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Surfing for farmers spreads

AN initiative begun here in Gisborne to ease stress levels in the farming community has now spread to the west coast, with the first ever Surfing for Farmers get together planned for December 1.

Free learn to surf lessons will be run by the New Plymouth Surfriders Club, with support of Bayleys Real Estate Taranaki and the Taranaki Rural Support Trust.

Surfing for Farmers was started in Gisborne in 2018 by Stephen Thomson who now sells rural real estate with Bayleys Gisborne.

The initiative which was aimed at helping the mental health and wellbeing of farmers is growing around the country.

The programme was recognised this week at a major real estate industry awards ceremony.

Bayleys Gisborne was named winner of the Small Community Award (up to $100,000 raised) at the 2020 Real Estate Institute of New Zealand Awards for Excellence, in recognition of the success of the Surfing for Farmers around the country.

Taranaki surfriders club president Mark Dwyer said they have invited farmers to come down to the club on Tuesday evenings where they will provide surfboards and wetsuits as well as surf lessons throughout the summer.

“They can have a few cold ones and a barbecue afterwards so it's a great way to get farmers away from the stress of their farms, to exercise and socialise with their farming mates,” he said.

According to Statistics NZ, suicide rates are higher in rural areas at 16 per 100,000 people compared with 11.2 in cities.

“Our Gisborne surf club colleagues were getting up to 30-40 farmers on some nights last summer so we hope it will be as popular here and help get those terrible statistics down,” Mark said.

“While this initiative is for farmers, male or female, it is an ideal opportunity to bring their families down so the family can share some time at the beach off the farm, while mum or dad are involved in the programme.”

Nationwide, Surfing for Farmers gets supported by Bayleys Real Estate and this summer will be in 16 regions around New Zealand including Whangarei, Coromandel, Waihi Beach, Mt Maunganui, Raglan, Whakatane, Tolaga Bay, Gisborne, Taranaki, Napier/Hastings, Central Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa, Sumner, Gore Bay, Oamaru and Southland.

The national goal is to reach at least 3000 farmers over summer.

The Gisborne Surfing For Farmers get-togethers start on December 8 at Midway Surf Club, and the new Tolaga Bay initiative starts on November 27, probably at Kaiaua Beach.

WELLBEING OF FARMERS: Bayley's Taranaki general manager Dean File and New Plymouth Surfriders Club president Mark Dwyer get ready for the Surfing for Farmers events. Picture supplied