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“It's all about going and having a go” – James Gibson describes his Surfing For Farmers experience

Category better-together our-place

It’s late in the afternoon but the sun is still beating down, casting shadows on the glistening golden sand of Kakanui. James paddles into another crashing wave, fighting against its force as he prepares for another set, energised by the spray of seawater on his face. Feeling the cold water, a refreshing relief from the dry farm on these hot summer days. In his second season since joining Surfing For Farmers, James shares what this event means to him.

James heading into the water with his surfboard

James Gibson is a dry land beef farmer from Waimate, "I'm a volunteer fireman. I'm involved in one or two community committees, which does get me off-farm as well."


On the topic of time away from the farm, James confessed, "I probably don't take enough time off. I probably get off-farm on average one day every two weeks and some of that is farm stuff". With summer time being a little quieter on his calendar, he's able to get away from the farm more often.  When it comes to attending Surfing for Farmers events, James is quick to respond, "Unless I'm on holiday I will be attending each week".


"I went to the very first one about 12 months ago."


"I didn't get anyone that really wanted to go with me so just Ruth and I went. But by the end of the summer we had probably about 3 or 4 from my area going."


During the surf season, James swaps the stony beach of Waimate for the golden sands of Oamaru and any other beach with Surfing For Farmers he can make it to. For James, Surfing For Farmers provides the opportunity to enjoy different scenery while getting out on the water, which he enjoys, "I like getting on the water – anything that doesn’t involve a motor", he says.


How would James describe going along to an event? Relaxing? "I wouldn't describe it as relaxing, but it's just such a change.”


"It's just over an hours' drive to the beach. The contrast from our summer weather, from dry land, low humidity, you know, warmer days, to that water environment… firstly, that is something I get out of it. The actual change of atmosphere and the feeling of the water. I feel energised because it's just such a thrill when you get up on the board and get going."


For James, the best part of Surfing for Farmers events is getting out on the water and up on the board, "It energises me."


James provides a real sense of how Surfing For Farmers has helped him with mental wellbeing - the change in environment, the thrill of doing something new, and what's on offer off the waves as well. James thinks back to events he's been to, "Chatting to others who are pretty much in the same position as me, who don't know how to surf, and are there just to get away from the day-to-day farming stuff - that's been fantastic".


Feeling energised by the water, getting on the board and learning to surf, a BBQ and chatting to others… what more could you ask for? Sounds like a nice casual Kiwi summer. But it's not just the physical environment that makes Surfing For Farmers so popular and draws in returning farmers.


Having been to many events and keen to continue going, James describes with clear enthusiasm what's made the events so memorable for him, saying that it's been the support and encouragement of the instructor Jeremy, from Oamaru. Having been there to catch the moment that James first stood on the board and was properly surfing, Jeremy was a truly encouraging voice, "He happened to catch me doing it, and he was like, 'oh look you're doing well, you got this!'" says James.


"He was fantastic. I mean, the smile on his face… and he was just really good."


"It just kept coming back to me that he has been really quite motivational."


James has gone to a few events while on holiday, as it's been a great opportunity to share time at the beach with his wife, Ruth, and while she is also fond of the water, she's had the chance to chat with others that weren't in the water or just walk along the beach while James surfs.


So how would James describe the events to someone that's new?


"I'd probably start by telling them that I'm no surfer, and it's something new to me, and that it's all actually just about going and having a go, with the chance to unwind with other farmers afterwards. There's no expectations".


"I'm approaching sixty and haven't been surfing before. I just feel that you're really not too old, ever, to have a go at it and give it a try."


Surfing for Farmers is a fantastic initiative that's aimed at helping farmers take time away from the farm to support their mental wellbeing. Events are run from November to the following March. There's surfing, a BBQ, and other farmers to chat with, not to mention a beautiful beach backdrop.  For more information and event dates visit our Surfing For Farmers page or follow @Surfing for Farmers on Facebook for the latest event updates.


We are also giving away 22 Barron surfboards made of wool, see T&C’s here.