SurFebruary is a fun annual event in February, where participants raise money for cancer research by catching a wave or getting in the water every day – rain, hail or shine.
This philanthropic, grassroots event is now in its fifth year and is building serious momentum, more than doubling in size and donations year-on-year.
With one in two Australians being diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, SurFebruary aims raise funds that will donated to innovative cancer research and treatment.
As a partner of this awesome initiative, FCS caught up with co-founders Mike Durante and Krista Huebner to talk through the genesis SurFebruary, the positive outcomes and how people are earmarking it in their calendar each year.
Talk us through the origins of SurFebruary.
It all started with a good friend, Jenna, who was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer at 28, just after the birth of her first child. Jenna was treated at a hospital called the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, an incredible hospital in Sydney. Not only a cancer treatment facility, they are also at the forefront of cancer research and take a different approach to patient care. Their holistic approach treats the patient and their family, using the best of cutting edge ‘conventional’ medicine but also drawing from complementary and alternate therapies to accompany it.
Jenna is one of the Lifehouse success stories and through her experience, Jenna and Ronny, her husband, wanted to give back. Ronny surfed every day through Jenna’s treatment and was a massive advocate for the healing benefits of the ocean – aka ‘Ocean Therapy’. From there, the dots were connected and the idea of surfing everyday in Feb to give back was born.
The first year was quite small. The second year, it was just a bunch of our friends and then it grew organically since then. A lot of people have found a huge benefit in just being active and committing to a fitness goal. We have so many ‘repeat offender’ families who take part as a way to keep the summer holiday vibes going after school has gone back, and we’ve had feedback that it’s a great introduction to ‘giving back’ for young kids. A lot of our ‘core’ surfers find it a great reason to get in the water more regularly and change their approach - whether it be riding a different board each day or changing different fins every surf. There’s also a handful of weekend warriors who have seen the love die a little bit over the silly season and SurFeb has been an awesome way to rekindle that love affair and reconnect after a hectic summer. Whatever the motivation, we love seeing people re-discovering the stoke and sharing it with their kids and mates. There’s NO such thing as a bad surf.
What do you think was the reason for the heightened awareness over the last two years especially?
I think there’s a handful of macro reasons for it, partly due to Covid, because this is a positive and healthy way to be together in your community. It’s also something that you can positively engage with and impact, rather than feeling helpless in the face of endless lockdowns. Partnerships with people like FCS and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse have also really helped spread that message. On a more micro level, I think that we’ve grown organically and authentically because our crew love the true grassroots nature of it. It’s not a corporate thing – it’s for the love of surfing, and you’re doing it for your mum, nana, best mate, wife, brother... It’s been a really easy thing to galvanise your friends around. There’s a bit of a groundswell each February and people are beginning to be aware of it just through word of mouth.
Is it a bit of a blur to see something that’s come from such organic roots claim the Greater Good Award at the 2021 Australian Surfing Awards?
What an honour. We certainly didn’t set out to receive any awards at the start, but that was definitely a nice acknowledgment from the surfing industry. I think the interesting thing about SurFebruary is that it’s just as popular outside of the surf industry as it is within. With one-in-two Australians affected by cancer, it’s a very easy conversation to start with someone about why to do it. So it’s meant the event attracts a very broad audience from rookies to pro’s and everyone in between. How you catch your wave a day is up to you – surf, SUP, swim, body bash…the biggest thing is to have fun.
Are you finding people are earmarking it in their calendar each year?
Yeah, for sure. We have a pretty impressive return rate – many ‘repeat offenders’ who we adore. They’re family. A lot of people even extend it beyond February and try to do it all year round. This is a bit of an anecdotal example, but over Christmas our whole family were heading to the beach each day to try and get in the water and our girls were like “but, it’s not even February yet,” and their friends have all pencilled in a plan to do before or after school as it happens once school starts back.What sort of positive impact have you seen based on the fundraising SurFebruary has done?
It’s been huge. Previously we’ve funded treatments at the Lifehouse ‘Living Room’ which offers amazing treatment support for patients and their families, and donated to a bunch of research initiatives. Most recently, together with Lifehouse, we established a fund called the SurFebruary Fund which acts as a sort of ‘kickstarter’ fund for research projects that might not otherwise get off the ground. We’re documenting these projects on our website – head over there to check out the cool stuff we’re doing that is quite literally changing the face of cancer research. We’re looking forward to expanding our research in years to come.
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