Project Mentor Profile: Jordie

Jordie Campbell, Victorian Indigenous Surfing Program
Connecting Indigenous youth to the healing power of the ocean

EpZen Project Reconnect directly supports those who champion wellbeing in their local communities and help people reconnect to calm. By providing monetary grants to these wellness mentors, Project Reconnect enables them to easily extend their services to help more and more Australians improve their wellbeing.

Project Reconnect mentor, Jordie Campbell, is the Indigenous Aquatics Manager at Surfing Victoria and 11 x Victorian Indigenous Surfing Champion. Jordie has been involved with Surfing Victoria since he was a teen and is passionately committed to helping members of the Indigenous community improve their mental wellbeing through the sports of surfing and stand up paddleboarding.

© Surfing Victoria

Jordie leads the Victorian Indigenous Surfing Program. Among the longest-running Indigenous engagement programs in Australia, the Victorian Indigenous Surfing Program helps foster connection with the ocean and the community through the sport of surfing. Participants are taught new skills, water safety and healthy lifestyle choices by positive Aboriginal community role models in a culturally safe and inclusive environment.

Now, the program is widening to reach more and more community members. Project Reconnect helped fund the Surfing Victoria summer roadshow: a series of surfing and SUP programs for local Indigenous youth across South West Victoria, the Surf Coast and Gippsland throughout January 2021.

© Surfing Victoria

“I’m at my calmest when I’m in or around the ocean.”

For Jordie, the water has always had a positive, powerful effect on his wellbeing.

“I try to spend time down the beach every day, whether its surfing, swimming or just having a coffee. It helps me re-set my mind, allows me to think clearer and work through any issues or problems I’m having.”

Jordie has sought solace in the ocean since childhood, often turning to surfing to help him rebalance when life became difficult. Jordie’s belief in the power of surfing and the ocean on mental and physical health led him into a career with Surfing Victoria and a position that helps him connect with his Indigenous culture.

“I was lucky enough to start my journey as a participant in the Indigenous Surfing Program in my teenage years. I was then nurtured into a mentoring role that led into becoming the programs manager.”

© Surfing Victoria

“Being able to pass on that knowledge to the next generation of Indigenous youth and hopefully change a few lives is what inspires me to come to work each day.”

Jordie and the Surfing Victoria team observe the healing effect that surfing and the ocean seems to have. They love to watch the participants after their first dive into the water:  looking happy, glowing and energised.

Jordie believes the Indigenous Surfing Program has been successful because Surfing Victoria is committed to the communities – returning time and time again to continue teaching, guiding and mentoring Indigenous youth.

“We have built longstanding trust with in the Victorian Indigenous community. The program has been running for 21 years and in that time we have shown commitment to the people and built programs to suit their individual needs. We have grown together and they have helped shape Surfing Victoria into a culturally safe place for all Indigenous people.”

© Zac Lovesless Photography

We interviewed Jordie to learn more about his experience as a Mentor…

Hayley, EpZen’s Social Impact Manager: Hey Jords! Tell me more about your January Roadshow for the Victoria Indigenous Surfing program. Who participated? Did it achieve what you hoped it would?

Jordie: The January 2021 Roadshow across the coast of Victoria was a great success! Yes, we had massive engagement with the indigenous community with over 180 participants across 3 weeks of activities. We saw people from the Victorian Indigenous community join us, ranging from 4 to 70 years old.

© Surfing Victoria

Hayley: What was the vibe like at the sessions? Did it change throughout the day?

Jordie: There was a mix of positivity, nervousness, and eagerness. A lot of the participants had never surfed or had much to do with the ocean before, and the ocean can be a scary place.

Over the course of the program though, you can really see a massive change within a lot of the participants. Their trust in our programs grew as the program progressed, and this trust really allows them to open up and enjoy being in the ocean in a fun, culturally safe way.

Hayley: Did you sense that people became more present/calm/happy/connected after participating in the session?

Jordie: These programs really allow the participants to connect with the ocean. The ocean traditionally is an extremely significant location for all indigenous people. Surfing and SUP allows them to connect to the ocean and find a send of calm.

Hayley: Did you get any feedback or quotes from participants about the events?

Jordie: We have received awesome feedback from the sessions:

“That is the happiest I have seen Neil in a while. Thanks for that. All the kids had a ball.”

“Thank you to the ladies at the SUP day who paddled my 5 year old around. She is telling everyone now that she can stand up on a SUP. The care, patience, excitement and encouragement from your team is outstanding. Thanks for two great days, these kids really deserved it after the year they have had.”

© Surfing Victoria

“Thank you so much and your staff for the SUP and surfing day today. When we got home tonight the 7 year old was in the kitchen showing and teaching her dad all the moves she was taught. Seeing her face light up that she could surf was the highlight of her school holidays.

“Just a quick thank you for your surf day mate, you and the girls were amazing in your professionalism and laid back way of interacting with community.”

To learn more about Surfing Victoria and support their work, visit