Surf Therapy Transforming Lives at Youth Encounter

In Term 1, 2024, Youth Encounter had the pleasure of facilitating our Surf Therapy Programme for a group of four students from Te Puke High School.  Before their involvement in this programme, this group reported a minimal understanding of their values, low self-worth and connection with self, and a lack of meaningful relationships with whānau and peers.

Youth Encounter’s Surf Therapy Programme is a unique activity-based therapy that provides support for young people who will often not engage in traditional methods of counselling.  This programme is an approach to therapy that incorporates techniques of cognitive behavioural and narrative therapy into fun surfing activities that empower participants to Live Life Wide Open.  Throughout the seven weeks that we facilitated this programme, the group from Te Puke High School showed a high level of engagement and successfully completed the course.  In doing so, they were provided with support and strategies to improve their mental well-being and social interactions for healthier whānau.  Within this programme, our strategic outcome focus at Youth Encounter is to facilitate young people, struggling with mental health, trauma, neurodiversity, and other challenges, to find a more secure identity by:
·       increasing self-worth through strengthening mana
·       having more meaningful relationships with whānau through understanding their          whakapapa
·       engaging in values-based learning (mātauranga) for a healthier connection with self
·       developing social skills to grow health relationships (hononga)

At Youth Encounter, our commitment to empowering young individuals extends beyond traditional therapy sessions. We believe in harnessing the transformative power of nature and adventure to unlock the incredible potential within each person. That's why we've integrated the Live Life Wide Open Framework into our Surf Therapy program, offering our young people a unique opportunity to embark on a journey of self-discovery and growth. We take our youth on a forward journey on the pathway of exploration and empowerment, guided by the eight modules of the Live Life Wide Open Kaupapa.

Youth Encounter has employed Surf Therapy as an innovative and non-confrontational way of delivering fun and meaningful therapy to young people.  Studies have shown that, for youth in need of emotional and social support, Surf Therapy increases “self-concept, emotional regulation and social competencies, re-engagement with school, decreases in behavioural problems reported post-intervention, and increased social connections with surfing peers.” Surf Therapy has also been proven to help young people with disabilities.  Studies have shown improvements in physical fitness, social development, self-confidence, behaviour, sleep, and reduced levels of anxiety

After engaging in our Surf Therapy programme, this group all reported an increase in understanding of their values, a greater connection with the self, and more meaningful relationships with others.  The participants quoted that they “felt included and it made me happy", “helped me think about my future” and that they were “motivated to try new things”. 

After having a group of students participate in group surf-therapy at Youth Encounter, a teacher aid at Te Puke Intermediate also reported;

All six students have thoroughly enjoyed your Surfing Therapy Programme and they all talk positively about your team. They have all gained in confidence, faced their fears, had a good laugh and learnt to surf. Thank you. We too have seen positive changes at school. They are now making better choices at school and I am sure they will now contribute to our local community in a positive way. We can't thank you enough for investing your time, resources and love into all of these students

Surf Therapy, here at Youth Encounter, has made a marked impact on our young people.  In facilitating programmes, such as this one, we provide young people with the tools they need to get their lives back on track to unleashing their God-given potential.


Benninger, E., Curtis, C., Sarkisian, G. V., Rogers, C. M., Bender, K., & Ciner, M. (2020). Surf Therapy: A Scoping Review of the Qualitative and Quantitative Research Evidence. Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice11(2).


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