Asylum seekers try surfing for the first time at Bondi Beach


A group of asylum seekers has tried surfing for the first time at a lesson designed to take their mind off the uncertainty of their futures.

Iranian asylum seeker Reza clutches onto his surfboard in anticipation.

He worked as a lifeguard and swimming coach back home, and is excited to give the quintessential Aussie sport a go.

"It’s my dream," he says as he approaches the water. "God loves me today. I feel that."

Reza was one of 10 asylum seekers to take part in a surfing lesson today at Sydney's Bondi Beach. They were all strong swimmers, but it was the first time they had tried surfing.

The event was organised by Settlement Services International (SSI) and surfing school Let's Go Surfing.

Owner Brenda Miley said they hoped to give the men some respite from worrying about their visa claims.

"I think surfing is the one thing that these guys need because as surfers, the ocean just makes you feel good," she said. "It's a fun environment and the salt water just clears away all your troubles."

After making the journey by boat three years ago, Reza spent months in immigration detention centres before being settled in Western Sydney.

He is now on a bridging visa and is unable to work. The other men at the surfing lesson are all in the same position.

Janna Sharples, a casework manager with SSI, said activities like the one today were a good way to keep the men's spirits up.

"We see a lot of issues with social isolation, learning the English language and issues with their past trauma," she said. "And we find that sport's a good way to combat that."

SSI worker Sandra Oehman - the brains behind the event – said she had found a community in surfing when she moved to Australia from Finland, and hoped the men would find the same.

"When you're in the water you meet people from everywhere. Different backgrounds, skills, occupations. It's great," she said.

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With Reza’s history working as a lifesaver, it was hardly surprising that he was a natural on a surfboard.

Walking from the sea back to the shore, he said all his troubles had momentarily been washed away.

"No thinking about nothing. No family, no nothing. No visa, no war, nothing, no problem," he said. "Maybe after this, thinking, but today, this time, nothing. Just care about today, this time. I love it."

Afghan asylum seeker Ibrahim, who has been in Australia for two years, was also elated.

"It's really fun, you know. I never been fun like this," he said.

"It’s really important, to keep your mind good."

Source SBS

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