Getting off the land and into the waves

North Otago farmer and keen surfer Hayden Williams is encouraging farmers to head along to the...
North Otago farmer and keen surfer Hayden Williams is encouraging farmers to head along to the free Surfing for Farmers events at Campbells Bay this summer. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN
North Otago and South Canterbury farmers are being encouraged to get off their farms and into the waves this summer.

Surfing for Farmers, a mental health initiative which helps farmers manage stress by teaching them to surf, started in Gisborne in 2018. It has since spread to 15 other locations across the country, and will launch in Kakanui at Campbells Bay on December 9.

Surfing for Farmers founder Stephen Thomson got the idea from the Netflix documentary Resurface, about US soldiers with PTSD using surfing to help their rehabilitation.

He secured some sponsorship from local businesses, found a surfing instructor and put the word out to local farmers.

"All we needed was some farmers to turn up on the first day and, bugger me, 25 turned up," he said.

And it grew from there.

"The feedback is unreal. We’re getting guys travelling for over an hour down long windy roads to be at Surfing for Farmers once a week — and they just keep coming."

It gave farmers an opportunity to get off the farm, try a new sport, catch up with mates and make new ones.

"We get farmers together, take them surfing, we have a barbecue and a couple of beers afterwards," he said.

"We’ve got 65-year-old farmers who have never surfed in their life coming down and having a go. We’ve got farmers’ wives, first year farming shepherds, we’ve got farming girls and farming boys — we’ve got everything."

Kakanui Surfing for Farmers co-ordinator Alfie Broughton said surfing lessons at Campbells Bay would be taken by Jeremy Holding every Wednesday at 6pm, starting on December 9.

The events are free for farmers and surfboards and wetsuits are provided.

Surfing for Farmers has received support from four major national sponsors — Ballance, Rabobank, Bayleys and Jarden — but Mr Broughton was on the lookout for some more local support in North Otago and South Canterbury.

"On a local level we’re looking for what we call ‘local legends’ that sponsor the lessons, the barbecue and the beers on the day."

To find out more about Surfing for Farmers, or to sponsor the events, contact Mr Broughton on 021 247-8542 or visit

Add a Comment

Sponsored Content