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Surf’s Up! Farmers Hit the Surf Thanks to Bayleys

Surf’s Up! Farmers Hit the Surf Thanks to Bayleys

Life on the land can be arduous, especially in years of drought. Surfing for Farmers brings farmers of all ages and experience together, to leave the stresses of farm life behind and take to the waves. Recognising the importance of the scheme, Bayleys Country jumped aboard to make it accessible to all.

Surf’s Up! Farmers Hit the Surf Thanks to Bayleys

Bayleys Gisborne Country salesperson Stephen Thomson has always surfed. “I’m the world’s most inconsistent surfer. Sometimes I impress myself and other days I frustrate myself. But a bad day surfing is better than no surf at all.”

In 2018 Thomson watched the Netflix documentary Resurface, about a Marine veteran who had come close to taking his own life before he tried surfing through a surf therapy group for veterans, Operation Surf. The documentary inspired Thomson to think about how he could apply the same approach to farmers.

At the time he was a farm consultant in the Gisborne region, and he saw first hand the pressures faced by farmers. “There are a lot of reasons why farmers are stressed out. I thought, ‘Let’s take them surfing to get them o the farm and see how they go’,” says Thomson. “Day to day I was working with farmers who were experiencing the stress and demands that their business brings. Seeing the statistics about farmers’ mental health, which are not good, got me red up to think there must be something I could do about it.”

He put out a few feelers to see if people were interested in joining him, and working with Gisborne Boardriders’ Club, he managed to line up coaches, boards and wetsuits for the farmers. “Day one, we had 25 farmers and we haven’t looked back,” says Thomson.

Bayleys on Board 

When provided the opportunity, Bayleys immediately jumped on board and provided sponsorship support, putting into action their ‘Altogether Better’ ethos of giving back and supporting communities. Bayleys National Director Rural, Nick Hawken says, “The decision to support Surfing for Farmers was an easy one – for many farmers, often their workplace is their home and this provides the opportunity for farmers to get away from the day-to-day pressures of the land for a few hours each week. We are supporting a great initiative that we believe is creating a very real and tangible contribution to the rural communities around New Zealand”.

Surfing is a fun, refreshing change after a day spent on the farm; as Thomson says, “The ocean is a good place to clear the mind.” As well as the stress of the pandemic, 2020 was also a bad year of drought for some parts of New Zealand.

“People were saying it’s better to be sitting in the waves than at home looking at no feed and stressing ourselves out about what to do next,” he says. The male-to-female ratio at Surfing for Farmers is almost 50:50. “It’s open to everyone working on the farm,” says Thomson. “We’ve had people say it has made the boss less grumpy, or the staff more productive or that it’s made life happier at home. We make it as relaxed as possible. There’s nothing that ash about it. After surfing, everyone is invited for a sausage, a couple of beers and a chat. We’ve got guys who’ve been through 30 droughts talking to guys who are going through their first drought about what they need to do to get through it, as opposed to being in a dark place on their farm. It’s a great place to reset.”

Growing Numbers of Farmers Involved

Thanks to the continued support from Bayleys nationally, Surfing for Farmers has now expanded to 16 locations around the country; the aim is to see it expand to about 25 locations in total. The initiative is important to Bayleys, who have salespeople in many regions now avid supporters and participants, meeting the locals and giving back to the communities they work within. It is also about “staying connected”, says Nick Hawken. “While many farmers often prefer to be away from the crowds, we don’t want them to be isolated. Surfing for Farmers is a fantastic way for all those involved in the rural sector to connect directly with farmers. Many of our Bayleys Country team come from a rural background and understand what an initiative like Surfing for Farmers can do for the mental and physical wellbeing of farmers.”

Giving Back 

Nick Hawken says it is a great fit with the ‘Bayleys Altogether Better’ spirit “because by supporting the farmers, we feel we are helping them be more successful and grow. “Kiwi farmers and growers give their all to support New Zealand’s economy and ensure we have access to the very best food, fibre and beverages. By supporting this initiative, Bayleys are giving something back to these producers. “Surfing for Farmers is run by volunteers and there’s no charge to attend. Most regions run weekly, December to March. Some farmers have bought their own surfboard and continue on all year,” says Thomson. ““We have a goal to 3,000 surfs in this summer – last week, we took 306 farmers surfing at different spots around the country, so we are on track.”

bayleys.co.nz
Anyone interested in the group can check it out on the Facebook page ‘Surfing for Farmers’ or at the website www.surfingforfarmers.com

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