6 OCT 2019 | Te Arai Beach Reserve
The smiles were as wide as the beach itself. The annual ‘Have a Go Surf Day’ at Te Arai Beach on Sunday saw 140 children take to the ocean under the watchful eye of Aotearoa Surf School. Owner, Che Burnett and his team of coaches provided free surf lessons all day. No catch, just good times, changing lives and giving-back to the community he serves.
Removing Barriers for Youth to Have a Go
Now in its fifth year, the day is dedicated to helping kids of all backgrounds discover the joy of surfing. While some are lucky and join a lesson to brush up on skills, many have never touched a surfboard. Participants come from all social backgrounds. For many, the cost of a surf lesson is completely out of reach. This day is all about having fun, learning new skills and building ocean awareness and confidence. Everything is provided free of charge; surfboards, wetsuits, sunscreen, internationally qualified and experienced coaches.
“When the wetsuit goes on it’s like a suit of armour, it removes all the barriers. It’s just the kids, coaches and the ocean. The weather really played its part – it always does, we had light offshore winds and green waves all day. It’s a great opportunity to bring the joy of surfing to everyone. For many it’s a life changing experience.” Says Che Burnett, Owner of Aotearoa Surf School.
While the day officially begins at 9am, the planning is weeks in the making. There are sponsors to secure, event-day regulation to complete, first aid certification all round, staff to train, prizes to source, more than 150 boards and 200 wetsuits to line up – the list continues. But when the day kicks off with a big meet and greet between parents, coaches and kids, it all just clicks into place. The feeling of doing something worthwhile takes hold and spreads its ‘feel good’ vibe across the beach.
A Generous Day for All
Over five surf sessions, starting with the micro surfers (4-6 years old), the lessons run back to back throughout the day. At the close of each session, a generous haul of goodies are given away, from surfboards, wetsuits, surf wax and stickers. Every child leaves with an official Surfing New Zealand, Junior Surfers Log Book.
“But more than that, they walk away completely buzzing with new friendships formed and a surge of confidence. In a technology aggressive world, that feels pretty good,” reflects Che.
Aotearoa Surf is a pioneering school in New Zealand, second oldest to Raglan and one of the biggest. With the sole license to operate at Te Arai Beach (an hour north of Auckland), the school is also fully mobile, operating from Orewa up to Ruakaka to find the perfect wave. This flexibility works well for providing tailored services, including school holiday programmes, after school lessons, private lessons, corporate events, a ‘surf sista’ club, NCEA credits, or to simply hire or buy gear.
Encouraging Ocean Awareness & Safety
While a sense of fun and “surfer’s stoke” was strongly felt last Sunday, behind this free community day is an important message.
“Bringing ocean awareness and respect is a big part of our ‘Have a Go’ day. There are surfers of all levels in the water and our coaches make sure everyone is staying safe, learning new skills, picking up surfer’s etiquette and having a great time.” he says.
At the close of another successful event, Che is heartened by the feedback he receives. His Google reviews alone tell him the day is valued, with parents acknowledging the organisation, good communication and knowledgeable coaches.
Aotearoa Surf School have been running this unique event for five years. That’s about 700 youth with a newfound fuel for the ocean and – that’s got to be a good thing.