Pressure on the rural sector is greater than ever and New Zealand farmers continue to take their own lives at an alarming rate.
Surfing for farmers is an initiative that is helping improve mental health and wellbeing in New Zealand rural communities. Launched in Gisborne in 2018 by Stephen Thomson, people around the country have seen the success of the Gisborne model, and reached out to replicate the programe in other regions, including Northland, Taranaki, Hawkes bay, Mount Maunganui, Waikato and Canterbury.
The learn-to surf programme provides an opportunity for farmers to step away from what can be an all-consuming business, get fresh air, exercise and interact with other farmers, rural families and industry professionals.
The initiative runs for approximately 13 weeks, on a weekday evening at regional surf beaches. Those taking part are provided with surfing gear (wetsuits,surfboards) and lessons free of charge. Local boardrider clubs or surf schools provide gear and coaching. The programme has a strong focus on providing a safe and supportive environment. The surfing session is then followed by a free barbeque where participants 'debrief' about the session and generally have a good catch-up.
Eastland Vets came on board in 2021 as a 'local legend' sponsor and are proud to be associated with surfing for farmers.