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Case studies

Surfing Australia: Workforce

Shore Thing: An innovative product workforce approach


When current participants and coaches told Surfing Australia that women wanted a different kind of surf experience, Surfing Australia listened.

Surfing Australia designed a new product to meet the needs of the market – a new female only participation program called Shore Thing. The product is designed to help women get active and build confidence in a fun, inspiring and safe environment.

'This is not a traditional surf product. We found that for many women, the idea of jumping straight onto a surfboard is out of their comfort zone. We needed to think differently and find a new approach. It’s about making women feel comfortable, breaking down barriers to learning new skills and creating a strong social connection between participants so they want to stay active together,' said Anna Walker, former General Manager, Participation and Community at Surfing Australia.

Driver of participation

Design approach action
Consider the deliverer profile and key workforce roles.


Many participants had never surfed before so it was important the deliverers were able to meet the needs of these participants. A militaristic, boot camp style of coaching was not going to work. Deliverers needed to be women skilled at establishing relationships and networking – women who could teach a range of wellbeing activities in a fun and welcoming environment.

With an ambitious strategy to reach 40 locations and 25,000 participants by June 2021, Surfing Australia needed to build and train a new workforce.


Surfing Australia needed to identify, develop and support a network of at least 14 women to deliver the new product in the first 14 locations. They started by identifying the qualities, teaching style and experience required and then creating a mentor persona. The term 'mentor' was selected to better align with the more holistic, supportive nature of the program.

The next step was to identify suitable surf schools and ask them who is best positioned to deliver the program. Some existing surf instructors had a number of the required qualities and could learn the others, but more were required. Surfing Australia looked beyond the surf sector to yoga, pilates and meditation instructors who also happened to be keen surfers.

Training the new workforce

Surfing Australia held an intensive week-long training program for Shore Thing mentors. This was an opportunity to experience the program, socialise the concepts, refine the product design and further develop the skills and qualities required. It was a stretch for some of the traditional surf coaches who decided the program was not for them.

The remaining mentors valued the opportunity to learn to meditate, to gain a better understanding of themselves and to connect as a network of women. The mentors undertook personality testing to gain insights into who they are. They each received personal development plans which highlighted their strengths and addressed gaps or blind spots. They learnt how to deal with tricky situations both in life and in their new roles as mentors. As they worked through goals and desired product outcomes the women collectively helped shape the values of Shore Thing.

Importantly, the mentors delivering the program will receive business development assistance to grow their business across multiple market segments.

Mentor personal snapshot

  • Vibrant, warm personality
  • Supportive, encouraging and empathetic
  • Skilled at leading and creating a positive, fun and relaxed vibe
  • Experience coaching, motivating and delivering programs for women
  • Ability to leverage networks and engage more women and businesses
  • Living proof of the benefits of physical activity in the ocean context
  • Love the water, keen surfers, enjoy keeping fit or doing yoga.


  • Consider looking outside your traditional network to ensure you have the right people to deliver the product.
  • Engage deliverers in the product design process. Mentors are the face of Shore Thing, so it is important they live and breathe the values in order to grow and build the brand.
  • Offer specialised training to enhance the skills deliverers already have and harness their passion for the product.
  • Encourage peer support. Shore Thing mentors learn together, sharing ideas and advice. They have already created a WhatsApp group and have become a strong support network for each other, contributing to the long-term sustainability of the program.
  • Create a regular feedback loop. Surfing Australia conducts pre and post program surveys to iterate the product and improve the experience for participants and providers.

Looking forward

The innovative approach to workforce development has been a great success. Seventeen mentors are now trained and are establishing Shore Thing programs around Australia to help women develop their confidence in the surf, improve their wellbeing and connect with other like-minded women. Surfing Australia will offer continual professional development, networking opportunities and a strong communications platform to ensure the mentors become a critical part of the affiliated surf school network as it reaches into new markets.

More information

For further information contact the Participation Planning team at

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