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Health Benefits of Surfing

Did you know about the health benefits of surfing? It benefits both your physical and mental health.

Effects observed range from positive changes in physical strength and fitness, general health and well-being to psychological and mental health & psychosocial wellbeing.

Over the past 15 years, the world has seen an emergence of surfing as a therapeutic intervention. Surf therapy has been defined by the International Surf Therapy Organization (ISTO) as “a method of intervention that combines surf instruction/surfing and structured individual and/or group activities to promote psychological, physical and psychosocial well-being”. A number of studies have been conducted, but still a lot of work needs to be done to gather more evidence in the field.

Physical strength and fitness benefits

The first one is obvious, surfing increase your overall cardiovascular fitness. It improves shoulder and lower back strength from paddling. And surfing is 90% paddling! Once you become a better surfer, you benefit from more leg and core strength from standing up on the board and using your entire body for making turns. In women’s surfing, the WSL top 5 is dominated by those with strong legs. This allows them to exercise a lot of power in explosive moves. And brings surfing to a higher level.

Although not many amateur surfers do this yet, stretching before entering the water is advised.

Surfing is one of those sports you can do “forever”. Just like any non-impact sport, there is no age limit for surfing.  It is also one of the reasons our CEO Steven prefers surfing above snowboarding and skiing. After learning it the hard way through injuries. Surfing requires less strains & impact on the body. As one saying goes:

“We don’t stop surfing because we grow old;
we grow old because we stop surfing.”

Adaptation on George Bernard Shaw

Mental Health Benefits

On social and psychological wellbeing, some studies report improvement on ‘positive outlook’ and ‘positive affect’ (Godfrey et al. (2015)). Participants reported feeling better, happier, had fun, made friends & felt fitter. Participants reported feeling a sense of mastery at learning a new skill, reported a feeling of respite and escape while at the beach and developed social connections with other peers who participated in the program (Marshall et al. (2019)). Having a self-selected pacing and progression, and creating a physical safe space within the surf therapy group contributed to the success.

For youth with disabilities, who tend to have lower fitness levels, surfing really did them well. They saw improvements in not only physical fitness, but also increase in self-confidence, social skills, behaviour, sleep & reduced levels of anxiety.

Children with autism even indicate that the tightness of the wetsuit already has a calming effect, reducing stress and anxiety. These kids love deep-pressure.

If you want to learn more about these surf therapy programs, check out the website of the International Surf Therapy Organization for a program near you.

Surfing vs other sports

It’s hypothesized that surf therapy may have even greater benefits than other outdoor activities. This because it requires participants to be immersed in the water or ‘blue space’. Check out The bestselling book, Blue Mind: The surprising science that shows how being near, in, on, or under water can make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do, by marine biologist Wallace J.

Water has a psychologically restorative effect. Spending time in and around aquatic environments has consistently been shown to lead to significantly higher benefits. Water induces positive mood and reduces negative feelings and stress, even more than green space does. Even a fountain may do so! So most definitely wavepools will have too. Water is quite literally immersive, and surfing a wavepool is an immersive experience. They create a real connection with the participant, one he is bound to repeat. A study is ongoing comparing hiking over surfing versus a control group.

At AllWaves, we hope more and more people learn how to surf and enjoy those positive benefits. We hope more studies get done, to further proof the positive effects of surfing. We’d like to compare impact of wavepool surfing versus surfing in nature. We encourage our potential B2B customers to open up their facilities for such studies & therapy sessions so the entire community can benefit.

So keep surfing, if it’s not for your physical health, just because it’s more fun!

The Waveshapers

Partners joining us in R&D phase

We have partnered with different high-end parties to develop our revolutionary wavepool technology to generate surfable waves. With our background in wave energy & off-shore industry, we understand the hydrodynamics of waves. Because, the same laws of physics apply to the absorption and creation of waves.

LakeSide Paradise

To have a better idea of which waves different levels of surfers expect, we have enlisted the support of Lakeside Paradise. Founding father and surfing pioneer Frank Vanleenhove brings in years of surfing experience worldwide and extensive knowledge on surfers’ expectations & desires. 

“After following the wavepool evolution for many years all over the world, AllWaves appeared as a real revelation with a unique and never before seen technology. Both sustainable and safe, AllWaves produces waves for everybody in a more natural environment than any other system.

AllWaves also presents a realistic financial plan when it comes to construction and commercialisation.

AllWaves will blow the minds of the surfing world and beyond!

After Belgian Beer and waffles, it is now time for Belgian waves!”

Frank Vanleenhove
Belgian Surfing Pioneer since 1978
Founder of Surfers Paradise, Knokke-Heist, Belgium

Vydraulics Group

The Vydraulics Group (VAPO) is a strong player in hydraulic power systems. They are a high-end partner with an international track record in the maritime industry. The offshore sector is characterised by high performance demands. VAPO understands the cost of failure, so they make sure energy efficiency, safety, high reliability, and sustainability are top of mind when designing and executing operations. Moreover, the group is also active in the leisure industry (e.g. roller coatsers) and understands our requirements in terms of delivering uptime guarantees to our clients.

