Nick Squiers, of Illawarra Surf Academy, launched bringing Weet-Bix SurfGroms, a learn-how-to-surf school for five- to 12-year-old children, in Thirroul in 2016.
Depending on the surf school/delivery centre, each SurfGroms lesson can last anywhere from three hours to all day and courses held over a day up to a week.
The man who developed SurfGroms, Jim Hughes, lives in Thirroul.
Both Jim and Nick kindly had a chat with The South Coaster.
This is SurfGrom’s first year at Thirroul. Is that correct?
Jim: I know that Australian Surf Tours have been doing it for a few years in the area … at Bulli and Wollongong; a lot of kids have been going down to Bulli and other locations … but Nick has a licence actually at Thirroul and this year will be the first time he’ll be delivering the Weet-Bix SurfGroms program at Thirroul.
What’s your role in SurfGroms?
Jim: Well, I wrote the program in 2011, put it all together and I actually live in Thirroul as well … it’s good to see it [SurfGroms] on the beach as well locally … I put the program together; it came out of the Crawford Report [the Federal government’s independent sports panel report] that the government need to invest more in participation … less so on high performance and more of a focus on participation, to give everyone the opportunity to get into sport, so out of that we got some seed-funding from the government … and I spent about a good nine months or so liaising with various surf schools and stakeholders, interested parties etc and putting together the SurfGroms program, getting sponsors onboard with it as well and then launching the program through our network of surf schools … it’s been running for about five years now … it’s in its fifth season. We’ve got over 80 delivery centres around the country and 12,000 new kids every year go through the program.
Between AST [Australian Surf Tours] and now Nick, it’s certainly growing [in the region]. It’s good to see; it’s good to see a program that kind of started five years ago from nothing, is all over the place now.
Nick, explain the structure of each session, please.
Nick: In the three hours, you’ve got half an hour of playing on the beach, then you got an hour and a half in the water, another play on the beach, probably give them another little play in the water as well. It’s just a little bit of extra time to work on their ocean knowledge and stuff like that.
You’ve got the warm-up, then you’ve got the ocean component, then you’ve got that cool-down session.
What qualifications do instructors have?
To be a coach through Surfing Australia, you have to do a two-day course, that’s just to start off … then you have to get your first-aid, then you have to get an ocean rescue course certificate, then, if you’re over 18, you have to get a ‘working with children’ check, then you have to do 20 hours of on-the-job training, unpaid and then you’re qualified.
Why should kids be surfing? What’s the appeal?
It’s got a great balance of being a personal sport, yet a team sport. It’s very easy to go out with friends as you advance and have fun. Be out on your own if that’s what you want to do and be revitalised or you can go out in the water with a bunch of mates and still have fun.
You can travel anywhere in the world and find waves … you can jump on a plane and go to Indonesia, be away from every person in the world and get the best waves on the planet.
It’s challenging, it gets you fit and healthy, it’s something that, the better you get, the more exciting it is.
Getting out into the ocean, you can get close to nature; it cen be physically draining, if you want it to be, but it can be very soothing and calming if you just want to go out and get wet and have a little float in the ocean.
There’s a great balance there for whatever you want to get out of it.
As well as a great sport are there a few life lessons in there for kids?
Yes, teamwork … getting on with friends, making new friends, stuff like that … life skills, communicating with people, having fun, breaking out of their comfort zones. We get a lot of kids that are pretty quiet and as soon as they start having fun in the water, they’re just straight out of their shell.
It’s something that can just carry through to life.
Visit www.surfgroms.com for more details and to register.