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CFA Surfing Club’s community connection
“Surfing is about getting away from work and enjoying life,” says Frankston Senior Station Officer Andrew Ellerton, one of the 65 members of CFA’s Surfing Club.
“My passion is mental health and wellbeing. We tend to stick in a CFA or a brigade bubble and it’s good to take people away from that environment. You find they’re completely different people.”
But what began as a group comprising both novice and experienced surfers challenging the waves has developed a community service component. Teaming up with the local council and the Disabled Surfers Association Mornington Peninsula (DSAMP), members volunteer two days in January and February to introduce people with disabilities to the delights of the surf.
“Their motto is to ‘put smiles on dials’ and that really chimes with the values of our club,” continues Andrew.
“We might have about 230 volunteers show up to Point Leo where the water is nice and quiet. We’ve had anywhere from 40 to 120 people with disabilities from cerebral palsy to autism and high anxiety attend with carers. There are wetsuits for everyone and an undercover area as well as some council-sponsored wheelchairs with fat tyres so it’s easy access for all. Each participant gets three turns surrounded by rotating volunteers.
“It’s a real feel-good environment. The happiness and excitement is unbelievable.”
Andrew names career firefighters Rob Ivers, Troy Thornton and Mark Holt as other movers and shakers in the Surfing Club but stresses that it’s open to any CFA member and their family. The ideal is members taking a break along the coast able to link up with other like-minded members for some sun, sand and surf.
The club is affiliated with CFA’s Sports and Recreation Association which entitles it to apply for grants for equipment such a shade tents.
The Police and Emergency Services Games also runs surfing events so there’s the chance to represent the fire services and enjoy some healthy competition.
As for the club members who volunteer at Point Leo, they’ve added another dimension to their surfing pleasure.
“I surf and I have a choice and the only thing that governs me is the weather,” continues Andrew, “but it’s not that way for everyone. I felt that need to volunteer for a not-for-profit because I know how good it feels to be in the water – that’s my motivation.
“Members of the CFA family have a lot to offer people who have gone through or are going through adversity including our own members. We have critical incident stress on the one hand but we also have a range of sports and recreation clubs that can offer a release valve, good company, getting outdoors together.”
Anyone wanting to find out more about the CFA Surfing Club should phone Andrew Ellerton at Frankston Fire Station on 9781 5400.