SUP is an extraordinary platform for therapy of many kinds. I started SUP as balance therapy in 2007. I was diagnosed with a Vestibular Schwannoma in 2003, had radiation to kill the tumor in 2004. After that I experienced a lot of problems. Dizziness, loss of balance was the worst, occasional falls and often unable to drive. It was a downward spiral for a few years, putting on weight, lack of exercise...not fun. Then in 2007 my brother gave me a board as a gift to use for potential therapy. I thought he was nuts since typical vestibular therapy hadn't done much for me.
It took a long while before I could stand without falling for more than a few minutes and I was on a pretty stable board...Starboard 12-6 cruiser. I finally started seeing real improvement in about 3 months, at 6 months I was surfing. The change was drammatic enough to allow me to co-found the Cape Cod Bay Challenge. In August of 2008 8 of us ( including my brother Bill and best friend Mike and co-founder) made the first crossing of the bay...28 miles. In the process of training for the event I lost 50 lbs, added muscle, and truthfully started a new chapter in my life.
The 5th Anniversary Cape Cod bay Challenge was this year...(there was 80 of us this year)....to date we have raised close to $400,000 for Christopher's Haven in Boston. An amazing charity that provides housing and support to kids and their parents that come to Mass General Hospital for cancer treatment...primarily because of the proton beam radiation available here...same treatment I had in 2004.
I have a particular theory in regards to why SUP is so effective as vestibular therapy. The broad flat horizon coupled with pushing yourself to balance on a board really focuses on transitioning the vestibular systems to be more reliant on vision and the feedback for propreoception is second to none. Taken together it works wonders. It brought back normal. I know the visual component is critical...on very foggy days I still struggle when the sky and ocean are one flat gray color.
6 years ago i was overweight, balance challenged and in a downward spiral. Today I'm in better shape than I have been in years, have made many great new friends, helped in a small way to change the lives of some kids with cancer and their folks, had some truly amazing experiences, and gotten to really know and my older brother who moved away when I was 7 (47 years ago). Strange to think that a brain tumor could be a good thing in your life but it was in mine because it caused my intro to SUP.
I also brought my boards to a Waves for the Brave event and they are the perfect answer to getting disabled vets onto waves. The stability and size makes it much easier for the vets to enjoy the water. Seeing a young vet that lost his arm from the shoulder down catch a wave and ride it to the beach with a grin that went on forever provides therapy not just for him but for anyone within view. You wear your own smile for days.