Photos courtesy of Groundswell Project
“I was sexually molested by a family member from the age of nine to 14, and then I was gang raped when I was 16 while traveling in South America,” explains Maria Treviño. It’s a horrific story, but one that’s unfortunately all too common among the women participating in the Groundswell Community’s therapeutic program.
The organisation, which runs programs all over California, focuses on helping women heal after suffering from serious trauma. But it has an unusual way of helping victims like Maria – it takes them surfing. Yes, surfing.
It may sound like the latest hippy-ish So Cal fad, but talking to those involved suggests it really works. Since she started surfing and participating in Groundswell programs Maria explains, she has experienced a shift in her body and mind. She speaks of being healed of depression, high blood pressure, and insomnia; of surfing bringing an overall sense of wellbeing to her life.
“Being submerged in water brings attention to your body, it can be very overwhelming, very humbling,” explains Groundswell Community course leader Natalie Small. “You can feel the power and support of the water at the same time. It’s scary but comforting – it really can help bridge the gap between the mental state and the body state.”
A trained therapist and surfer who has helped hundreds of victims of sexual trauma, Natalie believes that surfing can help with a whole range of problems.
“I was sexually molested by a family member from the ages of nine to 14″
“We all have these stories, we’re addicts, we’re victims of sex trafficking, we’re victims of abuse,” says Natalie. She believes campaigns like #MeToo have helped women to come together and realise they are not alone.
“We each have our thing that has gotten in the way of being our true selves. [Whether] it’s sex trafficking or sexual harassment in the work place, it all affects you”.
Given the number of issues that surfing – and the self-confidence boost it brings – can help, it’s no surprise that participants on the course come from all walks of life, and range in ages from 18 to their 80s.