A Mount Maunganui man who battled mental health challenges for years has used his love of surfing to help others overcome their own struggles.
Grant Trebilco, 38, used his passion for riding waves to “get the stoke back”, and he says others can do the same ahead of next week’s Mental Health Awareness Week in Tauranga.
“After years of battling mental health challenges without seeking treatment, I was hospitalized in 2012 and diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a manic episode,” says Grant, a former Tauranga Boys College student. “When I was released from hospital, the ocean, surfing and good people were my saviour during some tough times.”
Grant’s family moved from Tauranga to Mount Maunganui when he was in his late teens and he says, even though he moved to Australia eight years ago, the Mount will always be ‘home’. He returns whenever he can to be with family and friends.
Grant Trebilco with his family at Tay St
Grant has surfed most of his life, but it was during the six months following his hospitalisation he really discovered that sometimes one wave is all it takes.
“The one place where I could get away from it all was getting in the ocean and going surfing with my family and my mates,” says Grant. “I remember getting this one good wave and I actually started smiling again, like really smiling and finally I didn’t feel numb anymore. That gave me hope that things could get better. It made me realise that day by day, surf by surf, you could get the stoke back.
“The ocean was also the first place I told my friends about having bipolar. The support and understanding they showed me was unreal and I will never forget it.
“This was the inspiration behind launching OneWave. I wanted to give more people the chance to ride waves and openly talk about mental health without being judged.”
So one Friday morning, in 2013, Grant decided to dress up in a shirt and tie and go surfing solo at Australia’s Bondi Beach to try and spark conversations about mental health. OneWave was born and Grant had simultaneously launched Fluro Fridays.
OneWave is a non-profit surf community raising awareness of mental health through saltwater therapy, surfing and fluro. Fluro Fridays consist of surfing, free yoga and an ‘anti-bad vibes circle’ allowing people to share stories in a safer environment.
“Wearing bright colours makes people happy and helps start conversations about an invisible issue,” says Grant.
In the six years since its inception, OneWave has gone global and Fluro Fridays have been held on over 200 beaches worldwide.
Fluro Fridays at Tay St
Tauranga will be hosting its very own Fluro Fest on Sunday September 29 at Tay Street Beach Reserve, Mt Maunganui, from 1-4pm. The free event includes Tauranga Samba Band, 3D sand artist Jamie Harkins, music, volleyball, beach tennis, giant jenga, happy bus, treasure dig and more.
Aside from Mental Health Awareness Week, the Mount Manganui OneWave group meets at Tay Street each Friday from 5pm. All are welcome to join them. You can find out more by connecting with the group on Facebook ‘OneWave - Mount Maunganui’ or Instagram @onewavemountmaunganui
Other free events during Mental Health Awareness Week, which this year has the theme of ‘Explore your way to wellbeing’, include:
Saturday September 21 – Pirirakau 26th Birthday Celebrations
Where: Pirirakau Hauora, 3 Lochead Road, Te Puna
What: Korero cafe, music, games, food, mirimiri, motorbike rides and much more.
Wednesday September 25 - Mindfulness at Memorial
Where: Memorial Park, Eleventh Ave, Tauranga
What: Bring own lunch, music & mindfulness, touch rugby, breathing and stretching, and more.
Saturday September 28 - Alzheimer’s Society Memory Walk
Where: Coronation Park, Mt Maunganui
What: Show support for all those living with dementia and their whanau with the 3.5km Memory Walk
Grant’s top six mental health tips to help “free the funk”
1. Be kind to yourself – It’s totally ok not to be ok. If you’re just not feeling it, don’t beat yourself up about not wanting to be around people. Don’t be afraid to take a mental health day from work if you need it and sometimes a good nap can help so much.
2. Talk it out – we put so much pressure on ourselves and when we are stuck in a funk we can quickly get caught up in the negative thoughts going on inside our head. If you’re beating yourself up about something make sure you tell someone about what you’re feeling, because it makes it that little bit easier getting it out of your head.
3. Get a check up from the neck up - head to your local doctor to get a mental health check and work out what professional support you need to help get the stoke back. Putting my hand up and talking to a doctor for the first time was the hardest, but best thing I have ever done.
4. Surround yourself with good people - Surround yourself with friends and family who let you know that it’s totally ok not to be ok and who have your back no matter what.
5. Find your community – when you are facing mental health challenges getting out of bed is so damn hard. If you have a community of good people to hang out with whether it’s to go fluro surfing with, go for a walk or to the gym, it gives you a reason to get out of bed and once you’re up you never regret it and makes the day that little bit easier.
6. Do more things that help you free the funk– What’s the thing you do that helps you free the funk and get your smile back? For me it’s surfing, but I think everyone has their surfing whether it’s music, yoga, running… When you are struggling a bit, think of what you were doing the last time you were happy and go and do that as soon as you can and see how it makes you feel.
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
Sexuality or gender identity helpline
Helplines for children and young people
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