Coastal & Ocean Basin

Additionally, we can count on the Coastal & Ocean Basin (COB). The COB is a consortium of the Universities of Ghent and Leuven and Flanders Hydraulic Research Institute. They support us through academic research, knowledge sharing and performed in-depth experiments. They have provided the scientific grounds for the uniqueness of the AllWaves reef setup.

Blue Cluster

This collaboration initiative is facilitated by Blue Cluster. The Blue Cluster is an independent Belgian organisation that groups private companies with the purpose of developing and promoting economic activities linked to the sea. The Blue Cluster is recognised as a spearhead cluster by the Flemish government and focuses on several aspects of the sustainable blue economy, including blue tourism. 

Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Furthermore, we receive financial support from Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship. VLAIO is a Flemish government agency charged with implementing economic, innovation and enterprise policy in Flanders. 

In cooperation with:

With financial support of:


Major step towards opening show room

Status wavepool

We are preparing our wavepool demo center in Knokke-Heist. Civil works are succesfully completed and the team started installing the wavepool machine (also known as our wavemaker). We are more than proud with the support we receive from the community of Knokke-Heist, Belgium. Today, the installation of the high voltage cabins to power our wavepool is a fact. Also, we will be using renewable energy to supply energy to our wavepool. This is a major step in demonstrating our technology to the world. The construction of the basin of 100 by 100 meter started in August 2021. Now, we are ready for the next steps. With the grid connection in place, we now can proceed with the installation of our wavemaker. Next, we will run the necessary dry tests before eventually filling the wavepool with water.

In Knokke-Heist, innovation and sustainability are high on the agenda. Besides, we are the surfing municipality par excellence,” says Mayor Piet De Groote. “AllWaves’ innovative and unique project immediately appealed to us. We are very pleased that the test facility will be opening in summer 2023 to demonstrate the uniqueness of the technology. Network operator Fluvius provided the right electrical capacities and just realized the electricity connection. That is an important technical milestone to be able to showcase the technology.”

We plan to open our show room in summer of 2023. Belgian surf pioneer Frank Vanleenhove, founding father of the famous water sport clubs Surfers & Lakeside Paradise, brings in his surfing experience. Together with international experts representing the surfer’s community, they will help us further fine tune different waves profiles for all levels of surfers.

Of course, potential B2B clients (site operators, developers, investors…) from all over the world will be exclusively invited to personally test & experience our waves. This is a crucial phaes in their technology decision process.

Unfortunately this demo site will never be open for the general public or for commercial surf park operations. The location in Knokke-Heist remains a showroom to demonstrate the innovative AllWaves technology. However, in parallel we have several plans to build a commercial site as soon as possible in Belgium.

In cooperation with:

How to avoid backwash and wave reflection

AllWaves reefs are specifically designed to avoid backwash and wave reflection.

AllWaves reefs are specifically designed to avoid both backwash and wave reflection. With this purpose in mind, the Coastal Ocean Basin (COB) has created the scientific ground for the AllWaves reef setup. The Coastal Ocean Basin is a consortium of the Universities of Ghent and Leuven, and Flanders Hydraulic Research Institute.

But how to avoid backwash and wave reflection in a wavepool

In 2020 we started off with experiments in COB’s wave flume facility. This concrete wave flume is 30m long, 1m wide and 1.2m high. Under those circumstances a 2D slice of the passive wave absorber system can be investigated. Based on desk research that has been performed prior to the tests, a passive wave absorber system was selected. This was subject to further investigation in terms of both reflection coefficients and backwash velocities. In short, the experimental set-up, test matrix and analysis results serve as design guidance for the passive wave absorber system (reef) in our test surf pool in Knokke-Heist.

“Generating perfect wave conditions in recreational surf pools depends on the wave generation system and wave transformation phenomena. Backwash results in steep cross waves and confused wave conditions. Our experiments have led to a state-of-the-art solution delivering a generic reef, where more than 90% of the remaining energy is dissipated.”, says Prof. Peter Troch and Dr. Maximilian Streicher, Coastal & Ocean Basin, Ghent University, Belgium.

It is specifically designed to avoid backwash and wave reflection. This results in soft slopes where incoming waves break and disappear seamlessly. After an AllWaves wave breaks, the water flows back into the pool without disturbing the next perfect, rolling set of waves. Thanks to that, there is no need to interrupt the surfing session to calm down the water. Waves can roll non-stop. And the entire system has an optimized energy efficiency.

To conclude, the abscence of backwash and wave reflection is above all interesting for surf park operators to obtain a commercially viable business model of their wavepool. On the on hand, no wasted time between waves, means surfers can keep surfing, and everyone can catch at least 15 waves in a 1-hour session. On the other hand, no trailing waves means no wasted energy, so optimized operating expenses.

In cooperation with:

With financial support of: