Current ASP World Surfing Champion Joel Parkinson swapped his surfboard for books today 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 space with Parkinson today. “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.
Of the visit, 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,” Parkinson said.