2022 Grants Challenge

Building a Compelling Blue Print for Surf Therapy Organizations

This project aims to extend ISTO's larger mission with data collected from Los Angeles—the most impacted region worldwide for surf-therapy programs. The project will produce an in-depth global surf therapy study, bringing knowledge and understanding about surf therapy's benefits, challenges, drivers, and outcomes. This research will inform the first evidence-based "Surf Therapy Training Course" to guide global organizations' abilities to implement effective interventions that contribute to a healthy culture in diverse multinational communities.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Community Safety

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

South Bay

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Research (initial work to identify and understand the problem)

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

As citizens worldwide attempt to cope with the repercussions of a global health crisis, there is an urgent need for widespread and equitable mental health solutions and a demand for alternative support. In California, 46% of adults report symptoms of anxiety & depression, 1 in 6 youth experience a mental health disorder each year, and over 9 million people live in a community that does not have enough mental health care professionals. Los Angeles County ranks as one of the three highest counties in the country for individuals reporting thoughts of suicide. Our nonprofit strives to grow the surf therapy sector and give more people in need access to mental health support. Our programs connect tens of thousands within L.A. County, with 14-surf therapy programs operating in L.A. County alone, making it the most impacted region globally. We believe research conducted in partnerships with policymakers, practitioners, and impacted communities has the highest potential for real-world change.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Since 2005, surf therapy has emerged as a growing therapeutic intervention in diverse communities worldwide. Programs operate on the premise that surf therapy provides a range of benefits for physical and psychological health, but limited data have been gathered and analyzed to support these claims. Practitioners from around the globe have extensive experience and knowledge of surf therapy interventions, including how and why surf therapy works, as well as the challenges it faces for effectiveness within their various contexts, making it a crucial moment to collect their narratives, learn from their expertise, and shape the future of surf therapy. Research Objectives: -Elicit narratives (qualitative) of the benefits and challenges of surf therapy from surf therapy practitioners. -Identify the components (quantitative) of surf therapy that are perceived to contribute positively and promote program effectiveness. -Align identified surf therapy outcomes with existing validated health and wellbeing measures and evaluate the impact of surf therapy interventions on health and well-being outcomes across international programs. -Collect data during a 2-day workshop scheduled for October 6-7th in the South Bay of Los Angeles to launch the first phase of our study. The workshop will host 100 practitioners, 83% of ISTO Contributors, giving us a significant sampling. -Utilize research findings to inform the development of the ISTO Surf Therapy Training Course.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Angelenos have faced unprecedented challenges over the past two years, from the pandemic to climate change, environmental disasters, and racial injustices. We've been asked to rethink how we see health and well-being and what that means for our future. While all Angelenos have been affected, others have been challenged more than most. Increased barriers to health are a real and pressing issue. We need to invest big, find new solutions, and share knowledge on how to create a more equitable world and a more equitable Los Angeles. By finding and implementing evidence-based actions like surf therapy, we can improve the health and well-being of everyone in Los Angeles, which is at the cutting edge of surf-therapy practice and development. By learning from the practitioners that already have a positive, healing impact on individuals across L.A., our project aims to empower existing programs to increase their success and new programs to emerge to meet the mental health needs of Angelenos.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Because our research is a first-of-its-kind, there will be multiple moving parts, including hundreds of practitioners, researchers, and a project manager across 24-time zones. But, we believe we are set up for success. As the umbrella organization for the surf therapy sector, ISTO is positioned to unite a diverse group of practitioners that work in multiple locations and serve numerous populations. Our first step is creating, implementing, and dedicating this year's workshops and using our established Population Interest Groups to shape the study. We will involve them in the participatory research to build collective capacity. The outcome of the pilot will design the qualitative and quantitative survey used in our global research project. We will also use early measures to evaluate if our practitioners are leading to better practices by participating in the study.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 1,000

Indirect Impact: 150,000