Surfing for Farmers won the Teams Award at the recent Primary Industry Awards reflecting the commitment of so many volunteers who have made the initiative such a success.
In receiving the award, founder Stephen Thomson spoke of the impact Surfing for Farmers is having on rural communities and individuals.
He said so many farmers are under huge pressure and talked about feedback he is receiving about the difference an evening out surfing is making to the mental well-being of farmers and their families.
The Award judges said that helping farmers get out on the ocean is a way to leave the stress of their busy roles behind them for a few hours.
Stephen, a keen surfer, farmer and Bayleys rural real estate agent, started Surfing for Farmers three years ago in Gisborne.
He says he knew how much better he always felt after being in the salt water and was determined to give local farmers the opportunity to get off-farm once a week and experience that same feeling of well-being.
“While there is a lot of conversation about mental health in the rural sector, this is not being matched by action or programmes that actually take farmers away from the farm and put them in a completely different yet supportive environment.”
In that first year, up to 50 farmers, their staff and families were gathering every week over summer to try their hand at surfing and get together away from their farm environments.
Surfing for Farmers has since grown to other regions and this summer, will be operating at 19 locations stretching from Invercargill to Whangarei. All gear, lessons and BBQ is provided and farmers of all ages are encouraged to come along and just get out in the water and have fun.
Run entirely by volunteers “on the smell of an oily rag” Surfing for Farmers has provided over 4128 farmers with the opportunity to get out on the water and give surfing a go.
Through its Farmer Council, Beef + Lamb New Zealand have provided sponsorship in several regions while Bayleys, Ballance Agrinutrients, Rabobank and Jarden have all got in behind the initiative as premium sponsors.