The Surfrider Foundation Australia - Eurobodalla Branch has secured grant funding to run a series of surf lessons, known as the Swell Program, for teenagers from bushfire-affected communities across the Shoalhaven and Eurobodalla. Police from the South Coast Police District and the PCYC are working together with members of the Surfrider Foundation to provide lessons with a focus on physical and mental fitness, improving self-esteem and self-worth and making healthy life choices. Participants are also introduced to the goals of the Surfrider Foundation to protect the ocean and beaches and to respect culture.
The links between surfing as a healthy outdoor-based activity and improved mental wellbeing are well documented. Surfing promotes physical health, mental health and well-being in a natural and relaxing environment. It also promotes an understanding of the natural environment and the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems. The Swell Program uses the ocean and surfing as a means to facilitate a healthy lifestyle and a clean environment based around shared values amongst friends and peers.
Students from the bushfire-affected areas of Bendalong-Conjola, Tabourie-Durras, Batemans Bay- Malua Bay and Mogo-Moruya are being selected to participate in the lessons. The grant funds are being used to support local business. Lessons for each area are being arranged with surf schools based in those areas.
The first series of lessons is for Batemans Bay High School students who experienced fires in the Batemans Bay-Malua Bay area last January. These lessons are being conducted by Surf the Bay Surf School. They will run for 4 weeks commencing Tuesday 17th November at Surf Beach at 8am.
At the conclusion of each lesson each participant is provided with breakfast followed by presentations about health matters, caring for the natural environment and significance of culture. Students carried out a beach clean on Tuesday Nov 17th before returning to school to complete the remainder of the school day.
Next lessons for Batemans Bay High School students are planned for Monday 23rd November, Tuesday 1st December and Tuesday 8th December with the location depending on conditions but most likely at Surf Beach. The Swell Program is expected to happen for other areas during late summer/early autumn in 2021.