals who continue to back this mission and donate to us with equipment, their talent and financial support alike.”
The response is really measured by the satisfaction of the user. As one parent explains, “When he was in the water he had the hugest smile and I could see for the first time in a long time, my child outside actually enjoying himself and having fun. It is hard to put into words how happy as a parent this made me feel.”
Sessions are scheduled to return in May until late September Their service is not limited to the time Athletes spend in the water, but from the day they get in contact and they arrive at the beach. Volunteer and athlete profiles are exchanged prior to sessions, so they can learn a little about each other, in turn lowering anxieties. All athletes are paired on at least a 1:1 basis to keep things safe, effective and person centred as possible. So the question is, Shouldn’t we all be tapping into ‘Blue Health’ more often and each finding our own ‘Blue Space’ whether in, on, under or around the water?
Healing Waves aims to make Jersey an inclusive place, by reaching out to more islanders and tourists living with conditions, disabilities and mental health. Offering them new, meaningful, fun experiences that some might not be able to have otherwise. If you know of anyone who could benefit from this service, please urge them to get in touch via email. Equally, if you could be of any assistance whether you are looking to give your time, donate equipment or financial support please find the email below.
The Healing Waves team tell us they have have “ideas coming out their ears” with much more planned for the years ahead. Make sure to follow them on social media: @HealingWavesUK