Seven years ago, Mount Maunganui man Grant Trebilco had hit rock bottom.

He was suffering from severe depression, had just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and he thought he had reached the end of the line as he sat in the mental health ward.

He remembers this time as feeling like "the world had come crashing down" around him.

At the time his depression began, Trebilco had been working for a tequila company and on the outside, it looked like he was having the time of his life, he says.

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On the inside it was a completely different story.

Trebilco chose to jump right into his surfing as a sort of therapy and it was the feeling he had out in the ocean that brought him a whole new sense of hope.

Grant Trebilco says mental health was invisible and he wanted to be the complete opposite of that. Photo / Supplied
Grant Trebilco says mental health was invisible and he wanted to be the complete opposite of that. Photo / Supplied

His worries and pain disappeared when he was out catching waves and soaking in the sea salt. It was out in the ocean when he told his mates about his daily battle.

To his surprise, many of them shared that they were going through similar things.

"Guys don't talk about their feelings... we avoid getting a check up from the neck up."

Grant Trebilco surfing a wave in one of his fluro suits. Photo / Supplied
Grant Trebilco surfing a wave in one of his fluro suits. Photo / Supplied

He decided he needed to do something for all of those around him.

A year later, he headed down to Bondi Beach dressed in a fluro suit and tie and went surfing.

He hoped that people would ask what he was doing and the conversations around mental health could begin.

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"Mental health is invisible, so I wanted to represent the very opposite of this."

He made the fluro surf a weekly thing every Friday. Within a couple of weeks, he had more than 50 people dressed up, hitting the waves with him.

Before he knew it, Fluro Fridays had gone international with people heading down to 200 beaches in more than 40 countries to get involved.

A Fluro Friday event at Mount beach. Photo / Supplied
A Fluro Friday event at Mount beach. Photo / Supplied

This was when his non-profit organisation OneWave was born.

He says "surfing saved my life" and that he wanted to create a "good vibe" and safe community where anyone could share their story and be connected with professional help.

"We knew that we could lose people to it [depression] if they could not get access to proper help."

The organisation is based in both Australia and the Mount.

Mental Health Awareness Week begins in New Zealand next week with the theme of the week being exploring your way to wellbeing.

Louise Burton is the OneWave Mount tribe leader. Photo / Supplied
Louise Burton is the OneWave Mount tribe leader. Photo / Supplied

OneWave in the Mount is holding a Free the Funk Festival next Sunday for people to come down and chat, listen to music and even go for a dip.

The organisation also holds weekly catch up sessions for anyone to come hang out, chat and dress in fluro and even do yoga from 5pm every Friday at the same location.

Tribelco will be holding school talks at both Mount Maunganui and Pāpāmoa Colleges next month where the students can dress up and learn that it is okay to talk.


Want to get down to a OneWave event?

Free the Funk Festival - September 29
Mount Beach - Tay St, Mount Maunganui
1pm - 4pm

Fluro Friday
Mount Beach - Tay St, Mount Maunganui
Every Friday - 5pm

IF YOU NEED HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
Or if you need to talk to someone else:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (Mon-Fri 1pm to 10pm. Sat-Sun 3pm-10pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Samaritans 0800 726 666