Since the Victorian Age coastal locations have been used as a destination for convalescing veterans. The idea of surfing within this context was first introduced to Cornish troops during the First World War (as depicted in the amazing play ‘Surfing Tommies’) and surfing was then taken up by many as a means to cope with the effects of battle trauma in the years that followed. Since then much research has been carried out in relation to the positive effects on our mental health of taking strenuous activity within the natural environment and the concepts of the ‘Green Gym’ and ‘Blue Gym’ are now fully recognised. It seems fitting that Surf Action continues to build on this wealth of knowledge and to develop its Residential Project within the coastal environment.
We recognize that one of the most important steps towards a Veteran’s road to recovery is the support and interaction with those with whom they shared military service. Whilst the Surf Clinics remain at the core of Surf Actions Joined-Up Recovery Model they only last for a few hours several times a week and some veterans indicated the possible benefits of a longer provision where there was more time for them to think, develop and enhance their coping strategies, strengthen peer group relationships and work on creating their individual route-pathways to recovery and plan for the future. It would also importantly benefit their partners and families by giving them a break and a chance to breathe and work on their own wellbeing.
Over the past few years Surf Action has developed a pilot residential model in order to find out what activities and content best benefit the veterans’ recovery from physical and/or psychological injuries. They have taken place at large, relatively remote properties in coastal settings such as Porth-en-Alls House and Sea View House at Prussia Cove and Northcott House at Bude (Northcott House was a former RAF convalescent home for wounded pilots so there is a particular synergy). Much has been learned from the pilot project and Surf Action is now ready to extend this provision as part of its core ‘Joined-Up Recovery Model.
Surf Action intends to run up to 3 five day Residential events each year for those veterans who have suffered a physical and/or psychological injury due to their service.
• To put them into an atmosphere which is very different from that of their day-to-day life
• To be kept relatively free from the worries of day-to-day life by being contactable by others only at specified times agreed with the veteran
• To give them the opportunity to identify,concentrate on and develop their own recovery path
• To make them more receptive to learning new things during their stay
• To benefit from on-site psychological support
• To develop strong peer support relationships
• To learn from the experiences of others and offer their own experiences to others
• To live healthily both physically and emotionally
• To discover new adjustment strategies
• To learn about other coping skills and education within a group setting
• To learn about, and the benefits of, educational, work and volunteering opportunities
• To benefit from and learning about new things
• To give their families a chance to relax and concentrate on their own wellbeing
• Daily High intensity Watersports such as surfing, co-steering, kayaking etc
• Coastal walks and environmentally beneficial activities
• One-to-one and group psychological support and education
• The benefits of the Buddy System in aiding recovery
• Creative arts workshops
• Visiting speakers on a variety of interesting and beneficial subjects
• Opportunities in education and personal development
• Pathways back into work and how to move forward within the workplace
• The benefits of volunteering
Because the venues need to be large, relatively remote buildings near the coast capable of sleeping up to 20 people, the Residentials will mostly be run outside of the main holiday season for reasons of cost and venue availability.
The living regime is very much communal and camaraderie driven with veterans being expected to help the on-site chef with meal preparation when required, washing-up and basic cleaning/tidiness.
Veterans are asked to agree specific times that they will be contactable to others via their personal mobile devices during the week and asked to turn their devices off outside of those times. This allows them to concentrate of getting the most out of the week. 24 hour emergency contact to the venues is always available via landline or Surf Action staff.
The Residentials are free to the veterans but Surf Action has a duty of care in spending charity money and asks to see paperwork that confirms any injury was incurred during a veterans’ service prior to attendance.
Dates will be promulgated on the website. For further information please contact us on: 01209 210350 or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
"I imagined the residential would be an extended version of the Friday Surf Clinics and it did have a lot of the spirit and atmosphere of that throughout the week. It had a deeper effect too because I think by having that time I’ve got to know myself better … looked at a side I was probably afraid to and found that it’s not as scary as I thought and I don’t have to do it alone. It felt safe and I felt supported … in some ways it raised a lot of questions but a lot of those questions don’t relate to the past but more what I can do to move on, what I can change to move forward..."
Ex-naval radio operator
“When I arrived with Surf Action I was apprehensive but very quickly I felt an awareness and ease in their company. No feelings of trying to explain myself existed. On the contrary without even speaking, a feeling of understanding was present.
Awareness, understanding, and a knowledge of 'what we have all been through' is very apparent, with not even a spoken work being needed. I think it makes Surf Action a VERY special group with a kindred spirit. I'm very grateful and very humbled to be invited in to be a part of that”.
Former RAF Winchman
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