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

This Tuesday afternoon in May, the appointment is made on the great beach of Hendaye. A dozen volunteer patients disembarked in a minibus of the Surf santé association, parked on rue des Mûriers, in front of the ocean. Everyone managed to put on a jumpsuit, sometimes snorting in front of a small round belly, before embarking on the sand at low tide.

Clopin-cloping, a little cluttered by their board, dragging it or carrying it under one arm, under the other, on the head. Danny, a surfer and specialist educator, sets the pace, calm and caring. “Come on, let’s start warming up, moving, and massaging the board with wax!” A few relaxations later, they all threw themselves into the water, escorted by Dr. François Chevrier and Ainhoa ​​Ordonez, a psychiatric nurse in Caradoc.

The doctor and the nurse in the water

Didier, 59, a valiant surfer patient, begins his second session. His tense face betrays a certain anxiety. “The trouble,” he admitted. “My apprehension comes from being overweight. With the disease, the medications, I got really big and I’m a little ashamed. Besides, because of that, I didn’t go out at all anymore, I avoided showing up. So imagine putting me in a suit at the beach! I loved it so much. Surfing therapy forced me and frankly, I discovered amazing sensations. The myth of the blond, tanned, shabby surfer has come to life!

Didier, 59, the patient surfer who discovers the sensation of gliding and regains “confidence in his body”.

Émilie Drouinaud / “SOUTHWEST”

In the water, the first minutes are hesitant, of course, the boards fly, carried away by the waves, they collide, get lost and beginners scramble a little, do not dare to launch. Like all beginners in the world. It takes all the patience of Danny, the monitor, the accompaniment of Dr. Chevrier, and the laughter of Ainhoa ​​for the little troop to begin to find audacity.

The first to get up on his board is Jérôme: a few seconds of happiness brought by the shouts of encouragement from all his teammates. “There is no such thing as a provocative idea,” Dr. Chevrier said. Our priority is to be able to find pleasure in moving. To live in the present moment, which is a considerable appeal to these patients. »

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

“In the water, I stop rehearsing”

In the group, all are currently being treated at the Caradoc clinic in Bayonne, undergoing chemical treatments, as well as various non-drug therapies. Some people experience a little physical fatigue that is quite incompatible with the practice of sport. But no one is letting go. Caroline, for example, in her late forties, runs from wave to wave and yet has nothing of an athlete. “It’s amazing how good it is for me.” I didn’t feel capable, I’ve never been on a board in my life. I get there, even a little bit, it gives me confidence. I’m happy with myself, finally. And then, here in the water, I stop rehearsing, my head calms down. The next night I go to sleep. You know, good fatigue. »

Surfer patients on Hendaye beach encouraged by Dr. Chevrier in a black suit.

Surfer patients on Hendaye beach encouraged by Dr. Chevrier in a black suit.

Émilie Drouinaud / “SOUTHWEST”

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 comes out of the water. “A well-being that I don’t know anywhere else, and that does me good mentally. »

Ainhoa, the nurse, crashes on the beach. According to her, people with bipolar disorder have one thing in common: “They are self-stigmatized and dare to go out, they have lost self-esteem.” Surfing therapy allows you to work on it, in this territory where they are forbidden, it blows a lock. The same observation for Dr. Chevrier Care concludes: “They are now part of the community of surfers, and no longer just bipolar people.” »

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