Surf’s Up!   Learn to surf and applied principles of counselling.

Whilst coaching a surf lesson at Avoca Beach, Australia, a Canadian tourist participating in the lesson became distressed when caught in a strong rip (a fast moving body of water). The surf lesson consisted of four participants and me as the surf coach.

The participant raised her hand, requesting assistance. Instructing the participant to follow me, we paddled towards the beach. The decision to help was formed by situational exposure to the Australian beach environment, surf culture norms and previous surf coach training. Beach environment exposure and surf culture embody the skills of swimming, surfing and assessing risks. Furthermore, my motivation was driven by the surfer’s code (cultural norm) to help someone in distress without endangering yourself.

Additionally, the decision to act was based upon previous knowledge and experience acquired as a surf coach. Developing competent surf coaching skills has confidently prepared me for rescue scenarios, assessing the skills of participants and motivated me to act in this situation.

Surf coach training adopts a culturally sensitive perspective when teaching participants to surf from different cultural backgrounds. Adopting a worldwide view when coaching participants from various cultures, enables me to become aware of culturally diverse customs, beliefs and swimming/surfing abilities.

My family formed belief of contributing to the wellbeing of others is an intrinsic motivator, driving my long-term helping behaviour. Furthermore, my identity is based upon helping others and value of preserving human life. Surf coaching skill development aligns my core belief of helping others, while valuing the preservation human life and in doing so explains my measured decision to help the Canadian learn to surf participant.



As humans we wired to connect, communicate and contribute; in-fact our survival depends upon it!  Belonging to a tribe of caring family and friends helps us to survive and ultimately thrive. Other people matter and so to do you.

Healthy relationships can be likened to a flourishing garden. Just as a garden blooms with fruit, fragrance and colour; we can also cultivate and grow healthy thriving friendships! 

The soil of a healthy friendship garden is made up of positive values.

A value has significant importance and when acted upon helps us to live and give our best.

The values of trust and respect are essential ingredients when growing healthy vibrant relationships.

If we wish to cultivate and grow friendships it is important to understand a few important truths about relationships.

This knowledge will help navigate the ups and downs common to all relationships. 

  • + Every friendship is different, dynamic and changing. Being able to adapt to these changes is important when making and maintaining relationships.
  • + Friendships, just like people are not perfect. 

Disagreements and conflicts happen in relationships and if we use the values of respect and trust we can seek pro-active and positive solutions. We all make mistakes and learning how to be a good friend and have good friends. Forgiveness and flexibility help us to keep tending to our friendship gardens; turning the soil, adding nutrients, water, mulching and replanting. If however, a friendship does not respect you or contribute to your wellbeing in a positive way it may be time for some serious weeding! 

If you want your friendship garden to flourish try these actions designed to build and boost healthy relationships by cultivating trust and respect;

  • + Shine a light on what is right:  Spot the strengths in your friends and family and amplify what they do well. This action will help them feel good and you will also receive a positive buzz.
  • + Show respect:  Lending your ears to a friend will let them know you care. Create a safe space to share enables friendships to blossom and grow.
  • + Speak up: Next time your friend shares exciting news try these positive phrases to celebrate their success.  “That’s awesome, congratulations!”,     “I am happy for you” and “Wow, that must feel fantastic!”
  • + Share: your stories of striving and success. Just as other people matter, so do you. Your voice deserves to be heard.

James Cummins is the founder of The Positivity Project.

When James is not catching waves on the central coast, he is juggling, drumming and presenting on positivity and wellbeing in schools throughout Australia!