Lawyer Mike Newdick remembers the days of surfing at Takapuna Beach on Auckland’s North Shore during the 1960s. Those youthful beach boy days may have long passed but he still loves riding waves and has also turned his attention to charities that benefit from lawyers who surf.
“Back in those days we surfed on very large longboards. You didn’t need a particularly big wave to ride. There was even a surf lane at Takapuna. My father was a surfer and was one of the first guys to bring a proper board into New Zealand. That was around 1960 so I was exposed to it at a very young age,” he says.
As a teenager at Takapuna Grammar School, he entered, and won, surfing contests and the lure of the ocean has been a bug for life.
Mike Newdick is a partner at Turner Hopkins in Auckland. He’s been with the firm for 30 years, since graduating from law school. His commitment to the firm matches his commitment to surfing.
In August 2018 he attended the Australasian Lawyers Surfing Association conference, held on Telos Island in Sumatra, Indonesia. The opportunity came about after he was curiously googling whether other lawyers shared his passion for surfing. It turned out they did.
A chance conference leads to meeting surfing lawyers
“It was during winter. I was keen to head to Australia for a surfing trip and I wondered if there were any related law conferences that I could do at the same time. I googled ‘lawyers surfing conferences’ and up pops the Australasian Lawyers Surfing Association,” he says.
It was through contacting the Association that the invite to Sumatra came about.
“I had no idea of what to expect and when I arrived there were 20 other Australian lawyers. They were mostly very senior people in the profession; criminal barristers and senior commercial lawyers. Every day we went out on a boat at about 7am, surfed a break and exchanged ideas. When we returned at the end of the day, we would talk about law and there’d be seminars about various aspects of Australian law. It was really good to be able to build relationships over a week – which is usually difficult when you’re at short, two-day conferences,” he says.
Thank you, All Blacks…
Being the only Kiwi amongst the Australians had its challenges but the timeliness of the Bledisloe Cup rugby test win by the All Blacks quietened the banter.
“That kept them a little bit under control,” he says laughing.
Mr Newdick says the largely Australian organisation has a few members from Europe and the United States on its books and there are plans for an international conference to be held.
“One of the fundamental reasons they get together is to support a charity called SurfAid which was actually started by a New Zealander, physician Dave Jenkins,” he says.
Dr Jenkins came up with the idea in 1999 during a surfing holiday he was having in the Mentawai Islands off Sumatra. SurfAid is an international development agency employing many Indonesian nationals. Over the years Dr Jenkins has also been a speaker on the well-known Ted Talk circuit.
Reflecting on his career in law, Mr Newdick says lawyers are often dealing with people in an adversarial environment and to find a bunch of lawyers passionate about supporting this charity impressed him.
“It showed real camaraderie. They’re people who really feel good about helping others with less. Sumatra is incredibly poor. There’s a high mortality rate, particularly among children. Many people live in small villages, paddling out to sea in very rudimentary canoes to catch fish. It’s a very subsistent lifestyle, so being able to give something back to them, help them with medical needs and improve their standard of living is what SurfAid does really well,” he says.
Competing with the Aussie lawyers surf team
A SurfAid contest was held at Sydney’s Manly beach in September 2018 which Mr Newdick competed in as part of the ASLA team. That competition, the SurfAid Cup, was held to raise funds to help support SurfAid’s Mother and Child Health Programmes in Indonesia. It was one of seven international events the charity organisation held last year. Mr Newdick’s firm Turner Hopkins also made a donation to SurfAid.
“They raised about $130,000 towards SurfAid projects. I was really impressed with the passion they have for the cause.”
Based on his experience in Manly and following conversations with other lawyers and event organisers, it was suggested that the charity would benefit if an Australasian Surfing Lawyers Association chapter was established in New Zealand.
“It’s possible there might be lawyers here that surf and are keen on being involved. When you get a bit further down the road in your career, you start looking at ways of how your skills can also be used to give back in some way.”
A surfing competition for lawyers was planned for Easter last year but was postponed and is due to be held in 2020, in Gisborne.
Mr Newdick says the collegial nature of lawyers from various backgrounds getting together for a common purpose really affected him, a bit like that salty bug he caught years ago that has kept him surfing since the 1960s.
“Early in my career I was working with commercial property and it used to be easy to get to know people in the profession because you’d do your settlements every week. Usually, on a Friday, you’d pack half a dozen files under your arm, then go off and meet senior practitioners around town, but that doesn’t happen anymore. Technology has made us much more isolated. We even use the phone a lot less. It’s communication by email. So it would be good for the profession to have a purpose to get together.”
SurfAid is a non-profit humanitarian organisation. Its aim is to improve the health, wellbeing and self-reliance of people living in isolated regions.
The New Zealand Government has partnered with SurfAid since the early 2000s to help deliver about $12.5 million of assistance for development and disaster response projects in Indonesia.
This work includes malaria control and eradication programmes in Western Sumatra, women and children’s health initiatives in Nias, an island off Sumatra, long-term disaster recovery projects in Mentawai as well as in response to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, the 2009 Padang earthquake and the 2010 Mentawai tsunami.
What’s both attractive and worthy about SurfAid, Mr Newdick says, is that a high percentage of what is raised goes directly to the beneficiaries and is not swallowed up by administration costs.
“The ocean brings out good things in people. It makes you feel human and we have a real opportunity to help improve the lives of people who really need it,” he says.
Mr Newdick says any lawyers that surf who are interested in being part of the New Zealand chapter of the Australasian Lawyers Surfing Association should contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
He says it’s possible that an event similar to those that are held in Australia could be held at one of the country’s best surfing locations.
“They’re certainly interested in Raglan which is one of our premier breaks. They’ve asked me about the logistics of holding a competition there. There would be a lot of work to do to make it happen but in the end it would also raise money for really worthwhile causes,” he says.