• Olivia Willis

Surf therapy offering hope, healing and a different approach to mental health treatment


The way Layne Beachley describes being in the ocean makes it sound like an almost religious experience. "Diving in the ocean, I feel this sense of being cleansed from my head all the way down to my toes … almost like it cleanses my mind, my body, and my soul," she says. "It's a place where I feel connected. It's a place where I feel a sense of freedom. "And as a self-confessed control freak, it's a great place to surrender — because it's a force way more powerful than me." Beachley, who won seven world surf titles before retiring from professional surfing in 2008, is widely regarded as one of the most successful female surfers in history. But her time in the ocean has brought her more than professional success. Surfing, she says, has "at times saved [her] life". "In the mid '90s I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, and it was a really challenging time because I didn't want to acknowledge that I was sick," she says. "I ended up in a state of depression … I was thinking of ways to end my life on a daily basis." After seeking professional help, and making a "full mental, physical and emotional commitment to [her] health", Beachley returned to surfing. "It was the desire to go surfing again that kept me alive in the deepest, darkest moments of my life," she says. "Surfing gives me that healthy dose of perspective and balance in life. If I'm ever feeling overwhelmed, I know I've been away from the ocean for too long."

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