Indigenous Surf Camp

“Sometimes you do things and the reward is greater than you could ever expect”

Some people collect cars. Others collect art. Most people collect something. Indigenous people collect stories. But you can’t find them unless you are told. The Central Coast is sacred. It’s a place filled with stories about the past, about the present and a way for the future. The earth here is filled with colour and the ocean breathes life, but only those who are connected can understand. This story is about community: a group of kids who have inherited this place and the adults who believe in them. Aboriginal kids are heirs to a culture that’s as old as the earth. This is why we listen.


Eight years ago Keith ‘Chubby” Hall took a handful of kids surfing. Years later it is still fondly remembered and the reason we find ourselves here. A new generation of kids now wanted to learn about the ocean. They also wanted to explore their identity, but most of all needed a time to come together. In March this year, the program Chubby started all those years ago, expanded into a two day camping trip. From 10 schools across the Central Coast, a special group of young people came to know each other in the name of surfing. A great way to break the ice, take a deeper look at the ocean. And its place in Aboriginal culture.


Norah Head is a special spot for many people, not just the young or the Indigenous. The local caravan park is as famous with the locals as it is for tourists, and this is where they stayed. The attractions are pretty unique too and it’s safe to say that the jumping pillow and pool were well used. Most importantly though, was its access to the beach and the bush. Stories were told in the sand dunes and native species were found on the fire trails. The idea was to get back to basics, to walk, to talk and to share. Like the Elders have done for thousands of years.


Resident and former World Championship Tour surfer, Sandra English gave the kids boards and showed them how to ride. She has taught just about every local youngster to enjoy, respect and understand the ocean. When they weren’t surfing, the kids got to know some of their Elders, including Chub. For many, this was their first time hearing their stories. They learnt of the rich connection Aboriginal people have to the area and about its history. This is without doubt one of the most important things they will ever experience. Indigenous people have come from the land and believe that they will go back there. Their spirit doesn’t hide.


Central Coast residents have access to something really unique: a home near the water. For some it is the lake and for others it is the ocean. If you are really lucky, your place is somewhere in between. Not many enjoy this privilege and its value is often lost. But not for these kids and hopefully the people reading this story. The ocean is free and it’s unlimited. All young people can get bored and take what they have for granted. This program showed them the magic that lies in their own backyard.

 

Identity and connection are different things and this distinction is important. Identity comes from family and connection comes from place. It’s hard to measure with words, you might not understand it, but you must respect it. The adults in this program were kids once too. They never forgot what they learnt. And who they learnt it from. Even if you weren’t born here you can create a connection. This is true for all people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike. This story is more than the sum of its parts. It’s about taking stock, reaching out and finding reconciliation. It’s in the ocean, it’s in the trees and it’s in the people you meet.


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