Adaptive surfing: leisure, competition or therapy?


  • João Taborda Lopes Portuguese Surfing Federation, Portuguese Adaptive Surfing Association; Surf Clube de Viana
  • Mariona Masdemont Portuguese Surfing Federation, Portuguese Adaptive Surfing Association; Surf Clube de Viana
  • Gonçalo Martins Vasconcelos Cruz Portuguese Surfing Federation, Portuguese Adaptive Surfing Association; Surf Clube de Viana



Adaptive surfing is an outdoor sports activity which is practice in a natural, dynamic and high challenging environment. The moving waves, rip currents, tides and the beach appears as an innovative approach if compared to other traditional adaptive water sports (such as swimming, rowing or sailing). In this basis we can divide adaptive surfing in three major types of interventions: as recreative/leisure activity and play, as sportive competition and high-performance sports; or as therapeutic technic or with rehabilitation proposes. Nowadays adaptive surfing is finally being considered as highly important not only by surfers, therapists and social workers but also by the general public and a number of politicians as a crucial instrument for social inclusion worldwide. We hope to see more adaptive surfing programs and projects worldwide in the next years and hope it will gain more attention from governmental and non-governmental organizations in order to obtain more funding to support these programs. More funding would enable researchers to conduct this kind of work more often and produce more extensive data to support the case for the usefulness of adaptive surfing.


ANDREWS J, ANDREWS G. (2003). Life in a Secure Unit: The Rehabilitation of Young People Through the Use of Sport. In Social Science and Medicine. 2003; 56.

CLAPHAM, E. D., ARMITANO, C. N., LAMONT, L. S., & AUDETTE, J. G. (2014). . "The ocean as a unique therapeutic environment: Developing a surfing program." Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 85(4), p. 8-14.

IKELBERG J, LECHNER I, ZIEGLER S, ZOLLNER M. (2014) Fun inclusive: Sports and games as means of rehabilitation, interaction and integration for children and young people with disabilities. Handicap International.

ISA (2017). International Surfing Association. Adaptive Surfing. Retrieved from (30 April 2017).

KIDD B, MACDONNELL B. (2007) Peace, sport and development. Literature reviews on sport for development and peace. Toronto: University of Toronto. SDP IWG; 2007. p. 158-194.

KOURY (1996). Aquatic Therapy Programming. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

LOPES, J. (2006). Surfing as a Therapeutic Method. Regional Planning Directorate of Public Health. Regional Secretariat for Social Affairs. Good Life Magazine. Madeira Island. 2006; 21.

LOPES, J. (2012). Surfing and Health: How can surfing continue to help distribution and sharing of good mental and physical health in society. Rip Curl Planet Foundation. Value of Waves and Oceanic Culture Conference. Portugal: Rip Curl Pro Surf Peniche 2012. October 2012.

LOPES, J. (2013). Surfing Therapy. The Inertia. Health Issue. December 2013. [cited 2014 22 September]; Retrieved from:

LOPES, J. (2015). “Adapted Surfing as a tool to promote inclusion and rising disability awareness in Portugalâ€. Journal of sport for development, v.3.

SHERRILL C. (2003). Adapted Physical Activity, Recreation and Sport: Cross disciplinary and Lifespan. Adapted sports for people with disabilities and the importance of sport in successful rehabilitation. Boston: WCB/McGraw-Hill; 2003.

UNO (2014). United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. [cited 2014 22 September]; Available from:






Disability, Education, Technology and Sport