Doctors are finally discovering what paddlers have known all along: SUP is good for us. Photo: Kristy Murphy

Doctors are finally proving what paddlers have known all along: SUP is good for us. Photo: Kristy Murphy

News | Doctors Prescribe SUP, Responses Prove “Miraculous”

French program shows medicinal SUP has overwhelmingly positive results

As standup paddlers we know, a good day on the water can cure almost any ailment. Thanks to recent advances in medical treatment, now the world knows that, too. For the first time in documented science, doctors are prescribing SUP as a treatment for medical conditions.

In the small, seaside town of Biarritz—the surf capitol of France—a group of 20 doctors recently initiated a pilot program that supplements patients’ usual medications, or in some cases replaces the medication entirely, with 12-week doses of surfing or standup paddling. Responses among doctors and patients alike are in virtually unanimous agreement: surfing and SUP are medicinal marvels.

"After six months, the results are already positive in our eyes," Nicolas Guillet, one of the participating doctors, told reporters at the French Magazine Nouvel Observateur. According to Guillet, all but two or three patients completed the 12-week course in treatment for conditions ranging from depression to back pain. Among the majority that completed the program, nearly all went on to continue the pastime.

"I've suffered from back pain for so long," said Karine, a 40-year-old woman who was prescribed SUP for her lumbago. "I had an operation 10 years ago and was even paralyzed for over a month."

Six months after beginning her standup paddleboard program, Karine describes the treatment as "a revolution," and confirms her back pain was almost entirely gone.

Mental and physical benefits of a nature-based exercise like surfing and SUP might seem obvious, but doctors say there's a deeper science to the therapy of such ocean sports.

"Waves that break in the water or on the sand break molecules that liberate negative ions," said Guillaume Barucq, a doctor and surfer in Biarritz who called the medical SUP program "miraculous". "They improve the oxygenation of tissue, your mood, tone, quality of sleep and concentration." According to Barucq, simply being close to the surf zone is therapeutic for many aspects of the human body.

The findings of this program could subvert the current medical culture in France, as French doctors are widely known to prescribe pharmaceuticals in abundance to patients with little regard for negative side effects.

"90 percent (of) patients who come out of the doctor's surgery do so with a medical prescription," Barucq said.

Surf and SUP prescriptions come into practice in a time when holistic healing and natural medicine are more popular than ever. It seems the world at large is growing wary of treating pain and illness with the faulty science of pharmaceuticals, and as the resolution opens doors for more holistic approaches, simple, natural remedies are proving most effective. While it may be news to science, SUP has been a cure-all for paddlers and surfers all along.

More SUP science available in SUP‘s Paddle Healthy series.