Every Friday morning on beaches around Sydney and across Australia, an unusual crew of surfers can be seen catching waves—wearing their wackiest fluorescent-coloured gear.
They are the OneWave community – a worldwide network of surfers who support one another through mental illness and other emotional battles. They call a tough time a “funk”, they hold “Fluoro Fridays” sharing coffee, yoga and chats on the beach, they use slogans like “it’s OK to not be OK”, and they catch waves together. They consider the surf to be one of the best medicines in tough times.
OneWave, short for “One Wave Is All It Takes”, was founded by Grant Trebilco, a surfer who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2012. After recovering from a difficult bout with the illness, Grant hit the surf in a shirt and tie one Friday morning at Bondi in a bid to try and spark conversations about mental health.
Soon others joined him and formed what is now OneWave. Meetings have now been held at over 50 beaches worldwide—including places like Miami, Hawaii, Bali and Auckland. OneWave is supported by high profile surfers like Layne Beachley.
In a video about the organisation, Grant says the OneWave concept is simple.
“We surf in fluoro each Friday morning to show we want to talk about an otherwise invisible issue.”
“We’re trying to raise awareness of mental health, by sharing a simple recipe of saltwater, surfing and good mates, with the aim of making it easier for people to talk,” he says.
“When you’re going through a funk, everything is hard. Getting out of bed’s hard. Going to a café and ordering a coffee’s hard. You don’t want to talk to anyone. You don’t even want to do the things you love.
“We surf in fluoro each Friday morning to show we want to talk about an otherwise invisible issue. Everyone’s dressed in fluoro and someone shares each week their personal experience of what the ocean means to them. And then we all go surfing, swim, do yoga on the beach and have a chat and just check on everyone to make sure they are ok.”
Fluoro Fridays in Australia are currently held at 6:30am at South Bondi, Merewether, Noosa (First Point), Snapper Rocks, Trigg Point in Perth and Soldiers Beach at Norah Head. Meetings are also held at 7am at North Wollongong and Geraldton.