Pioneering surf therapy for police mental health issues to be offered to forces nationally as part of new trial

Published 10 Jun 2021
Written by
Oscar Kilo
National Police Wellbeing Service
Reading time
2 mins

A scheme which uses surf therapy to help tackle PTSD, stress and mental health issues is to be extended to police officers across England and Wales

The Surfwell project was launched last year by Devon and Cornwall Police as the first of its kind in the world specifically tailored to the needs of the emergency services.

Academics at the University of Exeter have praised the scheme’s "unique" combination of factors, the

Surfwell has received funding from charitable organisations including Police Care UK, Exeter Chiefs Foundation and FLEET with further funding being explored.

The programme is now being expanded and offered to officers across the country as well as part of a new trial.

A number of match funded places on surf-therapy group sessions are now available to forces on a first come first served basis after £20,000 funding was provided from Oscar Kilo, the National Police Wellbeing Service and Police Care UK.

Forces interested in adopting Surfwell as a service for their staff are invited to contact the Surfwell team to explore sending staff under the match funded places available.

Andy Rhodes, Service Director for the National Police Wellbeing Service said:

“We are delighted to support Op Surfwell so that it can expand its offer of support. Personal resilience and mental health are very personal issues and we recognise that it’s important to provide choices when it comes to accessing support. The Op Surfwell team, Devon and Cornwall Police and Police Care UK are doing great work here and it’s our privilege to help them in any way we can.”


Worldwide scientific research shows that cold water therapy is a proven treatment method for mental health issues, offering significant stress reduction and improved levels of overall wellbeing.

The concept is based on research completed in the military where the success has already been demonstrated.

Examination of the results seen so far has shown a significant return on investment through reductions in days lost through sickness.

Also, the one-year study by the University of Exeter, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and published in March, concluded: “Surfwell has a positive impact on individuals’ wellbeing and mental health, both immediately after the session and for a sustained period afterwards.

“The project’s success flows from its unique factors, including cold-water therapy, surfing and social support from peers who share the same struggles and genuine facilitators”.

Devon and Cornwall Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer said:

“Surfwell is wonderfully innovative idea which combines medical expertise, our natural environment and the compassion of professional colleagues to help others.

“It is a welcome addition to our wellbeing toolkit as we emerge from what has been an incredibly difficult and challenging period, particularly for those working in policing, healthcare and emergency services.”

“Feedback from participants has been extremely positive and the concept has been backed by independent research – now we want to offer this unique opportunity more widely across the country.”


Sessions take place on several beaches across Devon and Cornwall and are led by colleagues with a passion for genuine peer support.

Any interested force can get in touch directly with the Surfwell team at [email protected]