Stab Magazine | How Flouro Colors And Surfing Are Raising Awareness To Mental Health
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How Flouro Colors And Surfing Are Raising Awareness To Mental Health

OneWave partners with Awayco and MF Softboards to raise awareness of mental health issues.

news // Mar 26, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

OneWave, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of mental health through Fluoro Friday surf events, celebrates its sixth anniversary this week. Based in Australia, but spreading worldwide, you can find Fluoro Friday participants decked out in bright colors in the surf each week, sharing stories about their mental health.

We caught up with OneWave founder, Grant Trebilco, to talk about his organization, its goals, and the organization’s plans going forward.

Stab: Can you give me some background on OneWave?

Grant: It’s a non-profit surf community that’s about raising awareness of mental health through saltwater therapy, surfing, and fluoro. We just want to give as many people as we can a chance to ride waves and openly talk about mental health without being judged.

We’ve been running Fluoro Friday events for the last six years. Every week we dress in bright colors, to make mental health more visible, and we get out in the ocean and surf and share stories.

What do you mean by ‘raising awareness of mental health?’

Just letting people know it’s okay not to be okay. We all have our struggles and, just because you can’t see mental health challenges, a lot of the time, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. So by wearing these bright colors it helps people go, ‘Why the hell are you dressed like that in the surf?’ Which helps start conversations about mental health with complete strangers. Then you find out that everyone has a story and, sometimes, the ones with the biggest smiles are hurting the most.

Just talking about it and riding waves… that helps so much.

There’s definitely a real element of shame people deal with when approaching their mental health issues…

We all have our struggles. Life’s rad but, fuck, it’s hard sometimes.

I was diagnosed Bipolar seven years ago. After a big week of partying at the Oz Surf Open I ended up in the mental health ward of the Manly Hospital. Surfing was the thing that saved me, but you can’t surf all day. If hadn’t talked about it with my mates I’d still be struggling, big time.

I started chatting about it to my mates, in the surf, and I thought they’d think I was crazy and weird. Instead I found out that two of my closest buddies, just the happiest dudes, had anxiety and depression as well.

I was like, “Fuck… why don’t we talk about this stuff? We need to talk about this shit.”

To be clear, you guys aren’t touting surfing as a cure for any problems? You’re just using it as a means to create a dialogue, right?

Totally. We’re just saying that one wave is all it takes to free the funk. It doesn’t fix everything. It’s just that one thing that helps you get a little bit of stoke back. It helps you get out of bed in the morning.

I’ve surfed all my life and surfing alone isn’t the thing that helped me work out how to manage the bipolar. Surfing plus talking about it did and that’s where OneWave comes in.

We have anti-bad vibe circles at the beginning of every Fluoro Friday where we sit around, there’s no judgment in the circle, and we share stories about mental health and check-in with each other.

But we’re not saying we’re going to cure anything. I take medication and I see a psychologist. We’re just saying that [surfing] is part of our recipe. Surfing and being in the ocean helps us and we’d like to share that recipe with other people.

When I was at my worst I couldn’t even get out of bed. Even when I got out of the hospital surfing was only thing that could get me out of bed and smiling again. But you can’t spend all day in the ocean.

Mental health is such a fucking complicated thing. You need doctors, you need a check-up from the neck up. Everyone has different levels of mental health. There are people dealing with sadness or loneliness, then there are people with depression, who are bipolar. Everyone is dealing with different challenges and everyone requires a different recipe. There’s no quick fix, and surfing won’t cure anything, but it can help you get the stoke back and start looking for that recipe.

We just want to let people know they’re not alone. You’re struggling, it’s in your head, and you blame yourself. You think it’s a weakness. Because you can’t see it like you can a broken arm. So you start feeling, like, ‘Fuck, I’m weird. I’ve got no reason to be sad.’

We want to show people that they’re not alone, that they’re not the only one dealing with that. Because growing up, you think that there’s something wrong with you, that you’re weird, having all these negative feelings in your head. But as soon as you open up and hear other people, especially surfers, because everyone thinks we’re just happiest crew ever – living the dream- you’re like, ‘Shit! Other people feel like me.’

And that doesn’t fix it, but you can feel that it’s not just you going through it.

It’s totally okay not to be okay and ask for help. It’s not a weakness.

What’s this new partnership with Awayco and Mick Fanning Softboards?

We’re so stoked to launch this partnership. We’ve got 85 beaches in 18 countries where we’ll be creating this fluoro wave around the world for mental health. We’re going to link arms along the shoreline of all these beaches to let people know they don’t have to face mental health challenges alone.

We’re also partnering with Awayco and Mick Fanning Softboards. We’re gonna have a ‘Free the Funk’ Mick Fanning board with a fluoro design on the back, created by local artist Cam Scott. And you can roll into Awayco stores in Bondi, Cronulla, and Maroubra, and rent those boards for free every Friday.

The aim is to give people a chance, who don’t have a board, to come down to a Fluoro Friday and ride waves and talk about mental health and experience how good it is to get out in the ocean and free the funk.

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