Presentation Title: Can Learning to Surf Promote Well-Being for Young People With Emotional and Behavioral Difficulties?

Abstract: This paper describes an evaluation of a 12 week surf programme specifically developed for young people excluded from main stream school in the UK. The programme, which included environmental awareness sessions alongside surfing lessons, was delivered by Global Boarders Surf School / GB Boardriders CIC in collaboration with key schools and support staff. In total 93 pupils were engaged in the evaluation, 25 in year 1 and 68 in year 2 (10 of whom acted as controls not taking part in the intervention). Pre-post measures included indices of physical health (resting heart-rate and blood pressure), self-reported life and domain satisfaction and understanding of environmental issues. Video interviews pre-post were coded for emotional content and school records were examined for details of behaviour and social interaction patterns at school. Results suggested that participants got physically fitter (mean reduction in HR of 4 beats per min), had significant improvements in satisfaction with appearance and friendship, two life domains that are especially important at this age, but not with family or social life satisfaction. Video analysis of body language and verbal statements found attitudes towards free time became significantly, and attitudes towards school became marginally, more positive post surfing. Teachers reported significant improvements in social skills and motivation among participants but no change in empathy, self-awareness or emotional control. Understanding of environmental issues (e.g. carbon footprints; bio-diesel, litter lifespan) improved significantly. The small sample, single programme delivery team and the pre-post design meant that we were unable to rule out alternative explanations for observed improvements such as, instructor/coach effects, seasonal effects and regression to the mean effects. Findings are discussed in relation to research about the beneficial effects of engaging in physical activity in natural environments and the importance of building self-esteem among young people with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

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