Off the farm and into the waves: How surfing is helping farmers beat stress

With the weather getting warmer by the day farmers feeling the stress of a tough year are being urged to hit the waves this summer.

Building on the success of previous years, Surfing for Farmers will once again be taking place at beaches across the country, in a bid to help farmers deal with stress by teaching them to surf.

The programme was launched in Gisborne and encourages farmers and growers to spend a few hours a week surfing to stay on top of their mental health.

Stephen Thompson, the programme's founder, says it's come along since starting in December 2018.

"I thought let's try something a bit different to get guys off the farm and get them to basically chill out for a bit," Thompson told Magic Talk's Rural Today on Wednesday.

"We basically dreamt up Surfing for Farmers and gave farmers the opportunity to come down to the beach every Tuesday at no cost to them to just have a go, get in the water and learn to surf."

After ending last season in six different locations around the country, Thompson says when it kicks off again in December it will be available in around 16 places - and possibly more -  this year.

"It's a great way to get away from the farm and refresh the mind a bit and also catch up with a few farmers and have a different conversation, as opposed to talking about farming," he said.

"The salt water helps wash away a lot of the stress."

And Thompson's advice to anyone who worries they might not be in the best shape of their lives: Don't worry.

"We've got some boards there that the All Blacks' front row could stand on all three of them at the same time and they'd still float - it doesn't matter how blimmin big or heavy or whatever you want to be we can help you out.

"It's the ultimate way to have a go. If there's ever going to be a chance to learn to surf, come down to Surfing for Farmers and have a crack."

Thompson says the programme has "gone great guns" since it started, with feedback from farmers who have taken part being in the past overwhelmingly positive, something he says makes it all worth it.

"If we can reach out and help those people feel better then we've made a massive impact."

More information on the programme can be found on its Facebook page.

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