My SurFeb Story


In 2008 Emma’s mother was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer – it came back twice more but through months of chemotherapy and treatment she has survived.

“My mother is an inspiration and role model to me, not to mention the strongest woman I know.  I decided to join the Surf February challenge in her honour to raise money and awareness for cancer research.

New Jersey USA where Emma lives is currently mid - winter so her SurFebruary has been plunging in the freezing Atlantic Ocean each day.

“The longest plunge time I have had thus far is 2 minutes and 50 seconds. The water never fails to quite literally take my breath away. Every day is a struggle to wake up at sunrise when the temperature is -3 degrees celsius, put on a bathing suit, and jump into the ice-cold water.

“However, I think of all the souls on this planet who have fought so hard every day during the process of cancer. I think, if they could wake up every day and battle one of the most fearsome and destructive monsters, then I can easily wake up and jump into the freezing ocean.”

Emma included the beautiful video on her fundraising page which we share now.

“Jake Leuzzi is a very dear friend of mine whose father is in remission for Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, He helped me create this beautiful video to share with the world in hope of raising more awareness.

The video is really special to me because it shows the loving dynamic my mother and I share and every time I watch it, I am so grateful she is still here with me.”

“I have met so many beautiful strangers doing this each day who come up to me on the beach and spark conversation. I tell them I have been doing this every day in February to raise awareness and money for cancer research through the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse.

“Many people have begun to follow along my journey and donate after hearing my story. Community and support for those with cancer are the two most meaningful things.  Each day I wake up excited to get out there and do this.”


20-year-old WA local Isabella is taking on SurFebruary for the first time.

“This is my first year participating in SurFebruary, and it has been such a rewarding experience. 

After hearing about SurFeb, I immediately wanted to join. The program appealed to me so greatly. Cancer has impacted the lives of many people I love and care deeply about - and continues to do so.

As a current student in the health field, I have such a passion for the prevention, and research regarding diseases - particularly cancer. 

Izzie is studying an honours bachelor of speech and hoping to work in a hospital setting with people whose hearing and/or speech have been affected by cancer, or other diseases. 

“Living on both the east, and west coast of Australia throughout my life, I’ve always seen the water as a place of joy and healing - and it’s been really wonderful to see other people share that view in the name of fundraising for Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

The sense of community provided by the SurFeb program has been incredible, and it’s been great to push myself to get in the water every day to improve my surfing. 

I’m very confident that SurFebruary is something I will continue to participate in, for many years to come. I can’t recommend getting involved enough!”


Meet Maddy who is participating in SurFebruary in honour of her Mum and Grandmother who have both passed away from cancer.

"My aim is to help promote awareness around cancer research and show the remarkable souls who are currently fighting, that I see them and stand with them" says Maddy

"I feel incredibly honoured to be able to have my health to help fundraise for cancer research at Chris O'Brien Lifehouse."

"Watching my Mum bravely battle cancer for many years allowed me to see the world in an altered way. I have the utmost respect for anyone who is currently on their combat with cancer and want to celebrate the wins of those who conquer this fight."

Maddy's inspiration remains the big blue sea and the community around her..

"The first small moments of silence and healing after losing my Mum and my Grandmother came to me in the ocean and without the sea, I have no idea where I would be.

"Getting my local community involved in this brings me so much joy and happiness! The last few years I was overwhelmed and touched by the beautiful messages I received from not only friends but strangers who felt safe and inspired to share their cancer stories with me.

This will be my third year of participating in SurFebruary and I am excited for how this month will unfold."


Yass local Chrissie was just 19 years old when she was told she had cancer.

“I had hip pain for about 6 months that came and went, but I just put it down to being physically active because it felt like a pulled muscle. I finally had an MRI and within 24 hours I was told there was an 7cm tumour inside of my femur. It was a Grade 2 bone cancer (chondrosarcoma). Cancer and illness changes your life no matter the age, but it was particularly challenging being so young. I was 19, and at that age, you don’t know anyone who has gone through anything like that, especially in rural areas. Cancer was not on the radar - I just wanted to keep doing what every other 19 year old was doing; travelling, partying, playing sport and chasing their dreams.

