An interview with David Wallis; Founder of Salt Water Therapy
There are a plethora of reasons why people decide to book a bodyboard weekend or holiday with us. Many times it’s because people feel they need expert guidance on busting that invert, or video analysis to help them nail that cutback. Sometimes, you might just feel like you need more confidence in the water whilst being surrounded by a group of likeminded, non-judgemental, super stoked fellow bodyboarders.
In the case of our good friend, frequent bodyboard holidayer and perma-stoked legend David Wallis; diving into these bodyboard retreats and spending as much time as possible in the ocean was for him, one of the best ways to deal with his own personal life and mental health.
We caught up with David, the founder of Salt Water Therapy; a non-profit organisation seeking to raise awareness of the incredible healing powers time spent in the ocean for people struggling with mental health can offer. We wanted to hear a little more from David and understand the passion behind starting SWT, why he chose our bodyboarding holidays in particular, and how the ocean and bodyboarding was able to help him better deal with the loss of his wife, Nicki Wallis, from bowel cancer.
Bodyboard Holidays: Tell us a little bit about yourself; where do you live and what’s your local/favourite break?
David: My name is David Wallis and I have lived in Andover, Hampshire for most of my life. When booging locally, I spend most of my time at Highcliffe, Southbourne and Boscombe. These spots are in Dorset which is about an hour drive for me so I feel quite lucky to have decent breaks nearby. My favourite UK break is probably Porthmeor, St Ives as this is where my journey in this sport started and on its day it can really pump.
My favourite break ever is probably Costa de Caparica in Portugal. 2-3 foot glassy waves and a place where my children can ride and enjoy the same waves as me. This is also the spot of Marcellino’s where you will find the most awesome burgers in all the land.
BH: Amazing, we love Marcellino’s as much as you, it’s one of the highlights of our Portugal trip for sure! What or who exactly made you want to start bodyboarding?
David: Bodyboarding started for me during a family holiday in St Ives. I got a couple of really budget boards for the boys and myself and just messed around in the white water. After a while I noticed a lady out back catching green waves and absolutely charging. From that point on I wanted to be able to do what she made look so easy.
BH: How did you hear about our bodyboarding holidays?
David: I found out about bodyboarding holidays while browsing the internet looking for some bodyboard t-shirts. I thought it was such a good idea to offer the opportunity to spend a weekend with like minded people and bodyboard at their own pace with no expectations to be at a certain level.
My first experience with Bodyboard Holidays was on the October Croyde weekend. I was in a very dark place personally as I was trying to come to terms with the loss of my wife from bowel cancer. I needed to find a place in my head where I felt free from the pain of losing Nicki, and this seemed like as good a place to start as any.
BH: What’s been the highlight or most memorable moment on your bodyboard holidays?
David: That was absolutely during our Bodyboard-Holidays family Portugal trip last year. We were having an afternoon session at Praia Grande. The size and power of the waves really took my breath away and I took some time to get the bottle to go for a wave. During this period of having absolutely no confidence in myself, I saw my youngest son, Bailey, who was 8 at the time holding on to our instructors board, Matt ‘Mave’ Davies (total legend by the way) and paddling out back. I was mortified at the thought of him being out this far, however the look on both his and Matt’s faces was marvellous.
A particularly large wave came through and Matt sent Bailey on his way. Bailey rode it all the way in and clearly loved it! Next thing you know he’s paddling out again and looking for another one. He absolutely would not have been able to do this without Matt being by his side but he has dined out on this ever since, constantly reminding his older brother and myself of his totally righteous session!
BH: What’s been the best thing about joining us on our bodyboard holidays?
David: Without doubt the friends I have made. Most will be friends for life thanks to the experiences made during the weekends and in the times we have met up since for our own sessions. Good friends are hard to find but meeting likeminded people who don’t take their ego into the water makes for great times.
I always meet loads of cool people and I will always look to do at least 1 weekend every year from now on. The instructors are always really helpful and encouraging. Most of the time it’s like boarding with mates when you’re out with Rob and his team.
