In Saint-Malo, the benefits of surfing on mental health

In Saint-Malo, the benefits of surfing on mental health

“Helen, look!” Olivier Mainguy sketches a broad smile after concentrating for a long time. The almost forty-year-old managed to kneel on his board, riding a wave that crashed on the beach of Rochebonne, in Saint-Malo (Ille-et-Vilaine). The fifth session of surf therapy practiced under a blazing sun will have brought its share of emotions to the three Rennes residents of the Association for the accommodation and support of disabled people (Alaph), of which Olivier is a member. “Some lie down, others stand up. It depends on everyone’s ability. The important thing is that they discover the pleasure of skiing”, explains Hélène Rouault, the tanned instructor behind the activity.

The founder of the Hina surf school understood the original benefits she could get from her favorite sport during her ten years as a specialist educator for Child Protection in the Saint-Malo region, where she accompanied young people. from 3 to 18 years placed. “I started setting up sliding projects and organizing surfing weekends. I immediately saw the benefits: the sea made it possible to avoid confrontation with the child”, recalls the ex-volleyball player. -high level ball and coach.

Addictions and post-traumatic stress

Her state instructor certificate in her pocket after a change of direction, she created her club in 2017, and developed “therapeutic” surfing there. A wave coming from the United States, as often, where it was first set up from the 2010s to bring some comfort, among others, to war veterans who are victims of post-traumatic stress syndrome.

In France, several health establishments (clinics, thalassotherapy centres), particularly on the Atlantic coast, integrate the discipline into the care of mental illnesses or the rehabilitation of disabled people. In Saint-Malo, Hélène Rouault welcomes vulnerable people from both the Dol-de-Bretagne nursing home and an addiction service in Rennes. The health option represents 40% of his time at Hina surf, the rest being devoted to classic lessons. “Surfing, and especially the waves, can greatly contribute to improving self-confidence”, argues the 44-year-old former competitor, her eyes riveted on the calm sea from her high-perched room.

“Reclaiming a devalued body”

Malonn, 8, and Adonis, 9, arrive from the city hospital with their supervisors for a sliding session. Both children have attention difficulties. After observing the weather conditions and training on the sand including a reminder of the safety rules, the boys smeared with sunscreen follow Hélène Rouault into the water. Like Malonn, Adonis manages to put both of his legs on the board. “Surfing, I love,” he blurts, landing on the shore. The nurses supervising the two kids fully appreciate these small victories, which will make so many stories to tell after the sessions. “We are there to support them with their families in their construction and their lives, testifies one of them, Gwenaëlle Devigne. And life happens outside, not within our walls.”

The discipline is gaining popularity year after year. In the United States, a growing number of scientific publications mention its benefits when it comes in addition to care. In Brittany, thanks to word of mouth, Hina surf is benefiting from this enthusiasm. Rehabilitation services or associations of women victims of domestic violence, in particular, new institutions are moving towards the structure. “My oldest surfer is 87 years old,” laughs Hélène Rouault, who also has, among her students, a young person deprived of the use of his arm, now able to get on the board.

For the Rennes residents of the Alaph, this initiation to surfing offers “the opportunity to reclaim a devalued body”, explains Sébastien Casanova, their socio-educational facilitator. Sabrina Godfroy adds, she who so appreciates feeling “liberated” in contact with the sea. “As if the waves brought us back to life and erased the worries of everyday life”. Lying on the board, she gets ready. The Channel is just waiting for her.

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