A Mount Maunganui man who battled mental health challenges for years has used his love of surfing to help others overcome their own struggles.

Grant Trebilco used his passion for riding waves to "get the stoke back", and he says others can do the same ahead of next week's Mental Health Awareness Week in Tauranga.

"After years of battling mental health challenges without seeking treatment, I was hospitalised in 2012 and diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a manic episode," said the former Tauranga Boys College student.

"When I was released from hospital, the ocean, surfing and good people were my saviour during some tough times."


Trebilco's family moved from Tauranga to Mount Maunganui when he was in his late teens and he said, even though he moved to Australia eight years ago, the Mount would always be 'home'.

He returns whenever he can to be with family and friends.

Trebilco has surfed most of his life, but it was during the six months following his hospitalisation he really discovered that sometimes one wave is all it takes.

"The one place where I could get away from it all was getting in the ocean and going surfing with my family and my mates," the 38-year-old said.

"I remember getting this one good wave and I actually started smiling again, like really smiling and finally I didn't feel numb anymore. That gave me hope that things could get better. It made me realise that day by day, surf by surf, you could get the stoke back.

"The ocean was also the first place I told my friends about having bipolar. The support and understanding they showed me was unreal and I will never forget it. This was the inspiration behind launching OneWave. I wanted to give more people the chance to ride waves and openly talk about mental health without being judged."

Mount Fluro Fridays are proving popular. Photo / Supplied
Mount Fluro Fridays are proving popular. Photo / Supplied

So one Friday morning, in 2013, Trebilco decided to dress up in a shirt and tie and go surfing solo at Australia's Bondi Beach to try and spark conversations about mental health. OneWave was born and Grant had simultaneously launched Fluro Fridays.

OneWave was a non-profit surf community raising awareness of mental health through saltwater therapy, surfing and fluro. Fluro Fridays consist of surfing, free yoga and an 'anti-bad vibes circle' allowing people to share stories in a safer environment.


"Wearing bright colours makes people happy and helps start conversations about an invisible issue," says Grant. In the six years since its inception, OneWave has gone global and Fluro Fridays have been held on over 200 beaches worldwide.''

Tauranga will be hosting its own free Fluro Fest on Sunday, September 29 at Tay Street Beach Reserve, Mt Maunganui, from 1-4pm.

Mount Manganui OneWave Group
* Meets at Tay Street on Friday from 5pm.
* Everyone welcome to join.
* More info on Facebook or Instagram

Mental Health Awareness Week free events:
* Saturday, September 21 – Pirirākau 26th Birthday Celebrations at 10am
Where: Pirirākau Hauora, 3 Lochead Road, Te Puna
What: Kōrero café, music, games, food, mirimiri, motorbike rides and more.

* Wednesday, September 25 - Mindfulness at Memorial from 1 - 4pm
Where: Memorial Park, Eleventh Ave, Tauranga
What: Bring own lunch, music and mindfulness, touch rugby, breathing and stretching, and more.

* Saturday September 28 - Alzheimer's Society Memory Walk from 10am - 12pm
Where: Coronation Park, Mt Maunganui
What: Show support for all those living with dementia and their whānau with the 3.5km Memory Walk

Treblico's top six mental health tips to help "free the funk"

OneWave Founder Grant Trebilco. Photo / Supplied
OneWave Founder Grant Trebilco. Photo / Supplied


Be kind to yourself – It's totally ok not to be ok. If you're just not feeling it, don't beat yourself up about not wanting to be around people. Don't be afraid to take a mental health day from work if you need it and sometimes a good nap can help so much.


Talk it out – we put so much pressure on ourselves and when we are stuck in a funk we can quickly get caught up in the negative thoughts going on inside our head. If you're beating yourself up about something make sure you tell someone about what you're feeling, because it makes it that little bit easier getting it out of your head.

* Get a check up from the neck up - head to your local doctor to get a mental health check and work out what professional support you need to help get the stoke back. Putting my hand up and talking to a doctor for the first time was the hardest, but best thing I have ever done.

* Surround yourself with good people - Surround yourself with friends and family who let you know that it's totally ok not to be ok and who have your back no matter what.

* Find your community – when you are facing mental health challenges getting out of bed is so damn hard. If you have a community of good people to hang out with whether it's to go fluro surfing with, go for a walk or to the gym, it gives you a reason to get out of bed and once you're up you never regret it and makes the day that little bit easier.

* Do more things that help you free the funk – What's the thing you do that helps you free the funk and get your smile back? For me it's surfing, but I think everyone has their surfing whether it's music, yoga, running… When you are struggling a bit, think of what you were doing the last time you were happy and go and do that as soon as you can and see how it makes you feel.