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Inaugural memorial surfing event raises awareness of mental health issues

Inaugural memorial surfing event raises awareness of mental health issues
August 17, 2021

Surfing Victoria has advised that the inaugural 50 Year Storm event was held yesterday at Bells Beach in memory of former world junior surfing champion Shaun Brooks and to raise awareness towards mental health issues.  

The field featured 30 publicly voted local surfers, both male and female, from 16 to 56 years old. There were three heats of ten surfers, each judged on their best one wave out of 100 points. Many different surfboards were ridden from the 6ft to 9ft range.

The COVID restrictions for outside events were in place, with less than 80 people attending.

The Bells Beach 50 Year Storm Invitational was envisioned to honour local legend Shaun Brooks. The name is a cheeky reference to the 1991 cult movie, Point Break, where the lead character Bodhi paddles out at Bells in the ‘50-year storm’, never to return. It also alludes to the idea that it’s likely that all of us are going to face a mental health ‘50 Year Storm’ at least once in our lives. The event aims to promote the prevention and control of mental illness, particularly by destigmatising mental illness and suicide. Brooks, a former World Junior and Victorian Open champion, took his own life in 2012 after a long battle with mental illness.

50 Year Storm is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to reduce the stigma of mental health in the local community it raises funds and supports charities such as Headspace and Movember.

The event runs on the best and biggest surf day between 1st June and 30th August, with a public voting system to work out the invitees.

The tight-knit Torquay surfing community and surf industry has embraced the event. So far, over $20,000 has been raised to benefit mental health programs in the local community.

There were many memorable moments throughout the morning, and three awards were handed out. Tim Stevenson took out the best surfer award and was deemed the winner noting “This is such a special event and I feel honoured to win this event today. It was really fun, it was a storm and the reason behind the event is no joke.”

The diminutive giant killer, Angela Ball, won the Johnny Utah award with a late takeoff and then surfed all the way to the button after taking some heavy wipe outs earlier in the heat.

The oldest competitor, Jeff Sweeney (56), surfed what was considered to be the biggest wave of the day.

Shaun Brooks’s younger brother, Troy, a former WCT competitor, who was unable to attend due to COVID restrictions added “our family is stoked that a bunch of Shaun’s mates have come together to put on not just an awesome memorial surfing event, but also drive support for mental health and youth suicide prevention. I was bummed that I couldn’t come down to compete in the event!

“Mental health is in the forefront of all our minds with the current Australia wide lockdowns to stop the spread of Coronavirus. Isolation is one of the things that brings out the demons in all of us. Depression and anxiety are widespread due to social distancing, loss of income and the fear of the virus spreading to loved ones. Talk to your mates, and ask the hard questions. Please, if you feel this way, reach out to your friends or one of our partners for help.”

One in Five’s Gabrielle Sheehan advised "during COVID, we have all had resilience challenges and for some people they are experiencing mental distress for the first time. We need to do more than acknowledge mental health, we need to continue to do more to improve health outcomes. Everyone has a role to play." 

One in Five is a not-for-profit organisation raising funds for medical research into better diagnosis and treatments for mental health. One in Five Australians are suffering from a mental illness. The organisation is 100% dedicated to raising funds for medical research and 95% of all funds raised go directly to their research partners. They are proud to support leading Australian mental illness experts at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and Monash Health. One in Five is a volunteer-based organisation. They receive no government funding, and so all funds raised come directly from events and donations from the community.

Headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation providing early intervention mental health services to 12-25 year olds, along with assistance in promoting young peoples’ wellbeing.

Movember: Since 2003, Movember has funded more than 1,250 men’s health projects around the world, challenging the status quo, shaking up men’s health research and transforming the way health services reach and support men.

Image Credit: Photo Credit: 50 Year Storm Committee 

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