Australia

Hundreds of Santas set record for world's biggest surf lesson

A pack of 320 surfing Santas embrace the Christmas spirit in Australia, breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest surf lesson. Image copyright RedBalloon

A pack of 320 surfing Santas have embraced Christmas spirit in Australia and broken the world record for the largest surf lesson.

Guinness World Record confirmed to the BBC that the festive spectacle at Sydney's Bondi Beach on Tuesday exceeded the target of 250 surfers.

The organisers say the record-breaking surf is also an attempt to raise awareness of mental health issues.

The event was kick-started by a local retailer, surf school and surf charity.

Image copyright RedBalloon

RedBalloon, Let's Go Surfing, and OneWave came together to hold the lesson, and rustled up hundreds of participants using social media.

OneWave spokesperson and mental health therapist, Joel Pilgrim told the BBC the surf charity started about three years as a way to bring the local community together and to break down the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Image copyright OneWave
Image copyright OneWave

He said the group holds weekly meetings - Fluro Fridays - where surfers dress up in outlandish outfits.

"We're giving people routine and purpose which is key in someone's mental health recovery, and also engaging them in an activity that is quintessentially Australian," he said.

Image copyright RedBalloon
Image copyright RedBalloon

Mr Pilgrim said there were a few confused residents on Tuesday who were a bit angry to find their regular surf break bombarded with red-suited surfers.

Image copyright RedBalloon
Image copyright OneBalloon

This year the University of New South Wales studied how the OneWave surf program affected people living with severe mental illness - finding overall improvements in life, psychological growth, physical benefit, and social support networks.

The results are also reflected in a world-first pilot scheme in Biarritz, France - which prescribes surfing over medication for a range of illnesses, including depression.

Image copyright RedBalloon

Tuesday's surf lesson participants seemed to agree that it was at the very least an enjoyable experience.

"It's good, it's awesome, a lot of people, a lot of fun, a lot of energy [it's] exciting," one surfing Santa said.

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