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Surfing Australia

Lockdown was good prep for Aussie adventure

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BEING able to go surfing after a couple of hours’ schoolwork was the highlight of the recent coronavirus restrictions for six-year-old Bodie Howland.

The Buddina boy said his teacher, Mrs Prestwidge was “the best” but there were things he loved about being home with his mum Kelly and siblings Ocean, 2, and Reef, 3, too.

“I like surfing, catching fish and having a swim, eating oysters off the rocks, playing in the rock pools and climbing trees,” Bodie said.

Kelly laughed as she explained how Bodie would do a couple of hours’ work, then go to the beach.

“Then in the afternoon, I can write books so I can sell them and get money to buy stuff,” Bodie added.

The budding author writes and illustrates in his spare time. He only writes happy stories.

“If I’m ever sad, I can read them and it makes me happy. And some of them make me laugh.”

Kelly said that while Bodie had been attending school since May 11, homeschooling him while the family self-isolated had been great preparation for an imminent departure on a caravanning trip around Australia.

She and husband Glenn “Howie” Howland sold their Buddina home just before the coronavirus lockdown, and plan to depart soon for an around-Australia trip.

Glenn, Reef, 3, Bodie, 6, Ocean, 2, and Kelly Howland at the beach.

“The homeschooling has prepped us, for when we’re on the road,” Kelly said.

Bodie had enjoyed school, but after being home with her for weeks, he missed his freedom, she said.

“It’s going to take a while to get used to being there five days a week – by the end of the week, they’re pretty tired.”

She said having him at home had been great for assessing “where he was at” with his work.

“He’s quite intelligent … so we were able to realise that the stuff he was being given, we could do more advanced stuff with him,” she said. “It was great to see his interests. One day he was Googling dinosaurs and seeing different patterns on dinosaurs, and learning in his own way. I was showing him in his own way. And that interests him more than learning in a way that’s strict.

“He can use his imagination. It was good.”

Bodie thought having his parents school him on the road would be good because he wouldn’t have to do the work on his own.

Kelly and Howie are both keen surfers, and often take their kids to nearby surf breaks at Buddina and Currimundi.

Since the coronavirus lockdown, there had been a huge increase in surfer numbers, especially on weekends, Howie said.

“Our tracks have been getting heaps busier,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that we don’t see … none of your regulars.

“A few of the boys think it might be because all their gyms are closed – they’re all just thinking, ‘I’ll grab a surfboard and try that’.”

On weekends, Howie avoids surfing in the early mornings, but said the crowd usually died down later in the day and it was still possible to “get your fair share” of waves.

Kelly said that in pre-pandemic times, she had surfed with other mums, each taking turns to care for the kids on the beach.

During the lockdown the Howland family enjoyed home schooling 6 year old Bodie, the only one who is at school.

During the lockdown the Howland family enjoyed home schooling 6 year old Bodie, the only one who is at school.

But since social-distancing restrictions, the group was unable to meet, so she got her surfing fix when Howie was home to be with the children or she came to the beach with the whole family.

“The only thing that’s really affected us is that we’ve not been able to take a shade down the beach for the kids,” she said. “So we’re able to tag, and still be fishing, but we’re not able to sit down there for the whole day.”

Most members of Kelly’s Alex Heads and Kawana Surfing Mums group had been able to keep surfing regularly, she said, usually taking their boards out when their husbands were home from work or in the morning before they left.

Surf meet-ups resume

Surfing Mums member Rommie Beck said the group had resumed its meet-ups last week, with group sizes monitored in accordance with social-distancing restrictions.

Rommie gave birth to her fourth child, Taz, on March 16, and was back in the water a week later.

“It seems it’s going back to some normality, and it’s great for us mums’ mental health and fitness to be able to surf together again and have an hour in the water,” she said. “The kids are all so happy to see each other and play on playgrounds.

“As for me and my newborn, it’s perfect timing, as I like the social interaction and enjoying the beautiful weather. I’m back in the water already and feeling good to be able to get my surf fitness back to normal after time out of the water.”

Funding the big adventure

Ocean, 2, and Kelly Howland at the beach

Ocean, 2, and Kelly Howland at the beach

A rigger by trade, Howie said construction work was getting harder to find on the Coast.

“I had to travel a fair way – I did three weeks out at Oakey,” he said. “Had to leave Kel and the three kids at home.”

He has some other trades under his belt, and was looking forward to state borders reopening so they could start their new life on the road, where they would supplement savings with jobs he picked up.

“It’s going to be a cool adventure,” he said.

Kelly’s jewellery business will also help fund their adventures.

She started Salty Tribe Collection after her daughter Ocean was born.

“I would go around to markets and look around for matching anklets or bracelets and couldn’t find anything I loved,” Kelly said.

“So I thought to myself, ‘Why don’t I just make them?’.”

The bracelets and anklets come sized for children, teens or adults, while she also sells a range of earrings and necklaces through an online store at Etsy.com.

“People would stop me in the park or the beach or the street and say to Ocean, ‘Your jewellery is so beautiful’. She is the first to say, ‘My mummy makes them for me’,” Kelly said.

“She is my No. 1 fan and great for advertising.”

Kelly said her shelled anklets were popular, and lasted up to six months, even when worn in the surf every day.

Entrepreneurship runs in the Howland family, it seems, with Bodie already plotting how he’ll sell books about the native animals he meets, while on the road: “I could build a stand that holds books, that says Bodie Books.”

He said the family would be away from the Coast for “maybe past 1000 sleeps”.

“I’m going to write letters to my friends and my Nanny and Pa and Grandma and Poppy and send them in the mailbox,” he said.

Bodie said he was excited to one day see the snow.

“We will see so many animals and sleep on the triple-decker beds,” he said.

“And I’ll be able to make lots of cool animal books about the Australian animals, and I’ll meet … a gazillion friends.”

Kelly said she had loved living on the Sunshine Coast, and might return in a couple of years, depending on where the family’s travels took them.

“Thanks for the sunshine, memories and great mates,” she said, in farewell.

To keep up with the Howlands as they travel, follow @saltwater_ratbags_travel_aus on Instagram. Kelly’s jewellery business is here: @salty_tribe_collection.



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