Project Mentor Profile: Monica

Monica Fleming, Coasting Program
Connecting women and girls to the empowerment of surfing and stand up paddleboarding

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, Monica Fleming, is the Program Development Coordinator at Surfing Victoria. Monica heads the Coasting for Teens and Coasting for Women stand up paddleboarding (SUP) and surfing programs across Victoria.

Project Reconnect proudly supported the Summer Coasting Program: a series of surfing and SUP programs for local women and girls across South West Victoria, the Surf Coast and Gippsland throughout January 2021.

© Surfing Victoria

“One of the most unique things about the Coasting Program is that it gives you the opportunity to be completely present”

The program encourages participants to try out a new activity and be present to the experience while out on the water.

“There’s no time to think about whether you said the right thing to your boss three days ago, or if you’ve got enough time to get all your homework done. Coasting positively influences three of the core wellbeing pillars: physical, psychological and social. It’s about being active, teaching your brain a new activity and connecting with other people who are doing the same thing.”

Monica is well aware of the importance of mindfulness in maintaining her wellbeing and knows when she needs to reconnect to calm.

“We all get busy and get caught up in the grind of life. Often the biggest signs of disrupted mental health is ruminating on the past or present. For me, the opposite of being calm feels like being a super tight coil that is full of tension. Finding that calm again usually comes from throwing my body in the ocean and having a big, old splash about. But I do try to incorporate little mindful moments in my every day.”

Monica practices everyday mindfulness with moments of gratitude: “Whether that be acknowledging a little blessing like a pretty cloud in the sky or the good people around me.”

© Surfing Victoria

She draws on the power of challenge and fulfilment to help Coasting participants get maximum enjoyment and positivity from their experience. She believes it’s important to relate to them and bring an inclusive vibe.

“There can be a lot of nervous energy from being in a new group and trying something new. It is our priority to make sure everyone feels welcome and safe. For me, building trust comes from talking about things everyone in the group can relate to.”

Monica is keen to give girls and women a way to clear away the stress, anxiety and concerns of their lives like she does.

“I’m grateful to be able to call my passions of working with people and the ocean my job. I have found my experience to be overwhelming and challenging but the achievements within my role have been some of the most rewarding and fulfilling.”

We interviewed Monica to learn more about her experience as a Mentor…

Hayley, EpZen’s Social Impact Manager: Hey Mon! We would love to learn more about the Coasting Roadshow in January starting with who participated in your program. Did it achieve everything you hoped it would achieve?

Monica: January was a wonderfully busy period where we saw many women and girls participate in the Coasting program across the state. We engaged a far-reaching demographic to introduce them to and stand up paddle boarding.

We were really excited to give people the opportunity to disconnect from their stressors in life and get in touch with nature and physical activity through our program.

There is something very unique the way bodies of water have the ability to give people calm. I’m really proud of this program.

Hayley: I can imagine there were some nerves in the morning as people were trying a new activity. How would you describe the energy on the day? How did the participants arrive and walk away from the experience?

Monica: The participants felt a combination of excitement, nerves, and determination at the beginning of our sessions, with most of those feelings being stripped away after they got into the water and had a crack!

© Surfing Victoria

Many participants felt a sense of pride and achievement after their Coasting session, along with a newfound perspective on what calm means to them.

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

Monica: Yeh, everyone’s journey was different.  Some people walked away with a newfound love for the sport and are inspired to start their journey to live more connected and healthy lives.  Others walked away with deeper connections to loved ones they paddled with.

Mostly I think everyone walked away feeling like they had an experience that gave them space to connect back to things that are important in life.

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

Monica: Yes, one participant said:

“I had a lot of fun on my first ever paddle board lesson today. Thank you so much! I’ve never done anything similar before (no kayaking or rowing) but my mentor was extremely helpful, very patient and gave each of us pointers to improve our technique! I was a bit nervous but always felt safe. I highly recommend giving it a go!”

© Surfing Victoria

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