Surf For Life: creating waves of opportunity

From a ski racing career based out of Germany to a small coastal town in New Zealand, Florian “Flo” Bub is creating waves of opportunity among the less privileged kids in Gisborne on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Here, he tells us about his Surf for Life initiative for Gisborne Boardriders Club and how he came to spearhead change for kids in the community.

Please tell us about the Surf for Life program.

“The aim of Surf for Life is to make surfing more accessible and give kids in our region a go at surfing, who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity. With that they hopefully find a passion for life and receive the mental and physical benefits we all enjoy while being in the ocean.”

How did the Surf for Life program come about and how long has it been running?

“The Surf for Life program has been running for three months now. When I applied for my position, I had to write about a potential project in our region. I wanted to do something for less privileged kids and give back to the community because I read about the problems, which lay underneath the beautiful surface of Gisborne. The idea [was to] ask for donated wetsuits and surfboards. I wanted to create a surf hub on the beach in town, where kids only need to get to the beach and are able to go surfing. With that the barriers of entry, like costs of equipment, are overcome and surfing gets way more accessible.”

So how have donations and sponsors helped?

“Surf for Life was kick-started by donors throughout the surfing community at the beginning of July last year, when we received 60 wetsuits and 10 surfboards. After that the Marina Development Society sponsored a container. The proceeds from our Boardriders party in October paid for the interior fit out [of the container] and Kiwi Sport funding paid for soft tops and some of the wages. Local surf shops like Sequence Surf and Blitz Surf supported us with donations, as well as the local Chelsea Hospital. Recently, a local charitable trust put up more money, so we are able to pay wages for people to open the container on the weekends so the kids can go surfing all throughout the summer.”

What kind of community response has the program received?

“The community response is really positive so far and people are really supportive. We have more and more people wanting to take part in it and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the project.

How has the program made a difference in the community so far?

“So far we’ve been able to give around 40 kids a chance to go surfing and help them with surf equipment, kids who’ve never been surfing before. Some have never even been in the ocean before, which is hard to believe as we are living by the sea.”

Moving from Germany to live by the sea on the other side of the world is a big change – how did you end up there?

“I’ve always been an outdoor person, and my wife, Simi, and I decided to make a lifestyle change, try to live our dream of living a lifestyle close to the ocean, where work and holidays link in to each other, and go surfing as often as we can. After travelling NZ for four months, we got stuck in the Gizzy trap (how they call it!) and haven’t looked back since.”

Well, you’ve certainly landed a job to live the dream – what is your role at Gisborne Boardriders?

“For 10 months, I’ve been the Surfing Development Manager for Gisborne Boardriders Club and the Tairawhiti Gisborne region. I have been given the chance to develop surfing in our region, make it more accessible and [use surfing to] create a pathway for local surfers. A big focus of mine is also to create a family friendly atmosphere and hold fun community events.”

How can kids join Surf for Life and what can they expect from it?

“Kids are usually referred by social workers. We teach them in five 90-minute sessions the basics of surfing, as well as ocean education and health and safety. Most kids are up and riding at the end of the first session and are totally stoked. After those five sessions they are able to surf on the weekends. A surf coach on the beach gives them pointers to improve their surfing and also ensures their safety in the water.”

Is Surf for LIfe an ongoing program or is there an end date?

“Ideally it will continue for a long, long time. We recently received some financial support, so we are able to open the container on the weekends. This means kids, who have been through our five-week learn to surf/ocean education program are able to continue surfing afterwards. We’ve got all the natural surroundings and an ideal playground, but still most of our population is not able to go surfing.”

What is your personal goal for the program?

“My personal goal is to give back to the community. I was lucky enough to have received a lot throughout my life so far, and I’ve had a lot of support from some great people. I wrote a lot about the project to find sponsors and funding. Having it all set up and seeing how stoked kids are after standing up on a surfboard for the first time in their life makes it all worthwhile; if only a single kid can find a passion for life or a more meaningful life with the project. But even if kids just have a quality experience, that puts a smile on my face.”

With lifetime roots in Gisborne, Kalai is proud to support Surf for Life, donating 10 percent of all sales from our Love Shack Surf Club collection of beach blankets/throws to the program.

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