Ocean Therapy is an adaptive surfing program to assist individuals coping with mental and physical illness in accessing the ocean environment. Surfing has long since been a sport associated with freedom and independence and has the ability to support individuals with special needs in increasing their self-esteem and self-confidence.
The purpose of this program is to increase perceived self-efficacy in individuals with physical and developmental disabilities through engagement in physical activity in the ocean environment, specifically, the activity of surfing. The program can be a one-time activity or ideally an ongoing program where growth and healing can be seen and measured.
The initial idea for a therapeutic surfing program came from Carly Rogers’ personal experience working with children with special needs at the beach as an ocean safety instructor with the Los Angeles County Lifeguards. Carly found that the therapeutic benefits of surfing were obvious in the emotional reactions of the children during and after their experience in the ocean. She later wrote the ocean therapy program utilized today while earning her master’s degree at USC in Occupational Therapy.”Having worked as a Los Angeles County Lifeguard for the past nine years, and instructing children in ocean safety for the last seven, I have been able to witness the therapeutic effects of surfing. I’ve seen children jump out of wheel chairs, trying to get to the waters edge. Now imagine the impact of being able to actually ride a wave?”
WOUNDED WARRIORS PROGRAM
The Jimmy Miller Foundation currently serves Marines of the Wounded Warrior Battalions at Camp Pendleton with unique, year-round Ocean Therapy sessions. Held on base at Camp Pendleton, the Ocean Therapy sessions provide the Marines with an opportunity to learn to surf in a supportive environment, while focusing on the therapeutic benefits of the ocean, the sport of surfing and the supportive community surrounding the surf culture.
Other aims of the program through occupational therapist led discussion sessions are increased perceived self-efficacy, patient advocacy and the process of recovery. Through the Ocean Therapy program, the Marines are first taught the basics of surfing on-land and then learn to surf with a personalized surf instructor in the water. The sport is adapted to meet any and all limiting physical and/or emotional challenges, so that every participant is successful. The supportive environment coupled with the resilience and physical aptitude of the Marines, lends itself to some of the most miraculous novice surfing skills ever witnessed.
Some of the common responses from the Marines include, “This is the best day I’ve had since my injury”, “This [surfing] is curing my PTSD”, and “Surfing saved my life”. Sessions occur twice per month on base at Camp Pendleton. We encourage carpooling from the South Bay and local participation from Orange County and San Diego based volunteers. Please see the Ocean Therapy section for further details and Ocean Therapy dates.
The Jimmy Miller Foundation provides a unique Ocean Therapy experience for children labeled At-Risk in the Los Angeles area. The Ocean Therapy sessions provide individualized surfing instruction, while building self-efficacy and self-confidence in the participants through group-based discussion sessions led by a certified occupational therapist.
Children’s Ocean Therapy Program
Children are supported in a 1:1 environment where they have their own personal surf instructor, as well as other volunteers and friends to assist them while on the beach. The unique volunteer community created through the JMMF supports the therapeutic experience for each participant. The children who attend Ocean Therapy sessions have had a variety of challenges in their lives, some of which include physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse.
The participating organizations include the Richstone Family Center of Hawthorne, Hollygrove of Uplift Family Services in Hollywood and Hillsides of Pasadena, Walk With Sally, Di Di Hirsch, and Just Keep Living. Each of these organizations are dedicated to creating enriched, successful and supported lives for the children they serve, and have endorsed the JMMF Ocean Therapy sessions as one of their most successful programs.
Sessions are held on the beach at Rosecrans Ave in Manhattan Beach. Please see the Ocean Therapy section for further details and Ocean Therapy dates.