The concept was first launched in Gisborne by Stephen Thomson in 2018. He says people around the country saw the succss of the Gisborne model and reached out to him to replicate it in other parts of NZ. It is now run in 21 regions around the country.
"This 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," Thompson explains.
"The pressure on the rural sector is greater than ever and New Zealand farmers continue to take their own lives at an alarming rate."
According to Surfing for Farmers national coordinator Jack Dunstan, last summer the programme saw a total of 2864 farmer surfs across 16 regions around NZ.
"The positive impacts included participants feeling more connected to their community and meeting new friends to go surfing with on weekends," he told Rural News.
Dunstan adds that other benefits include farmers getting hooked on the natural healing properties of surfing as well as making a habit to get off farm and do something fun.
Thompson says Surfing for Farmers 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," he adds. "Local board rider clubs or surf schools provide gear and coaching and the programme has a strong focus on providing a safe and supportive environment."
Thompson says each session is followed by a free barbeque where participants have a 'debrief' about the session and general catch-up.
"As we approach kick off for our fourth season, we are excited to back again, bigger and better than last year. Over the winter months, everyone has been busy organising all the logistics in the background."
This summer will see Surfing for Farmers running in 21 locations all over New Zealand coastlines.
"It's amazing to see the growth of Surfing for Farmers of the past year, all of this is thanks to the many volunteers who are all trying to do something to help our rural communities - a huge thank you to everyone that's already put their hands up to help out," Thompson adds.
"All we can ask for this summer is for those that haven't come down before to come and have a go, and those that are regulars to pick up a neighbour on the way," Thompson says most regions are running a few evenings before the Christmas break and kicking back off mid Jan 2022.