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Transforming lives, one wave at a time

Photo supplied: Aotearoa Surf School
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The smiles were as wide as the beach itself at the recent annual ‘Have a Go Surf Day’ at Te Arai Beach on Sunday October 6th, 2019.

Now in its fifth year, the day is dedicated to helping kids of all backgrounds discover the joy of surfing. While some join a lesson to brush up on skills, many have never touched a surfboard.

Participants come from all social backgrounds. For many, the cost of a surf lesson is completely out of reach. This day is all about having fun, learning new skills and building ocean awareness and confidence.

Everything is provided free of charge; surfboards, wetsuits, sunscreen, internationally qualified and experienced coaches.

Removing barriers for youth to have a go

Che Burnett, Owner of Aotearoa Surf School says, “We would have had over 500 youth from ages 4-16 attend the annual ‘Have a Go Surf Days’ since they started five years ago.

When the wetsuit goes on it’s like a suit of armour, it removes all the barriers. It’s just the kids, coaches and the ocean.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring the joy of surfing to everyone. For many it’s a life changing experience.”

The days benefits to the surrounding community are multiple;

  • Building lifetime skills in children and youth such as ocean confidence and awareness, fitness and strengthening their swimming.
  • Bring families closer together, allowing them to experience the magic of the ocean and appreciate our beautiful beaches together.
  • Breaking down the barriers of low income families through a free learn to surf program.
  • Letting kids be real kids; getting them away from screens and technology and out into nature!

Che adds, “We love getting a mix of all age kids from all backgrounds coming to give surfing a go. Our main aim is to get every single person having fun and feeling confident in the ocean.”

“A lot of families and children don’t have access to surfboards and wetsuits. Given Aotearoa Surf have all of this, its our social responsibility and bestowed upon us to give this opportunity to the community.

“Its all about empowering and motivating kids.”

A generous day for all

Over five surf sessions, starting with the micro surfers (4-6 years old), the lessons run back to back throughout the day. At the close of each session, a generous haul of goodies are given away, from surfboards, wetsuits, surf wax and stickers. Every child leaves with an official Surfing New Zealand, Junior Surfers Log Book.

But more than that, they walk away completely buzzing with new friendships formed and a surge of confidence. In a technology aggressive world, that feels pretty good,” reflects Che.

Aotearoa Surf began operating in 2002, is a pioneering school in New Zealand, second oldest to Raglan and one of the biggest.

With the sole license to operate at Te Arai Beach (an hour north of Auckland), the school is also fully mobile, operating from Orewa up to Ruakaka to find the perfect wave.

This flexibility works well for providing tailored services, including school holiday programmes, after school lessons, private lessons, corporate events, a ‘surf sista’ club, NCEA credits, or to simply hire or buy gear. 

Encouraging Ocean Awareness & Safety

While a sense of fun and “surfer’s stoke” was strongly felt last Sunday, behind this free community day is an important message.

“Bringing ocean awareness and respect is a big part of our ‘Have a Go’ day. There are surfers of all levels in the water and our coaches make sure everyone is staying safe, learning new skills, picking up surfer’s etiquette and having a great time.” he says. 

At the close of another successful event, Che is heartened by the feedback he receives. His Google reviews alone tell him the day is valued, with parents acknowledging the organisation, good communication and knowledgeable coaches.

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