Taking health issues to sea
A GROUP of surfers are discovering the incredible calming benefits of the ocean on their mental health.
Every Friday, they meet bright and early at 6am at Greenmount Beach to catch a few waves, share their challenges and spread their message of hope to those affected by mental health issues.
Other keen surfers get together for a surf and a chat on the first Friday of the month at Burleigh Beach.
Dressed in fluoro boardies, swimmers and with their faces streaked with fluoro zinc, they bring some colour to the issue of mental health.
Their aim is to bring something invisible up to the light and they are quick to answer any questions from curious onlookers about their garb and why they do what they do.
They're part of a global, not-for-profit surf community, OneWave, which tackles mental-health issues in its own unique way - with saltwater therapy, surfing and fluoro.
Co-founder Grant Trebilco, 37, of Bondi, was on the Gold Coast for the first Burleigh Single Fin Fluro Paddle Out of 2018 and is a perfect example of the fascinating impact of the sea on mental health.
"I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 32,” he said.
"I had been suffering mental health issues for years, including anxiety and depression, but I didn't understand what they were and didn't want help.
"In 2011, I was diagnosed with depression and given antidepressants, which sent me to the high end of bipolar.”
Matters came to a head when he was hospitalised for 10 days in February 2012 and was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
"I moved back to my family in New Zealand and went back to surfing, which really saved me,” Mr Trebilco said.
"It was the best escape and the one thing that got me out of bed after I was diagnosed. The ocean was the one place where I could forget about everything.
"In fact, the first time I really smiled after my diagnosis was on a wave,” he said. "Sometimes, you catch that one wave that brings you hope and it's all it takes to make you realise that things can get better.”
He discovered that surfing could have a massive, positive impact on his mental health.
"It's like a form of meditation and you see people walking out of the surf with these huge smiles on their faces, which says it all.”
Mr Trebilco's experience motivated him to set up OneWave in 2013 with Sam Schumacher, a friend, surfing instructor and aerospace engineering graduate. Since then, their initiative has affected numerous lives.
They include Charlotte Hill, a teacher from Miami, who set up the monthly Burleigh event with three friends 14 months ago.
"During a visit to Sydney, we saw the impact on people's lives of sharing their stories and the community that OneWave was creating,” she said. "People felt comfortable speaking about mental health.
"I know people who are affected by mental illness and I'm a surfer, so I've seen the benefits of being part of this community and the positive effect that being in the ocean can have on people's mental health.”
Since its humble beginnings, OneWave paddle-outs have been held at nearly 100 beaches worldwide.
And Mr Trebilco still surfs most days.
To set up a paddle-out, email email@example.com or visit OneWaveIsAllItTakes.com. For details about the Burleigh event, visit OnewaveBurleighheads on Facebook.