A View from the Top

How the Wave Project offers struggling teens a surfing lifeline

Founder Joe Taylor tells Andy Martin how a born again-type experience among the waves led him to start a surf charity that helps youngsters with crippling mental health issues

Sunday 16 May 2021 15:38
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<p>The charity has spread to 20 locations in the UK</p>

The charity has spread to 20 locations in the UK

Footballers talk about “work rate”. Cricketers have to “slog”. Rugby players glory in getting stuck in and sacrificing themselves for the team. But no one ever accused surfers of “working” too hard. Rightly or wrongly, surfing is synonymous with pleasure. So the notion of surfing as a job will strike many readers as an oxymoron. It’s all palm trees and shimmering blue waters and perfect waves, isn’t it? Joe Taylor, for one, knows that it’s more than this. Surfing is tough, it’s serious, it’s demanding, but it’s also a way of overcoming your inner demons. For some it’s a lifeline, which is how he came to set up and run the surf charity, the Wave Project.

For a surfer, it helps to be born in Hawaii or California or Bells Beach. Taylor was born in Northampton, “one of the most landlocked places in Britain”. He went to school in Liverpool and studied at St Andrews University in Scotland. It’s fair to say he had strictly limited access to palm trees and perfect waves. He ended up in London with no idea what he wanted to do next.

Taylor worked in television for a while, as third assistant director (“ie dogsbody, mainly making tea”) on Caroline Aherne’s Mrs Merton and Malcolm. “It bombed,” he says. But he did a journalism course in Cornwall and fell in love with the southwest and took a job with a local newspaper, the Falmouth Packet. Meanwhile he had discovered surfing.

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