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 a success.

In receiving the award, founder Stephen Thomson spoke of the impact Surfing for Farmers is having on rural communities and individuals.

He spoke about the positive feedback he is receiving from farmers about the difference an evening out surfing is making to the mental well-being of them 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 rural real estate agent, started Surfing for Farmers three years ago in Gisborne.

He was determined to give local farmers the opportunity to get off-farm once a week and experience feelings of well-being. There is a lot of discussion about mental health in the rural sector, but this is not being matched by action or programmes which 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 in summer 2021/22, will be operating at 19 locations from Invercargill to Whangarei. All gear, lessons and BBQ is provided. Farmers of all ages are encouraged to come along, get out in the water and have fun.

Run 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.

Bayleys, Ballance Agrinutrients, Rabobank and Jarden got behind the initiative as sponsors to help provide the gear and lessons.