In the Basque Country, bipolar patients are treated with surf therapy sessions

In the Basque Country, bipolar patients are treated with surf therapy sessions

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This Tuesday afternoon in May, the appointment is finalized on the large beach of Hendaye. A dozen patient volunteers landed in a minibus from the Surf Health association, parked on rue des Mûriers, right in front of the ocean. They all managed to get into a wetsuit, sometimes sulking in front of a small round belly, before committing to the sand at low tide.

limping, a little hampered by his board, dragging it or carrying it under one arm, under the other, over his head. Danny, surfer and specialized educator, sets the pace, calm and benevolent. “Come on, to start we are going to heat, move and massage the board with the wax! “A few relaxations later, everyone jumps into the water, escorted by doctor François Chevrier and Ainhoa ​​​​Ordonez, a psychiatric nurse at Caradoc.

The doctor and the nurse in the water.

Didier, 59, a brave and patient surfer, starts his second session. His tense face betrays some anxiety. “Stage fright,” he admits. “My apprehension comes from being overweight. With the illness, the drugs, I put on a lot of weight and I’m a little embarrassed. Also, that’s why I didn’t go out at all anymore, I avoided showing myself. So imagine wearing a jumpsuit on the beach! I loved him so much. Surf therapy pleased me and, frankly, I discovered incredible sensations. The myth of the blond, tan and corpulent surfer has lived!

Didier, 59, the patient surfer who discovers the sensation of sliding and recovers

In the water, the first minutes are hesitant, inevitably, the boards fly, the waves wash them away, they crash, they get lost, and the beginners hesitate a little, they do not dare to start. Like all beginners in the world. It takes all the patience of Danny, the instructor, the accompaniment of Doctor Chevrier and the laughter of Aïnhoa for the small troop to begin to find some daring.

The first to get on his board is Jérôme: a few seconds of happiness carried by the shouts of encouragement from all his companions. “There is no idea of ​​a challenge, says Dr. Chevrier. Our priority is to put them in a position to find pleasure in movement. Living in the present moment, which is a considerable breath of fresh air for these patients. »

With the water up to his neck, the surfer psychiatrist, without a board, comes to reassure everyone, encourage, stimulate. And laugh between two broths.

“In the water, I stop thinking about her”

In the group, all are currently treated at the Caradoc clinic in Bayonne, undergoing chemical treatments, but also various non-pharmacological therapies. Some show a little physical fatigue that is not compatible with the practice of sport. But no one drops it. Caroline, for example, in her fiery forty years, she runs from one wave to another, and yet she is not an athlete at all. “It’s amazing how good she makes me feel. I didn’t feel capable, never in my life did I get on a board. I’m getting there, even a little bit, it gives me confidence. I’m happy with myself, finally. And then, here in the water, I stop brooding, my head calms down. The night after… I sleep. You know, good fatigue. »

Surfer patients on the beach of Hendaye animated by Doctor Chevrier in a black jumpsuit.
Surfer patients on the beach of Hendaye animated by Doctor Chevrier in a black jumpsuit.

Emilie Drouinaud/ “SOUTH WEST”

Lancelot is 21 years old, a knight’s name for an apprentice surfer who has just discovered that he can stand on a board. The happiness of this moment of balance can be read on his face: “I feel better in my body,” he admits as he climbs out of the water. “A well-being that I do not know elsewhere, and that does me good mentally. »

Ainhoa, the nurse, is puffing on the beach. According to her, people with bipolar disorder have a common form of impairment: “They stigmatize themselves and they no longer dare to go out, they have lost their self-esteem. Surf therapy allows you to work on that, that territory that they forbid themselves, break a lock. “Same observation for Dr. Chevrier who concludes: “They are now part of the surfing community, and not just bipolar people. »

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