Surfing to boost wellbeing for flat-out farmers

As spring gets underway and the oceans start to warm, Surfing for Farmers will be getting ready to kick off their 2022/2023 summer season which will start in December.

Inspired by a Netflix documentary highlighting the benefits of surfing on former soldiers suffering PTSD, a Gisborne real estate agent, Stephen Thomson, surmised the same benefits could apply to New Zealand’s stressed farmers. He founded Surfing for Farmers in Gisborne in 2018.

The organisation has since expanded out to a total of 23 locations around New Zealand and is run entirely on the generosity of sponsors and the hard work of committed volunteers.

Wetsuits, boards and coaching are supplied for the farmers and, in addition to providing an opportunity for farmers to be introduced to a new hobby, Surfing for Famers also includes a post-surf BBQ in each location.

“The BBQ is a really key part of the weekly surf – it creates a forum where farmers can talk about the waves or issues they may be having on the farm and they are with others who understand,” says Stephen.

“Having washed away any drama in the waves, they feel refreshed, and can have a yarn with other famers and came away with fresh ideas.”

During the 2021/2022 summer season large numbers of farmers attended the weekly sessions, indicating that Surfing for Farmers is achieving exactly what it set out to do.

“Some farmers drive over an hour over gravel roads to give it a go,” says Stephen. “We see some of them come in a bit grumpy but go home on a buzz which has a huge knock-on effect on families, workers and communities.”

Find out more about Surfing for Farmers.