Josh Kerridge is a young farmer reaping the benefits of working with family on their 120ha dairy unit in Waihi.
He is in the enviable position of being able to fulfil his passions for surf lifesaving and competing at an elite level in surf rowing, while earning a living milking 300 Kiwicross cows.
Josh, 20, is the only farmer in his team of four from the Whangamata Surf Lifesaving Club (SLSC). The team won the New Zealand’s surf rowing title in 2016.
Starting a career in dairy was an easy decision for Josh, after being brought up on the family farm and helping his dad milking and feeding calves from a young age.
But it wasn’t until he finished college in 2013 that he started farming full-time.
By then he was established as a surf rower and volunteer surf lifesaver.
He’d been recruited at age 15 by his graphic design teacher, Steve Pipe, and started rowing for the U19 surf boat team with the Whangamata SLSC.
Josh says he and his team mates were seen as ideal candidates for the club “because we were tall and looked like we would make good rowers”.
He credits Pipe with encouraging him and his mates into the sport that he is now so passionate about.
“He taught us our base knowledge by putting in hours of his time into our team when we first started.”
Josh’s first impression of surf rowing made him excited and at the same time a little nervous.
The team rowed on flat water for the first few trainings, before tackling the surf.
“Our first time in the surf was quite a messy day and it was extremely hard to row.”
It didn’t take Josh long to pick up the basics and be able to competently row the boat with his team, but in the five years they have been rowing they are still perfecting their technique.
The team started in 2011. They lost their second stroke when he left to attend Otago University, and his place was taken by Lyndon Vickers.
“For the first three years we rowed for fun, and weren’t doing very well.
“We were mostly enjoying the social side of the sport, until we started to get a bit better, then we decided to take it more seriously.”
In their fourth year of surf rowing, a pattern started to emerge, when they won gold at every competition and won the U19 New Zealand championship.
They also picked up a new sweep, Andrew Jujunovich.
“Andy is arguably the best sweep in New Zealand.”
In their fifth year rowing (2015) they moved to the U23 division, where they achieved gold at most of their competitions, becoming U23 short-course NZ champions.
“We were then selected to row for NZ.”
Josh says his proudest sporting achievement to date was representing NZ at the Australian Surfboat Rower’s League Open in Shellharbour, Australia, alongside three other NZ teams.
His team placed second and although they didn’t beat the Aussies, they plan to compete in the Australian titles in April 2017 and bring Aussie gold back to NZ.
Josh says the Whangamata SLSC is a fantastic club to be involved with.
“They are always supporting us, and supplying us with good equipment. They also helped us out financially, particularly when we competed in Australia, which was a massive help.”
Josh came away from the international competition with new experiences and knowledge about his sport.
The experience didn’t come easy though, because it’s a big commitment while they are all working full-time.
Josh admits trying to find time to fit in trainings and patrol time can be a challenge.
Together, surf lifesaving and surf rowing keep me fit for farming and gives me something to look forward to. It is also very social sport that can take me around the world.
The team aims for 3-6 days a week in training, with times varying depending on everyone’s work schedules. Their training sessions can last up to two hours.
Sessions include dry land trainings, which are spent running or doing time on the rowing machine at the gym.
The team mixes it up with trainings in the boat, where they focus on technique and practicing starts and turns.
This season the team will be doing more land training together, including cross-fit training, combining a varied range of exercises.
Josh uses almost all his annual leave days to go to surf competitions. Each team member is also required to do 40 patrol hours each to be able to compete.
“It is especially hard trying to get time off work to complete our patrol hours, not to mention all of us living at least an hour from Whangamata beach.”
Josh enjoys spending his time at the beach and can see the benefits of surf rowing and volunteer surf lifesaving.
He recommends surf rowing as a great sport to be a part of, saying it works in perfectly with farming, being a summer sport in the least busy part of the dairy season”.
“Together, surf lifesaving and surf rowing keep me fit for farming and gives me something to look forward to. It is also very social sport that can take me around the world.”
He also sees it as a way of giving back to the community while keeping people safe in the water.
“If you’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie there’s nothing more exhilarating than screaming down a 2m swell on an 8m long surfboat and surfing the wave all the way to the beach.
“It’s the best feeling in the world.”
- New Zealand U19 Surf Boat Champions (double gold)
- New Zealand U23 Surf Boat Champions (short course)
- New Zealand Representatives at the ASRL Open (Trans-Tasman)
- Coromandel & Bay of Plenty Sports Team of the Year 2015
- Whangamata SLSC Top Surf Boat Crew 2015, 2016
- NZ Surfboat Series Champions 2015, 2016
- Andrew – Sweep-coach
- Sam – Stroke
- Lyndon – Second Stroke
- Josh – Second Bow
- Brandon – Bow
The surf lifesaving recruitment process isn’t for the faint-hearted. It includes attending a training camp, and a full day of physical tests.
“These are really good as you have current lifeguards teaching you everything, from performing rescues to radios and signals and everything else you need to know,” Josh says.
“The training camps are more of a practical version of the training booklets that you first receive.”
Once candidates are trained in surf lifesaving essential skills, they do the test.
A full day of testing includes a series of a 400m swim, run, swim, run, on the beach, then a 200m run, 200m swim and another 200m run.
Tube rescues need to be done in the pool and in the surf. Then trainees are put through their paces on first aid, CPR and radio signals, followed by another theory test.
“All the physical tests are on a time limit.”
You can only become a surf rower once you’re a qualified lifeguard. Start by joining a surf rowing team, and get to work on the required minimum of 40 hours patrolling.
Once the volunteer hours are completed, you can compete in surf rowing.
Whangamata Beach is one of the busiest beaches in the Bay of Plenty and Coromandel region.
Last season, life guards patrolled for 6119 hours, completed 3408 preventable actions and rescued total of 105 men, women and children.
For dairy farmers, surf lifesaving is great to get involved with over the summer months.
It offers both sport and community service opportunities, while teaching first aid, emergency management and risk management.
It is practical and useful knowledge to have back on the farm.
– Megan Kerr