Surfing: The ‘miraculous’ treatment no doctor has in the past prescribed. Until now.


Biarritz is a small city on the southwest coast of France, flanked by the Bay of Biscay.

Known as the “Queen of the Basque Coast, ” it’s a place rich with history, garnished with old-timey charm, and pointed out by sunbathed sandy beaches.

Image via NormanEinstein/ Wikimedia Commons.

For centuries, Biarritz has been a destination for believers in the healing power of its seawater.

They call it thalassothrapie.( Sorry, buckaroos , no lassos involved .) It’s a derivative of the Greek words for ocean( thlassa) and therapy( therapea ), and people flock to Biarritz’s beaches, spas, and therapy centers for a sprinkle of that sweet ocean magic.

Photo by Iroz Gaizka/ AFP/ Getty Images.

But in the 1960 s, a radical( in the slangiest sense of the word) new benefit of Biarritz’s water was detected: surfing.

With a swell just right for almost any skill level, Biarritz has become one of the top surf destinations in Europe.

This guy received the fountain of youth. It’s called the ocean. Photo by Kevin Cole/ Flickr.

Today, an experimental health initiative in Biarritz, created by France’s Olympic committee, is keeping in the town’s tradition of looking to the ocean for good health.

Biarritz doctors are piloting a program that lets them prescribe water athletics for chronic health issues.

Yes, with a script reading “catch some waves” from one of approximately 20 participating physicians, patients are taking four-month lessons in surfing, paddleboarding, swimming, and other lower-intensity ocean aerobics.

A paddleboard lesson in Portugal. A French surf instructor would patently be wearing a beret , not a fedora. Photo by Karma Surf Retreat/ Flickr.

Nicolas Guillet, one of the program’s organizers, is confident it’s running. “After six months, the results are already positive in our eyes, ” he told Nouvel Observateur. Most patients, he says, complete the program and continues its sport on a regular basis.

The doctors tell ocean athletics amp up our health in a lot of different ways.

For starters, you get to play in the sunlight! Guillaume Barucq, a physician involved in the program, says the sunlight helps our bodies induce vitamin D, which protects against cancer, diabetes, and lots of other health problems.( Obligatory PSA: Always wear sunscreen !~ ATAGEND)

Photo by Dawn Ellner/ Flickr.

Barucq, an avid surfer, calls the program “miraculous.” He says ocean athletics can improve blood flow, construct core and extremity strength, and alleviate ache .

One patient described her therapy as “revolutionary.” She’s a 40 -year-old woman who presented with a decade of chronic back ache. And after only six months of stand-up paddleboard lessons, she was all but cured of her pain.

There are psychological benefits to being in the ocean, too . Barucq says transgressing water( e.g ., waterfalls, waves, and even showers) release negative ions into the air, which can improve our moods or get us “stoked, ” as surfers might say.

While the research on negative ions isn’t resolved, it does weigh on the side of, well, the positive. A 2013 examine found that negative air ion therapies significantly reduced the severity of mood ailment symptoms and boosted the moods of healthy subjects.

The pilot program in Biarritz is especially promising because it could change France’s tendency to overmedicate.

Photo by Charles Williams/ Flickr.

“It’s also about legislating culture altered in a country where 90% of patients who come out of the doctor’s surgery do so with a medical prescription, ” said Barucq.

Even better? The program doesn’t cost the French social security system a penny … or centime, anyway.

It’s fully funded by the town of Biarritz, with subsistence from a few health associations and a mere 10 euros( only under $11) per patient a pill most health consumers can swallow.

With global health care costs on the rise, hopefully the world is taking notes from “The Queen of the Basque Coast.” The ocean and nature in general may not be a total cure-all, but it’s clearly worth a regular dose.

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