BH: We know you founded Salt Water Therapy after some memorable bouts spent in the water, but what was the passion and reason behind starting SWT?
David: It was simply to try and spread good positive vibes by showing how inspiring and healing the ocean is. During my Croyde bodyboard weekend I was able to forget about my worries for a short time during each session. It showed me how important it is to find a safe place in your head that you know you can rely on.
Being in the water definitely gave me that safe place and I realised just how important it was going to be for me in my own recovery. The safe place allowed me to breath a bit and get my head around everything and understand that I needed to talk to someone.
I became acutely aware of how hard it is for people to ask for help and talk during the periods of Nicki initially becoming ill, being diagnosed with bowel cancer, her fighting it like an absolute warrior, her losing her fight and then the absolute carnage of the boys and I dealing with her loss. I certainly found this very difficult at the start but was supported by so many and eventually I was able to fully open up and deal with everything that had happened.
I am very proud that I had the courage to eventually ask for help and talk to a professional counsellor. I hope my story can inspire just one person to be brave and to talk to someone and ask for help. Mental health must be taken much more seriously and Salt Water Therapy is my way of telling people that the ocean heals and can be used in so many different ways.
The feedback I have received since its launch has been wonderful and the fact that so many people get it and understand why it’s so important is just fantastic.
BH: We’ve been so fortunate to have met you along this journey and we cannot say enough how incredibly happy it makes us to know the ocean has been able to help heal on such a deep and profound level. Has bodyboarding had an effect on the rest of your life on land at all?
David: Bodyboarding has helped me to chill out a bit more about things in my life. I try not to take myself too seriously, although I’m sure my girlfriend will probably laugh when she reads that. I am certainly much more aware of the effects we have on our oceans and have tried to make changes to my own life to have a more positive influence on my boys and the decisions they make. Single use plastics are now a big no-no and recycling is now taken much more seriously by all of us.
BH: What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt so far on your bodyboarding journey?
David: Do what you love and love what you do. Spending time in the water is a key part of what makes me happy and productive so I try and make it happen as often as I can. We can sometimes get lost in the things that we think we should be doing rather than the things we need to do. If you need a bit of sea air to make yourself more productive in life then make it happen. If you’re happy then it will absolutely have a positive impact on those around you. Especially those closest to you.
BH: What’s your philosophy on bodyboarding?
David: Just get in the water and have fun baby! We all started in exactly the same place and in exactly the same way. Having fun in the whitewash with our family and friends. I get a huge kick from riding heavy waves out back, but I also get just as much from playing in shallower water helping my boys to improve their own skills and gain more confidence in the water. Fun times is what it’s all about.
BH: Too true, as the ol’ saying goes; “The best surfer(booger) out there, is the one having the most fun!” So, what’s next in the pipeline for you and SWT?
David: Well, Salt Water Therapy is moving along nicely and board stickers are making their way all around the world spreading good vibes. We are currently working on some new t-shirt designs and some really cool women’s tops. I would very much like to start sponsoring some events by the end of the year as our sport needs some support. The more support we can give to our events, the more quality riders we will get to attend adding tremendous exposure to booging.
We now have the awesome ambassador Phill Underwood; you can follow him on instagram here at @boogieviews. He’s super talented and gives us all an insight into just how amazing it is to catch a good wave. We are also very lucky and proud to be supported by Bodyboard Depot who supply our clothing range to fellow frothers around the world.
On a very personal note, the biggest thing we have achieved this year is ensuring that a donation is made to Bowel Cancer UK every time an item of clothing is purchased. Hopefully this will add up to a nice big donation by the end of the year.
BH: Thank you so much for taking the time out to chat with us. It’s been amazing to learn more about your story and spread the word for Salt Water Therapy. We wish you all the luck with SWT and we can’t wait to see you on the next weekend. We hope the ocean continues to heal and help with the every day stresses of life. Keep catching those bombs and we’ll see you in the water with your boys soon!