Girls surfing a wave of change thanks to Tū Manawa funding

From: Sport Bay of Plenty

Tired of being ignored or roughed up by the boys, one group of girls at Te Kura o Maungatapu took matters into their own hands.

What started with a football kickaround at morning tea has since blossomed into a full blown movement at Maungatapu School, thanks in some part to funding from Tū Manawa Active Aotearoa.

From those friendly games of football, the Ngā Hine Maia programme was born, providing a varied offering of girls only physical activity opportunities for pupils.

As well as football and dodgeball, funding helped provide the opportunity and equipment to offer girls a chance to learn surfing, with assistance from the team at Hibiscus Surf School in Mount Maunganui.

“The Tū Manawa process has been an exciting adventure for us,” says Tori Hughes, Team Leader Years 5/6 at Te Kura o Maungatapu.

“Our main drive for the funding was to get girls active in an environment where they felt confident and safe and to be able to feel a part of it.

“We have really been able to incorporate a lot of activities for our pupils, including surfing.”

Overall, 23 girls have had the opportunity to give surfing a go. Only three of them had prior experience, meaning a large cohort have been introduced to a new skill as well as vital water safety and confidence development.

“It is fantastic to see how much they have grown and how much they enjoy being in the water,” says Tori.

“We now have all the equipment and the girls keep coming and they are interested in different sports. We can just keep growing it to their needs as they want so they have that feeling of success. It’s really important that they have that.”

Sport Bay of Plenty manages the Tū Manawa fund – which provides funding for programmes or projects delivering play, active recreation and sport experiences for tamariki and rangatahi – on behalf of Sport NZ in our region.

The funding is prioritised for applicants which may benefit groups at risk of low levels of physical activity and who face barriers to being active. These include; young people who experience high deprivation, young people (aged 5-18) with disabilities and young women aged 19-24.

Te Kura o Maungatapu applied for funding in 2023, meeting the priority factors of reducing barriers for young people and also laying the foundations for young wahine to have a positive relationship with sport and active recreation in the future.

“I have really enjoyed it,” says Holly, a pupil at Maungatapu School. “It is a really cool thing to do and it is way better than maths!

“It makes me feel really lucky. I have improved quite a bit. When I first started surfing I could only catch the little whitewash but now I can catch some of the bigger waves.”

Her friend Luisa was equally pleased with the results, not just for herself, but for her classmates.

“I have enjoyed getting up on the board and cheering for my friends when they are doing it,” she says.

“I am just really happy for them and I think they have done a really good job and some of them haven’t really surfed that much and they have learned quite a lot.”

For Tori, seeing the young girls enjoying sport unincumbered as been a huge boost for the school and the morale of the pupils.

“They come back to school absolutely fizzing,” she says.

“Surfing in particular has been a highlight this year but all the activities have been a big boost for the girls.”

Applications for Tū Manawa are currently closed but for more information, and to keep an eye out for when nominations reopen, please visit

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Author: Dan Westerkamp