World's best surfer goes back to school
Current ASP World Surfing Champion Joel Parkinson swapped his surfboard for books when he visited Barrenjoey High, on
Sydney’s northern beaches, as the newest ambassador for the SurfAid Schools Program.
Parkinson, 32, addressed an assembly of enthralled students before joining a classroom group for a SurfAid lesson on
geography. ‘Parko’ was the first at his table to find Bali on the map. “I used to love geography – it was my favourite
subject,” he said.
Parkinson said he was stoked when SurfAid asked him to be an ambassador. “It's a huge honour, especially for something
that does so much good. It was a no-brainer for me to jump on board. I want to raise awareness around the world as much
as I can and show the world what SurfAid do."
The SurfAid Schools Program, which is supported by Billabong, is an international education program that aims to develop
global citizenship values. It uses the humanitarian challenges and achievements of non-profit organisation SurfAid as an
educational example for action.
Pioneered at Barrenjoey High in 2007, the SurfAid Schools program has more than 2,000 schools registered in Australia,
New Zealand, the United States, South Africa and the United Kingdom. The schools can access free, online educational
material with subjects ranging from health and economics to history and geography.
“One of the best things about the program is the way it engages both teachers and students on important global issues,”
SurfAid Schools Program Manager Milton Brown said.
Addressing the students, Brown said: “The real message behind this program is about being a good global citizen, about
how you perceive the world, and about what contributions you are going to make to the world as you move forward. That is
the choice that you will need to make as individuals.
“It's about making you think about what it means to really help other people in an educated and meaningful sort of way,
not in a self-pitying or sad kind of way,” he said.
Brown said it was a privilege to share the stage with Parkinson. “To honour him as world champion first of all, and also
to accept him as an ambassador for the SurfAid Schools Program is really a great honour.
“Having one of the most popular and recognisable surfing athletes in your corner only enhances the program’s buy-in and
popularity. Joel is a terrific role model for young students and we greatly appreciate his endorsement," Brown said.
Parko said he especially enjoyed the interaction with the students where they asked questions ranging from why it’s
important to support SurfAid to who is the most annoying surfer on the ASP World Tour.
“The students’ questions were really refreshing - totally open and honest, no filters,” he said.
The mission of SurfAid, a non-profit humanitarian organisation, is to improve the health, wellbeing and self-reliance of
people living in isolated regions connected to us through surfing.
SurfAid’s health programs involve education in nutrition, hygiene, healthy environments and disease prevention -
including mosquito net distribution.
SurfAid has built an award-winning capacity in emergency preparedness and has delivered five emergency response programs
following major disasters, including the Boxing Day 2004 Tsunami and the October 2010 Mentawai tsunami.