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Making waves at Nobbys Beach

The ocean has long been a place where generations of Australians have gone to get away from it all.

At times it doesn’t really matter what’s going on in the world, diving into the water can give us precious moments of calm, a way to escape and connect.

Add a surfboard to the mix and you’ve got the perfect outlet.

What’s that? You don’t know how to surf? It doesn’t matter. Read on!

Waves of Wellness

Photo Credit: Warwick Eady

Throughout November, VSA’s teamed up with Waves of Wellness (WOW) to put on an 8-week learn-to-surf course for a group of veterans from the Hunter Region of NSW at Nobbys Beach.

At 6.30am every Wednesday morning you can find VSA’s group of veterans suited up (wet suited, that is) and hitting the water. But not before a group huddle and opportunity to share their thoughts and experiences about mental wellness, all led by a qualified instructor.

WOW is a mental health surf therapy charity. They use surfing as an opportunity to find a healthy outlet for people who are struggling, recovering or even doing just fine. The program is powered by a unique group of people that are both mental health clinicians and trained surfing instructors.

Now that’s a qualification worth looking in to!

A transformative experience in the big blue

Photo Credit: Warwick Eady

Joel Pilgrim is the Founder and CEO of WOW. As a surfer of more than 20 years and with a background as a mental health Occupational Therapist, Joel knows his stuff. He even reckons he’d live in the ocean if he could.

“It’s been amazing being able to work with veterans and share in their experiences. We’ve loved it,” said Joel. “We know there’s a real need out there and the amazing thing about surfing is being able to achieve what’s called a ‘state of flow’; getting completely absorbed in what you’re doing.”

“Our partnership with Veteran Sport Australia is going to have a huge impact going forward. Surf therapy literally changes and even saves lives. It’s empowering. It’s all about creating an environment on the sand where we can give people the support that they need.”

An insider’s perspective

The view from the sand was just as positive.

Dean Barrett is a navy veteran and member of the Cardiff RSL sub-Branch. He’s part of the first group of veterans that’s moving through the WOW program on Nobbys Beach.

“It’s been a great few weeks, there’s no doubt about that,” said Dean. “We’ve all got so much out of the course and the WOW instructors and volunteers have all been amazing.”

“Getting to know the other participants and experience the whole WOW program has just shown how powerful this is going to be for our veteran community. It really doesn’t matter how experienced you are in the water or how you’re travelling in terms of health, this is for everyone. You literally just have to dive in.”

Get involved

In addition to future courses that WOW is looking to put on for the veteran community, there are also other programs that provide great ways for veterans and their families to get involved and stay involved in surfing.

If you’re keen to give surfing a crack, get in touch with VSA by emailing

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