Ohauiti teen Rupert Gyton likened his cancer battle with his maiden attempt at surfing at a rain-soaked Mount Maunganui beach yesterday.
"It's hard at the start, but after a while it gets a bit easier to handle ... and if you stick with it, you get through it in the end," he said.
The 17-year-old was among 16 first-time surfers who spent the morning with one of New Zealand's top women surfers, Laura Rishworth, in a free lesson organised through the Bay of Plenty's CanTeen branch.
Rupert was diagnosed with leukaemia three days after his 8th birthday and spent the next few years in and out of Starship Hospital and Tauranga Hospital, before eventually being given the all-clear two years ago.
But while he managed to overcome cancer, he couldn't say the same for surfing during repeated efforts to stay upright on a surfboard among choppy waves yesterday.
Having a go with him was CanTeen members liaison co-ordinator Rachel Palmer, who came up with the idea of the surf day.
"Our ambassador is [top international surfer] Paige Hareb, so I rang our head office and asked if she'd like to come down and hang out with us," Ms Palmer said.
"She couldn't, but she hooked us up with one of her friends, Laura."
All of the 16 young people at the beach had either lived with cancer or were the sibling of a sufferer.
For them, the day was about having fun, meeting new members, making friends and sharing stories and experiences, Ms Palmer said.
At other CanTeen get-togethers, members had tried Blokarts and gone on dolphin-watching expeditions.
But as for the surfing?
"I could see some people standing on their boards for a very short amount of time," Ms Palmer said.
"After a while we abandoned the boards, played in the big waves and just tried not to get dumped by them."