International Surf Therapy Organisation’s conference is making waves

Date posted

2 December 2020


An Edinburgh Napier PhD student will join some of the biggest changemakers in surf therapy this week at an international conference.

Jamie Marshall – who is undertaking the world’s first dedicated PhD in surf therapy at Edinburgh Napier – is part of the speaker line-up at this year’s 2020 International Surf Therapy Organisation’s Making Waves symposium.Jamie Marshall surfing copyright of Ken Pagliaro

Held online for the first time, the conference will focus on a number of key topics including the mental health benefits of surfing, ending sexism and stereotypes in surfing, creating safe spaces for BIPOC and BAME communities alongside restoring the ocean as a place of healing for girls and women.

Surf therapy is a method of intervention using surfing as a structured activity to promote psychological, physical, and psychosocial well-being. Surf therapy organisations exist worldwide to serve vulnerable youth, veterans, people with disabilities, post-conflict settings, first-responders, individuals caught in addiction, homelessness, crime, and more.

Jamie’s PhD – which he is studying in collaboration with the University of New South Wales - will seek to understand the theory behind a range of organisations around the world using surfing to combat challenges associated with mental health, disability, poverty and adverse environments.

Funded by Edinburgh Napier, a range of industry support is also backing the research project, with principle partners including the International Surf Therapy Organisation and Wavegarden Scotland, the pioneers behind the world’s first cold water wave pool coming to Edinburgh. Future collaboration within artificial waves offers the potential to take surf therapy research to the next level.

Joining Jamie at the conference is a range of keynote speakers and panellists, including Dr Easkey Britton and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Ilwad Ewan, who, through the Elman Peace Centre in Somalia, has established the first-ever surf therapy programme on the beaches near the country’s capital Mogadishu.

Jamie said: “The International Surf Therapy Organisation Conference is a unique coming together of practitioners, researchers, advocates and beneficiaries to talk about both the present and future of surf therapy. Such global collaboration is how way can make surf therapy available to all, on prescription, wherever it is needed. For the first time this unique conference is available online and accessible for anyone who wants to get on board and join in the discussion.”

The International Surf Therapy Organisation (ISTO) is non-profit and facilitates a global community of surf therapy organisations. Through the power of partnership, ISTO contributors increase the recognition of surf therapy as a proven health intervention by sharing outcomes, collaborating on research, and advocating for its wider use.

You can register for the conference here. More information on Jamie’s research can be found here or you can follow his latest updates through his Instagram page @stokedresearch.

Images courtesy of Ken Pagliaro.