The number of Surfing groups on the Gold Coast is swelling.
Of course surfing is one of the most popular pursuits on the Gold Coast; we’ve got world-renowned point breaks and a wealth of beach breaks, something for every level of surfer. Although mostly considered to be a sport, to many surfers it is also a moving meditation, or a form of therapy. So while surfing tends to be a solitary pursuit, many surf ‘meet up’ groups have sprung up on the Gold Coast, alongside the Boardriders’ clubs.
Many of these groups are utilising the ‘healing’ properties of the ocean, while others are building community with surfing as a backdrop. In a time where the breaks are more crowded than ever, we thought we should look into who these groups are and what they’re about.
Disabled surfers Association of Australia (DSA)
Len Wort Park in Currumbin is the venue for the regular “Let’s Go Surfing Days” of the DSA Gold Coast branch. This Non-Profit organisation is run by a team of local volunteers, with more helping out on the surf days. Surfing is such a massive part of life for a surfer and when the ability to surf is lost through illness or injury it has a devastating impact on their lives. DSA bring people together to experience the healing power of the ocean. Whether you’re a former surfer or new to the experience, DSA will help people with any disability, from asthmatics to joint injuries to paraplegic. DSA use special equipment such as aquatic wheelchairs, soft long boards, surf socks, rash vests, etc to get participants in the water and put ‘smiles on dials’.
The cost is covered by the generous support of several local businesses and the $20 yearly membership fee for participants. More than just the physical activity, DSA say “many members have found friendship, support and have renewed their interest in surfing.” Unfortunately the next meet up will most likely not happen until the 21/22 season, Ian from DSA says, “we believe we can’t hold a safe event AND implement social distance measures required”. Those interested in volunteering, donating or learning more can visit the DSA Facebook page.
Association of Veteran Surfers (AVS)
AVS was started by two returned servicemen who found surfing hugely helpful in dealing with the stress of a military career; and readjustment to civilian life. Now AVS organise regular surf meet ups, lessons for those wanting to learn and lots of other activities. The Association has joined Surfing Queensland as Ken, the president of the association says, ‘we want to be seen as a legitimate surfing club.’ AVS surfers participate in the Kirra teams challenge surf contest yearly and are hoping to create more contests between other branches of this national association. Yet Ken is quick to point out. “the most important thing is the social connection and sense of belonging. There’s a lot of isolation in the vet community and surfing gets them off the couch. Many are not in a good way from injuries or other issues and ocean therapy really helps.”
Anyone associated with the military, and their families are welcome to come to the meet ups, as are all types of surfers from SUP, belly board and everything in between. The mission is to bring about positive change in veterans lives through ocean therapy, mateship and surfing, with a vision of a suicide free healthy veteran community. There is a yearly joining fee of $60 which gives members a t-shirt, insurance and membership to Surfing QLD. All other activities and funds come from generous donations, and some RSLs (particularly Burleigh). If you’re interested in more information or donating, check out their website.
One Wave are another charity organisation that use surfing and ocean therapy as a means to help those in need. Beginning in Bondi, One Wave is now a worldwide initiative to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of mental health. It is based on the premise that, sometimes “one wave is all it takes”. The organisation runs free Fluoro Friday events, where everyone is encouraged to dress up in their wildest, brightest fluoro gear for the group surf. The idea is that wearing bright colours makes people happy, and starts conversations about invisible issues. The Greenmount event, run by local volunteer Cherisa, is actually a ‘Super Fluoro Saturday’ and runs Saturday mornings at Greenmount rain, hail or shine.
As with the AVS, one of the most important things is a sense of belonging. Cherisa says, “a lot of people are a bit lost or lonely but coming here they are welcome, it’s a safe place and no judgement.” Everyone is welcome to join, there is no membership fee, association affiliations or insurance for participants. To find out more about One Wave head to their website.
The Fluoro Saturday meet up has been supported by another GC surf group, the Surf Witches. The Surf Witches began when a couple of women who were learning to surf found it less intimidating to surf with other women learning. Soon it became a Facebook group of women keeping each other motivated and offering to surf together. The Surf Witches have blue wristbands so they can easily identify other Witches in the waves outside of planned meetings. These bands are available only after taking their pledge for following surf safety and etiquette. What began with the idea of connecting women and “never surf without friends again” became big group meet ups. Their last group surf attracted around 60 women hitting the line up at Currumbin Alley together. However since this event the Surf Witches have changed from proudly displaying the large numbers in their group surfs back to the original intention of encouraging women to connect with each other through the group when they want company for a surf.
In the absence of organised Surf Witches surf events due to COVID they are promoting the One Wave Super Fluoro Saturday surfs. They are also providing social catch-ups with fellow ‘witches’ to keep the community strong. Check out the Surf Witches website for more.
Historically speaking, women have been under represented in the surf, at times even discouraged or pushed to the sides. Thankfully these days there are often as many, or more women, in the GC line ups as men. In a similar manner to the Surf Witches, the Groove Girls are a surf meet up group for girls. The Groove Girls have been meeting up weekly (conditions pending) at Kirra with the aim of “empowering girls through the art of surf”. All abilities, ages, and boards are welcome to join a Groove Girl meet up and as far as they are concerned, the more the merrier. It’s free, there are no membership fees, associations or insurance for participants. There is no wristband or pledge to show awareness of surf etiquette and safety, but the purchase of Groove Girls merchandise is encouraged to show belonging.
The ‘girl gang’ social empowerment aspect is definitely highlighted with weekly group surfs attracting around 40 girls to one break. The BYO crowd overruns the usually egalitarian line up and can inhibit the ability to actually catch waves. Groove Girls may or may not catch a wave but they will get in the water, meet plenty of like-minded girls; and get photos and videos to post on their socials. To find out more about the Groove Girls go to their Instagram page.
The Not for Profit group, Surfing Mums began with two mums in Byron Bay who watched each others’ kids while the other surfed. The idea, and the group, flourished and now there are groups around Australia, including Currumbin. By the name it may seem like another group for women only, however anyone who is a parent, guardian or carer of a child is welcome. There is a Facebook page for each location and parents can pair up with another parent to go surf. One parent minds the children on the beach while the other surfs, then they switch; each person getting a rare and precious hour in the surf. While it is based around surfing, Clare (Surfing Mums organiser) says “the emotional connection parents have because of shared love of the ocean, it’s something you don’t get with just other mums. The community is really the thing, surfing is the cherry on top”.
It may be volunteer run but each local group is provided with first aid kits, flags, shade tents, hats for the kids and other group essentials. The $52 yearly membership fee covers these costs as well as public liability insurance; a yearly gift, and $5 each donated to the mental health charity Waves of Wellness. To find out more about Surfing Mums go to their website.
IMAGE (C) Lamp Photography