Q&A with Larry Fisher – Raglan Area School Surf Academy Teacher

When did you arrive in Raglan and what brought you to the area?

I arrived in 2002. The position at Raglan Area School came up when the Academy’s founder Deane Hishon was keen to travel overseas for a couple of years. Raglan had always been a favourite spot for surfing so it was an easy decision.

In your role as Surf Academy teacher and coach at RAS what have been the highlights of this experience?

Having the opportunity to help positively shape young people’s lives. 

Seeing all the past students in Raglan who are now adults surfing, working, and having their own families. It’s great seeing and catching up with them and it reminds you that as a teacher you have an important role in the development and well-being of young people.

What changes have you observed over the years and how have you had to adapt the programme?

Raglan is a lot busier in the surf these days. We are conscious that there are other people in the Raglan community that want to enjoy their time in the waves. So we now take half the Academy out of school at a time when we hit the waves so there are fewer bodies in the water. We also have a rule of not surfing  Indicators or Whale Bay so those surfers who do not want to surf with students can do so.

Deane and I try our best to stay up to date with the best technical and physical training practices. We are constantly looking for ways to fine-tune the programme to benefit the students.

You must have seen many students develop into adults over the years. How do you think the Academy shaped and prepared them for the future?

The balance between doing something you are passionate about and your academic studies is a great combination.

Our students’ NCEA pass rate is nearly 100% and I attribute this to the fact that the students enjoy being at school because they get to surf and train and are in a positive team environment with like-minded students. 

This is a great environment to help develop happy and healthy young people.

Another benefit for our local students is that if we do not always have enough local surfers to fill up the class each year we open up positions for students who live outside of Raglan. Having these students from out of town really helps our local kids make lifelong connections with students from all regions of New Zealand. Whenever our students travel around the country they have many friends they stay with that they have met in the Academy. It has also opened up career opportunities when our locals want to leave home and work in other regions. 

Also, we jump in the bus and travel to all the major surfing events around New Zealand. This is a great education for our students seeing what else our country has to offe,r and is another opportunity to meet other people outside of Raglan.

So I strongly believe the Surfing Academy really benefits our students in preparation for the future.

In your experience what are the qualities and strengths that help your students achieve great success?

In relation to surfing, it is just that love for the ocean and being out there in all types of conditions. I remember way back when Billy Stairmand was in the Academy, he would always be excited to surf even if the conditions were terrible. This love and enjoyment have resulted in countless hours of water time which has been a big part of his progression and success. It was amazing seeing him compete at the Olympics last year.

In regards to life and work – having the confidence and belief and backing yourself. Finding what your gift is and having the willingness of not being afraid of making mistakes and having the ability to learn from your failures. 

Tell us how you became involved in Boardriders and what your role has been.

I have been involved in the Boardriders since 2002. It’s great seeing the little wee grommets all the way to those in their later years taking part and having the chance to compete and catch up with everyone.

I try and help out with the judging and I have been involved with some committee decisions over the years. There are lots of people that do a lot behind the scenes. President Luke Hughes has done a superb job since he has taken over the role and Michelle Tarrant has been the backbone of the club for many years.

Congratulations on your Boardriders recent success. How did you find the competition?

Yeah, thanks. It was an epic event. Fourteen Boardrider Clubs from around the country all pulled their best surfers from out of the woodwork as the winning team was to receive an all-expense paid trip to the Gold Coast next January to compete in the World Boardriders Surfing Champs.  

Billy Stairmand was in Aussie at the time so we were missing our biggest weapon. 

The concept of having a team of a Junior, a Women’s, Open, and an Over 40 made it a real family fun event. The team comprised all past Raglan Area School students I had coached in the Academy except Taylor. It was really special staying together, hanging out and supporting each other. Surfing competitions are really individualistic so it was great being part of a team and wanting to do it for each other and our Raglan community. We had an exceptional run with Kora winning the juniors, Taylor and Caleb finishing 1st and 2nd in the Open, Brie finishing 3rd in the Women’s, and myself making the final in the Over 40’s. Then the icing on the cake was winning the Tag Team event at the end of the event. The scores were pretty much tied with the Mount’s BayBoardriders and it all came down to our last surfer Brie Bennet, who needed to outscore the Bay’s last surfer Owen Barnes, and also get back to the beach in the time limit. Brie caught two quality waves under pressure while Owen couldn’t quite match Brie’s turn qualities, and we finished on top.

How often do you get out for an individual surf?

As much as I possibly can haha…I’m still a grommet at heart. 

What does the ultimate surfing holiday for Larry look like?

Some remote Island in Indonesia surfing with my son and relaxing between surfs with my wife and daughter.

What’s in the pipeline for the rest of the year?

Yeah, not much to be honest. Opportunities always pop up. At the moment I don’t have any overseas trips lined up so just hanging here in Raglan for the winter and carrying on with surfing, coaching, and teaching.Hopefully, we can get through a school year without any more disruptions for the students.