School a barrel of fun for elite surfers

Beach-side schools are harnessing students’ passion for the surf to lift engagement with their education, writes Billy Kos.

05 May 2021
A teenage girl surfing
Image: Professional pathway: Cronulla High School's surfing program is helping keep students motivated in the classroom. Photo by Ian McDonald.

The success of Narrabeen Sports High School’s Surf Academy was on display recently when two of its former students competed at the international Rip Curl Narrabeen Surf Classic.

Wildcard entries Laura Enever and Dylan Moffat then swapped the waves for the classroom taking time out to visit their former school and speak to students about mental health.

They were joined by Cooper Chapman, another former student and founder of The Good Human Factory, which promotes positive mental health.

Narrabeen Sports High School’s principal Dane Ropa said the popular surf program was introduced in 2013 to give talented young surfers a pathway to develop their skills while also getting a quality education.

“This combination of school and sport success engages students in an authentic and measurable way, reflected in high attendance, academic results, participation in student leadership opportunities and a strong sense of belonging,” Mr Ropa said.

He said Narrabeen Sports High School had produced more elite surfers than any other public school in NSW and since 2013 the school had been state champion four times and in the top five every year that competitions operated.

Four kids on a beach with surfboards
Image: Sean Kuziora, Cody Peck, Pip Stewart and Duke Worth ready to hit the surf as part of their involvement in the Narrabeen Sports High School’s Surf Academy. Photo by Karen Watson.

On the other side of Sydney, Cronulla High School is eager to challenge that record having recently launched its own surfing program that combines academic performance with their students’ love and passion for surfing.

Cronulla High School teacher Bevan Gosby said students in the Targeted Surfing Program (TSP) were supported through expert coaching, fitness training and mentoring from nationally accredited and industry experienced coaches.

"We see a huge benefit for a teaching model that combines a high-quality education and sports coaching in a nurturing and supportive environment,” Mr Gosby said.

“We have been doing this at Cronulla High for many years through our welfare and sporting programs and I just thought, with so many students interested in the sport of surfing, it was time to provide these opportunities to those students as well.

"TSP provides a comprehensive curriculum that includes skill and technique development, strength and conditioning as well as strategies to enable students to build the mental capabilities required to be successful in the competitive world of surfing and beyond.”

“Through this program we are able to engage our students in a different way and develop community relationships that support them to achieve their best.”

With surfing now recognised as an Olympic sport, Cronulla High School’s TSP will be a vital component in identifying and developing surfing talent that will contribute to building a high-performance pathway for its students.

Ranked 28th in the world, former student Connor O'Leary is currently on the World Surfing League Championship Tour while current Year 11 student Jarvis Earle has won numerous surfing competitions already, including the Australian Junior Championships.

Cronulla High School’s Year 11 surfing student Cruz McKee said the program would make school a lot more enjoyable.

"It will keep us motivated and looking forward to doing the program with your friends,” Cruz told local media.

"It will make me physically stronger, give me some competitive skills and learn how to surf smarter, which is important.”

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