Helga's Presents: Ocean Heroes
Helga's is proud to partner with The Guardian in this four part series, to champion all the unsung heroes doing incredible work in communities across Australia. Not only do these organisations help people who need it most, they give their fellow Australians the opportunity to experience the joy of giving. We are sharing their stories here and giving our own support so that they can continue supporting others. This is part three of four in our special series.
Changing kids’ lives, one surf at a time
Ocean Heroes brings together volunteer surfers and children on the autism spectrum. Since 2016 they have been helping kids ride waves, develop confidence, boost their self-esteem, and make connections with others.
Coming back to give back
The WA-based not-for-profit is the brainchild of friends Sam Moyle, Luke Hallam, and Tom Johnston. They have an army of volunteer surfers who take groups of kids out into the surf, or teach them the basics in one-on-one sessions. Some of their volunteer surfers are kids who have benefited from their service themselves, and are back to volunteer and spread their generosity (and surfing tips) to the next generation of kids.
Surfers in the making
According to co-founder Sam Moyle, the experience of getting out into waves gives kids a huge boost. “Maybe it takes one, two or three sessions, but the outcomes are
amazing. We’ll have some parents say there’s no chance you’re getting them on the board and then by the end of the half-hour experience these kids are out having an absolute ball with two strangers, our volunteers, who they’ve never even met, but who they’ve got full trust in, doing an activity for the first time, which their parents probably never thought they’d be doing,” he says.
The rush of giving
The surfers involved get as much out of the experience as they give. “People get a natural high from volunteering. We ask so much of these volunteers but the proof’s in the pudding - these guys keep turning up time and time again,” says Sam.
Co-founder Luke agrees. “I truly believe that when you come to Ocean Heroes you can change someone’s life by catching one wave with them,” he says. “Once you take that kid and make that big difference, you can’t help but say, oh I love it! It’s so good.”
Giving can be a learning experience
“You see some people with significant challenges in their lives and you see the most amazing people and the most supportive parents you can imagine,” says Luke. “You get exposed to so many different parts of the community and that teaches you a lot about yourself. It can be a really humbling experience, and when you’re having a bad day you can just come down here and feel much better.”