Although research on the psychological correlates of ocean surfing is scarce, substantial anecdotal evidence suggests that the sport offers a uniquely positive experience. Prior research has demonstrated that surfers report fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety than normative groups, but no explanation has been identified. Greater spirituality has been correlated with lower depression and anxiety, and many surfers have described surfing as a spiritual experience, indicating a potential connection. One hundred surfers were recruited from the Hawaiian Islands and the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Participants reported their surfing habits and levels of their spiritual surfing experiences. Standardized tests were used to measure participants’ spirituality, depression, and anxiety levels. Results indicated that surfers reported fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety than most available normative groups. Results also demonstrated that greater spirituality is associated with less depression and more spiritual surfing experiences.
Michael Amrhein and Elaine M. Heiby are with the Department of Psychology, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI. Harald Barkhoff is with the Department of Kinesiology & Exercise Sciences, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, Hilo, HI.