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Surf Therapy Conference in Manhattan Beach Draws International Interest

Oct 05, 2022 08:02AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
Surf... therapy? Yes, it's a serious thing, and people are coming from all around the world to Manhattan Beach to learn more about it.

The International Surf Therapy Conference, which will be held this weekend at Shade Hotel, will host professionals from Australia, Dubai, the UK, the Netherlands, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Spain, South Africa, and all throughout the U.S.

"Surf therapy is an alternative methodology to combat our global mental health crisis," said Kris Primacio, executive director of the International Surf Therapy Organization (ISTO). "If we can help more people learn about programs in their area and get them some support - or entice stakeholders to invest in our nonprofit's research - we'll be able to make a valid case for more time in the ocean."

The ISTO is an international organization that was founded in South Africa but is currently headquartered in Manhattan Beach.

The conference is open to the public, so anyone interested in knowing more about the surf therapy sector is able to attend. (Editor's Note: Regular tickets for the conference are sold out, but there is still availability to attend online.)

The conference will be held on Saturday and Sunday, October 8 and 9, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Shade Hotel.

On Monday, the organization will hold a Global Paddle Out in honor of World Mental Health Day, starting at the Manhattan Beach Pier at 9:00 a.m. The paddle out is free and all are welcome. 

Conference Unites Mental Health, Surfing Communities

The conference is expected to draw surf therapy practitioners, as well as a wide range of mental health and physical health clinicians, beneficiaries of surf therapy, ocean conservationists, members of the SIMA (Surfing Industry Members Association), pro surfers and more.

Some of the panels and panelists include:
  • Intersectionality and Solidarity in Surf: Ways that surfing can be a space for solidarity that centers around anti-racist, queer-inclusive bodies, so all identities feel welcome in the water.
  • Surf Therapy for First Responders: The first-ever Surf Therapy program 100% operated by police officers and fully funded by the police department (in the UK).
  • Heal the Bay: A discussion of the local non-profit's work around the community to preserve our oceans and beaches.
  • Randomized Controlled Trial in Surf Therapy: A first-ever trial that was granted $1 million in funding from the U.S. Navy.
  • NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness): A discussion with the NAMISouthBay Team.
Additionally, a keynote address will be given by the first-ever recipient of a Ph.D. in Surf Therapy.

"One of the most valuable things we do is foster the surf therapy community to connect in meaningful and impactful ways," said Primacio. "We leverage the power of partnerships and the ocean to advocate for surf therapy to be used globally to improve mental health...We've got people collaborating, communicating, and contributing. This is key, as we're forming a community that shares instead of competes."

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