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The Power of the Ocean

So many of us find solace in the water – the act of swimming providing you with your own personal therapy. Our Feral Friends Helen and Dannie at SeaChange Retreats use water to offer a unique approach to cancer recovery. Their day, weekend and week-long retreats are centred around surfing and wellbeing, specifically designed for adults in recovery from cancer.

Earlier this year – ahead of gearing up for a busy summer – Helen took some time to write about these retreats and the power of the ocean.

At SeaChange Retreats CIC, we offer adults impacted by cancer the opportunity to take some time out for themselves. We combine specialist workshops, yoga and mindfulness sessions with opportunities for reflection and connection with others - these are bespoke and clinically driven weekends designed to boost mental and physical wellbeing, led by a Clinical Psychologist and Oncology Doctor. Most importantly however, they include the ocean, through surfing and open water swimming. We take very much to heart the words of Karen Dineson (writing under the pen name Isak Dineson), 'the cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears or the sea', and we welcome all three with open arms.

People in the surf with their surfboards – there arms are in the air as they celebrate something

When people ask us why the ocean is so important to the retreats, we often smile, and tell them that they need to experience it first, and then they'll understand - because for us, the ocean brings so much.

For starters, it brings the opportunity for pure, uninterrupted joy. Adults rarely get the chance to play - we are too busy 'adulting', working, being parents or partners, being responsible. Learning to surf turns all this on its head. Our sessions are fuelled by laughter, fun, enthusiasm and enjoyment. People learn to celebrate 'wipe-outs', share 'stoke', and master something new. They experience the ocean in all its sensory glory - the sounds, the energy, the taste, the whole-body pummelling, there is no time to think about the 'what if's' of life. And they learn to experience their bodies differently, forming new connections of strength and power with a body that they may feel has let them down.

And when the power of the surf retreats and we float 'out back' or watch from the beach, the ocean offers the most serene sense of calm. As the light plays on the water and our eyes have the chance to settle on the horizon, there is a purity that is hard to put into words.

Clinical research exploring the power of the ocean for mental wellbeing is growing dramatically, as is the evidence behind Surf Therapy (check out the International Surf Therapy Organisation if you'd like to find out more). Our own outcomes evaluation will contribute to this global evidence base as we explore the impact of the retreats, including that of the ocean, on physical and psychological wellbeing for participants. But numbers aside, the lived experience tells its own story. At our most recent retreat one participant was floating in the white water with tears in her eyes. With the widest of smiles she explained, "I never thought I would feel joy again".

For us, that says it all.

If you would like to find out more about our retreats, please visit

We are a Community Interest Company and our retreats are fully funded thanks to National Lottery, NatWest: Back Her Business and Crowdfunding support. Any donations or volunteer support is very gratefully received.



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