Tay Street was the location for the annual ONEWAVE Fluro Santa surf on the weekend. Dressed in bright coloured and fluoro-coloured clothing, participants gathered at dawn for a chat, surf and coffee.
“We're down here for a ONEWAVE Fluro Santa surf,” says ONEWAVE founder Grant Trebilco.
“It's to raise awareness of mental health and is a way to free the funk before Christmas. We dress up in fluro because mental health is so invisible so it brings some colour to it, and makes people ask questions about why are you dressed up. That helps start conversations about mental health. So many people are going through it alone. We get in the ocean and share stories just to help people know that it's ok to not be ok.
The event, which is held regularly starts with an ‘anti-vibe circle' first.
“That's an opportunity to share stories,” says Grant. “Everyone has a story, and everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. So it's a chance for everyone to yarn if they're going through a tough time. And make sure that people know that there is help out there.
“After the anti-vibe circle, it's all about sharing waves today. It's super mini waves, but you can't beat some salt water therapy and Vitamin D.”
After 10 years of battling with mental health issues, without seeking treatment, Grant was hospitalized in 2012 and diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
The ocean and surfing was Grant's saviour in tough times when he was released from hospital. He discovered that onewave is all it takes. After hiding mental health issues for years, he decided enough was enough, it's time to start talking and sharing his experience to try and help others.
“Maybe if I share the simple recipe of saltwater, surfing and talking about mental health I can prevent people from ever feeling the way I did”, says Grant.
So one Friday morning he decided to dress up in a shirt and tie and go surfing solo at Bondi to try and spark conversations about mental health. That was the first OneWave Board Meeting and four Board Meetings later Fluro Friday's were born, which have now taken place at over 50 beaches worldwide.
Lee Simeon and Alison Trebilco.
ONEWAVE is a non-profit surf community raising awareness for being in a funk, anything from depression, anxiety and bipolar.
The goal expressed on the Facebook page is, that when going through a funk, everyone needs “something positive to focus on and good people around you to help put a smile back on your face”.
Members of the ONEWAVE community feel that the best way to beat a funk, is getting in the ocean and enjoying the waves and saltwater goodness.
‘ONEWAVE is all it takes. Once you catch one good wave, you can't stop smiling.” These words on the website raise hope that things will indeed get better.
ONEWAVE is helping people catch that one good wave by motivating people to get back in the ocean, when they are going through a funk, so they can remember how good it feels to catch a wave. They also teach people how to surf, so they can experience the feeling of catching a wave for the first time.
Grant's father Bruce Trebilco and other members of family joined Grant on the beach for the Christmas Fluro Santa event.
“It's great to catch up with Grant,” says Bruce. “He's just flown back in from Australia. Been living in Bondi now for about seven years. We go over there a fair bit, and go for every birthday of One Wave, and have been part of Grant's life through all the tough times. And spent a lot of time with him.”
It's been a family journey for the family, with One Wave starting nearly five years ago. Grant has spoken in schools and groups about mental health awareness.
Bruce too has experienced the impact of mental unwell-ness, after a successful business venture about twenty years ago when he was in his 40's, went through a difficult patch.
“As soon as you come under pressure again after something like that,” says Bruce, “once you've had that one bad experience, as soon as you come under pressure again - bang! It triggers it all. And it doesn't take as much.
“I'd had a great life til then and everything had been really well. One business decision, and it just knocked the hell out of me. It was my first failure I guess.
“I realised when it hit me again another time that I've got to do something about this. It was starting to affect family and relationships.
“I would have loved to have been part of something like this (ONEWAVE). It would have made it so much easier. Back in those days you just tried to ignore it.
“I'm bi-polar,” says Bruce. “I've had times, years ago, where I got seriously depressed, and then found out, probably ten years ago, that I was bi-polar.
“I didn't go through the tough times that Grant has gone through, the real manic times that can happen. But it certainly affected me. Grant obviously inherited it, but we're working through life together and we love the ocean. And we love water and what it does for your soul. It's great for your mind.”
“It's great to see that Grant's recovered….recovering. You never fully recover, but you can look after yourself, and certainly do a lot of things to help yourself, and to help others.”
He believes that being outdoors, in the water, and with other people, is great medicine, especially around Christmas time. This is why they organise the Fluro Santa event.
“It's always dress up, with fluro, and it helps cheer you up,” says Bruce. “People ask what's going on, which is a way to talk about it.”
“Christmas is an awesome time of year,” says Grant. “But we're dressed in our Santa fluro gear today, because if you are struggling with mental health issues, it doesn't discriminate, it doesn't matter where you are in the world, how much family and friends you have around you, or what time of year it is, you can't stop those negative thoughts going on in your head.
“If you are struggling during Christmas, it's not your fault. It's okay to struggle sometimes, we all do it. Don't be afraid to ask for help, because you are not alone in this.”
Everyone is invited to be part of the ONEWAVE community - short boarders, long boarders, SUP's, body boarders, and body surfers, as it is all about getting in the ocean and enjoying the saltwater goodness.
People also don't have to be going through a funk to be part of ONEWAVE. It's all about sharing the stoke and peace of mind of the ocean to help others beat the funk.
Below is a list of some of the services available in New Zealand that offer support, information and help. All services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week unless otherwise specified.
Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
• – includes The Journal online help service
• – online e-therapy tool provided by the University of Auckland that helps young people learn skills to deal with feeling down, depressed or stressed
Sexuality or gender identity helpline
Helplines for children and young people
• – or email firstname.lastname@example.org or free text 5626
Help for parents, family and friends
Commonground – a website hub providing parents, family, whānau and friends with access to information, tools and support to help a young person who is struggling.
Other specialist helplines
0508MUSICHELP – The Wellbeing Service is a 24/7 online, on the phone and in-person counselling service fully funded by the NZ Music Foundation and provided free of charge to those in the Kiwi music community who can't access the help they need due to hardship and other circumstances. Call 0508 MUSICHELP.
Vagus Line – 0800 56 76 666 (Mon, Wed, Fri 12 noon – 2pm). Promote family harmony among Chinese, enhance parenting skills, decrease conflict among family members (couple, parent-child, in-laws) and stop family violence