RIGHT: Indigenous Swim & Surf’s Steve Watts (left), Eli Cook, and Ben Dickens with their indigenous class.
RIGHT: Indigenous Swim & Surf’s Steve Watts (left), Eli Cook, and Ben Dickens with their indigenous class. RICHARD FORBES

Surf’s up for Ballina students

WITH most indigenous young people not in the surf as much as their forebears, a group of Ballina Public School Indigenous students is engaging in a swimming and surf program through the school.

School principal, Peter Flannery said that "the Indigenous Swim & Surf Program helps develop a love of being in the water, even the surf".

"This is only a small program in respect of ratio, two instructors to six students," Mr Flannery said.

"But safety is paramount. It develops confidence and water safety in the still water of Ballina Pool, the open water such as at Shaw's Bay, and eventually the surf."

The program is conjointly funded by the Department of Education, through the Southern Cross Distance Education Centre and Surfing NSW.

Instructors Ben Dickens (principal, Rubber Souls Boardriding Co) and Steve Watts (teacher, Southern Cross School Distance Education) are both accredited through Austswim, Surfing Australia Inc, and the Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguard Association (APOLA).

Mr Dickens said: "I'd love to take this beyond Ballina Public School across NSW and then Australia".

"Surfing has been exclusive for so long but through this program, we're hoping it will be all-inclusive so everyone can participate," he said.

"What's in it for me? It's not money, but the satisfaction I'll get when I see these guys surfing with a big smile, knowing that they know how to swim.

"Surfing hasn't been the most accessible activity for them. There's a big ocean out there and it's waiting for all of us to enjoy it."


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