Surfers casually call their sport therapy - but a Tauranga drug and alcohol counsellor is proving it a reality.

Krista Davis has launched a new charity, Live for More, that helps struggling young men back on track through the rush of board riding.

"Surfing is just the best drug out there," she said. "It's healthy, it's free, it's safe most days and it makes you feel incredible." Since she was a teenager, Californian-born Davis - who moved to New Zealand five years ago - has wanted to use surfing as a means to work with people battling drug and alcohol issues.

"I started a surf therapy programme a few years ago and it has developed more and more." It resulted in her programme, Tai Watea, or Waves of Freedom, which is targeted at 17-25-year-olds.


On Mt Maunganui beach, the group plays a touch rugby game on the beach to warm-up then dons wetsuits and hits the water. "Counselling doesn't have to be in an office sitting in a comfy chair looking at each other - teaching them this new skill, they get a sense of accomplishment.

"It's like a seed is planted in them."

The eight-week programme's main goal was to engage and connect with the young people on their level.

Davis, a psychology graduate, said lessons included a shared meal and informal clinical and cultural sessions. "A lot of these young guys on the course don't always have hope. They are living lifestyles and in situations that take them around the same block again and again.

"The outcomes that we get are they have hope for the future, they know they have potential and they understand there is a purpose for their lives."

Wiremu, who did not want his last name used, joined the course despite doubting it could help him.

"I said, 'Nah, nah, I'm not a surfer.' But when I got out there the first day ... let's just say it changed my path because my old path was pretty downhill."

Davis has established the Live for More 200 Club, hoping to sign up 200 regular supporters to contribute $5 a week to keep the operation afloat.

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