Scarborough Surfing Coach on His Water Therapy Sessions and Love For the Waves
Surfing aficionado Matt Jones has made a career out of his love for the waves, working with The Wave Project to lead specialised surfing sessions for people with physical impairments
The Wave Project’s Scarborough branch was established in 2016, but the charity was originally established in Cornwall back in 2010,’ Matt explains, reflecting on the early days of the charity. ‘It started off as a pilot scheme – a partnership with the NHS to study the positive effects of cold water on people, how it effects their mood. Specifically we looked at children with anxiety and social issues to see if there was any improvement. It made a massive impact, and so we got more and more funding until it expanded to become what we are now. We run surf therapy projects, of which I am the event coordinator for North Yorkshire.’
As a young man Matt felt driven to incorporate surfing into his daily life, determined to share his love for the sport with as many people as possible. He believes that surfing is a fantastic tool for supporting your wellbeing, and this has inspired his multiple careers on the Yorkshire coast, including running his own surf coaching business, Coastal Concepts.
‘For me, surfing is an escape. Some people say surfing is quite a selfish sport, but I don’t have a problem with that,’ he laughs. ‘I take myself off for an hour or two and lose myself in it, it’s you and the wave, no one else is involved. Catch as many waves as you can, have as much fun as you can, that’s all that matters.
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‘When I turned 29 I decided to settle down more, so I started working full time as a life guard manager for the RLNI covering the Humber to the Tees. After about 10 years of that I became self-employed, starting my own surf coaching company called Coastal Concepts,’ Matt continues. ‘I run professional bespoke surf boarding courses for children, all the way up to adults in their 80s.’
The Wave Project has never been more relevant to children who may be suffering from feelings of seclusion and a lack of confidence post-pandemic. Especially for physically impaired children often excluded from ‘extreme sports’ – until now.
‘We want to remove all barriers, there’s no person we can’t get in the water and surf with’
‘We now have an adaptive arm of our surf therapy sessions – the Adaptive Surfing Hub. This allows us to take people with limited or no mobility whatsoever out on the water – amputees, those with cerebral palsy, anything,’ says Matt. ‘We supply them with modified wetsuits, beach chairs, seated surfboards, everything.’
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This wouldn’t be possible without the help of many local volunteers, who are trained by Matt and his team to deliver life-changing surf sessions which are both safe and educational.
‘We have a massive team of amazing volunteers trained by us to become surf mentors, and we even offer our own adaptive surfing qualification that we teach in-house,’ Matt explains. ‘It covers how to handle youngsters and adults who have physical barriers to the water, but also how to actually get them on a surfboard, how to teach them to ride that wave, how to best help their needs. The seated board, for example, we teach never to be operated with less than four people. These boards need the extra weight for balance as they’re so big, and in case it topples – which is very rare, but we have to prepare for these things. The students also have helmets and modified wetsuits, as do the mentors. We want to remove all barriers, there’s no person we can’t get in the water and surf with.’
Inclusion in this kind of sport was once thought impossible, which is what makes it so groundbreaking, and surfing is now being recognised in the Paralympics. Matt is proud of the distance Scarborough’s surfing community has come, and with their annual Summer Surf Challenge on the way, and a BBC film crew soon to visit their brand new hub, Matt continues to share his passion for the waves with anyone and everyone that he can.
‘For kids to be told they can’t do things other kids can, to only find out that they can do it – there’s no describing that look on their face when you experience that first wave with them. It’s pretty life changing in itself. Seeing them take that journey from being not sure, to going out in the water, to catching waves, to standing up on the board, or lying if they can’t stand – it’s amazing. It builds resilience, it builds confidence, and that carries into their day-to-day life.’
To find out more about Matt’s inspiring journey go to waveproject.co.uk or follow @the_surf_coach on Instagram