Surfing for Farmers takes off in New Plymouth from 5.30pm on Tuesday, December 1 with free learn to surf lessons run by the New Plymouth Surfriders Club, with support of Bayleys Real Estate Taranaki and the Taranaki Rural Support Trust.
Started in Gisborne in 2018, the initiative aimed at helping the mental health and wellbeing of farmers is growing around the country, says club president Mark Dwyer.
"We're inviting farmers to come down to the club on Tuesday evenings where we will provide surfboards and wetsuits as well as surf lessons throughout the summer," says Mark.
"They can have a few cold ones and a barbecue afterwards so it's a great way to get farmers away from the stress of their farms, to exercise and socialise with their farming mates."
According to Statistics NZ, suicide rates are higher in rural areas at 16 per 100,000 people compared with 11.2 in cities.
"Our Gisborne surf club colleagues were getting up to 30-40 farmers on some nights last summer so we hope it will be as popular here and help get those terrible statistics down," says Mark.
"While this initiative is for farmers, male or female, it is an ideal opportunity to bring their families down so the family can share some time at the beach off the farm, while mum or dad are involved in the programme."
Nationwide, Surfing for Farmers is supported by Bayleys Real Estate and this summer will be in 16 regions around New Zealand including Whangarei, Coromandel, Waihi Beach, Mt Manganui, Raglan, Whakatane, Tolaga Bay, Gisborne, Taranaki, Napier / Hastings, Central Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa, Sumner, Gore Bay, Oamaru and Southland, says Dean File, the GM of Bayleys Taranaki.
"The national goal is to reach at least 3000 farmers over summer," says Dean. "Most regions are starting in the first week of December for two or three weeks then kicking back off mid-January. We really appreciate the growing list of sponsors that are getting on board, no pun intended!, to make this possible in the region."
Also supporting the initiative with surf coaching is the New Plymouth Boys High surf team.
"The club's purpose is to promote surfing in New Plymouth and this is a great new community initiative in addition to the learn to surf lessons for the local Big Brothers Big Sisters organisation we ran in previous summers. While there is no cost to farmers, we do need them to register with Dean or myself, prior to attending the first evening," says Mark.
"With the Boys High surf team and our own members providing surf coaching, we're welcoming farmers to pull off their gumboots and slip into a wetsuit for a bit of fun in the water."