It’s hard to strike a bad day at Papamoa Beach, but surf conditions were particularly first-rate on Friday 3 May for an inaugural inter-school surfing competition supported by the local community.

Against a backdrop of sunshine, music and enthusiastic spectator support, 12 students from Tahatai Coast School and Arataki School took to the water to put their surfing skills to the test. Thanks to local community sponsors, Future Focus Early Years Education, surf and lifestyle business NOXEN, and Diffuse Clothing, the kids wore rash shirts especially designed for the event.

The competition, judged by Jack Oades from ANZ, was won by Year 3 student from Tahatai, Taj Aitchison (pictured above).

Event co-ordinator, Andre Jay, who is a team leader at Tahatai, was delighted with the success of the event.

Jay, along with deputy principal Darren Scott, has been instrumental in getting a surf club up and running at Tahatai. One lunchtime a week in terms 1 and 4, students from Year 3 to 6 walk the one block from school to the beach to surf together. With the help of the PTA, Tahatai purchased a number of surfboards and wetsuits to ensure students wouldn’t miss out.

“It’s evolved from just six kids to 60-70 students,” Jay says of the surf club. “A lot of it is around understanding the surf and what the conditions look like, and it’s also about getting up on the board and having some fun with it.”

With the school surf club now taking a break until term 4, Jay saw Friday’s competition as a great way to wrap up the surf season with an opportunity for some of the kids to showcase their progress.

However, the most rewarding aspect for Jay was collaborating with another school and local businesses.

Todd Hilleard, owner of NOXEN, one of the community sponsors, agrees the best part about the event was seeing how everyone came together for the kids.

“The genuine want to make this day special for the kids was awesome.”

Hilleard sees NOXEN as a vessel to give back to the community. He references the donations NOXEN makes to Lifeline.

“These kids may need that resource one day, so showing the community what we do and being involved in what we can, was great!” says Hilleard.

Ray Everest, who founded Future Focus Early Years Education in Papamoa with wife Courtney, agrees it is so important for schools to collaborate with their wider community.

“Access to opportunities is vital to a person’s health and wellbeing,” says Everest. “Both Courtney and I are extremely grateful for our opportunities in life thus far, so it was natural to us that we want to enable opportunities for our local community.

“Providing access is critical to the development of our young people’s ability to positively engage with our community and reap rewards of forming new relationships and understandings.

“This will not be our last venture of support,” says Everest.

And plans are already afoot for the next comp in Term 4. Jay is keen to build on the success of Friday’s event by getting more schools involved and more kids competing, as well as continuing to nurture the connection between the schools and their local community.

Photo credit: Todd Hilleard, NOXEN

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