The top half of my femur was removed from my body, radiated at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, then brought back to Royal Prince Alfred Orthopaedic Building and reimplanted in my body.

It was a complex operation that would not have been possible without the incredible and world-leading facilities at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, and the people who dedicate their lives to helping people like me. 

Today, I am extremely passionate about supporting young people with cancer, particularly those from rural areas. Not only am I lucky to be alive, but I am lucky to be physically able to swim for others like me."

Home town Yass is far from the ocean but that won’t stop Chrissie from getting in the water each day for SurFebruary.

This SurFebruary, I joined the No Waves, Worries Yass team and will be swimming laps in the pool and stand-up paddle boarding in the Yass River. My goal for SurFebruary is to raise any amount of money, big or small, to support cancer research. 

“Overall, I am going well and feel so blessed to see a new year. The power of humanity and hope Chris O’Brien Lifehouse showed me has changed my life and I will always carry it with me. I hope that in this life I can inspire at least one person the way the team at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, particularly Prof. PAUL STALLEY, have inspired me"


Novocastrian Michelle Faithfull has always loved the ocean but it was when she joined SurFebruary in 2020 that she truly became enamoured with getting in the water every day.

“What’s not to like about getting in the water?” Michelle says “The weightlessness, the feel of it, the fun – and it’s great for the endorphins. I’m a sunrise swimmer, so diving into the ocean, at the most beautiful time of the day is pretty much a ritual for me.”

Michelle is no stranger to raising funds for worthy causes, and in 2020 she was awarded Newcastle Citizen of the Year.

"Bringing people together for a common cause is what gets me out of bed every day, and seeing the outcomes brings me joy."

This is Michelle's 5th year participating in SurFebruary and her 2024 challenge will be a little different.

"I'm travelling to Antarctica in February as a 60th birthday present to myself and will take on the polar plunge as part of SurFebruary. This involves plunging into the Southern Ocean, while tethered to a harness for safety. The photo of that event will be going “straight to the SurFebruary pool room!”

Michelle credits those around her for helping her reach her goals every year.

"I have managed to create a wonderful supportive community around me, that not only includes family and friends, but the generosity and kindness of acquaintances and sometimes complete strangers never ceases to amaze me. There are plenty of good people out there, sometimes it just takes a little bit of effort to find them”

Michelle, we think you're one of those good people.
You can follow Michelle's SurFeb 2024 here.


After a long unexplained 12 months of pain & no answers, I received those devastating 3 words you never want to hear. “You have cancer.”

I’ll never forget the 30th of December 2020. This was the day I received the devastating diagnosis that changed my life. I had squamous cell carcinoma of the lower right mandible. After months of putting up with being it was just gum disease, having three teeth removed, and putting up with pain that was ruining my life, I now had answers, and I promised to stay positive from this day on.

I was referred to Dr. James Wykes at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in January 2021. Dr. Wykes informed me that he would operate and take the pain away, but my mouth and jaw would never feel the same. The operation took place in February, with a free-flap reconstructive surgery. They replaced my jaw with bone, tissue, and nerves from my hip. I am still amazed at how this is possible and very thankful I could receive this kind of ground-breaking surgery. I’m truly grateful to so many that helped me throughout my journey and my ongoing treatment.

I was introduced to the Restorabite as a trial for my trismus, and to try and improve my speech, swallowing, eating, and biting. It has been about seventeen months since starting the trial. I use it daily, maybe two or three times a day if not more. The trismus has a long way to go as it is very stubborn, but I have improved immensely thanks to Restorabite. The research on different devices that improve the quality of life after cancer care can only be improved with the help of funding- thanks to SurFebruary’s seed funding, Restorabite is available to me and many others.

So, when Emma Charters (Speech Therapist) asked if I’d like to participate in an interview for SurFebruary with Co-founder Jenna Clark ( pictured on left, second image) and tell my story, I agreed. Helping Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and SurFebruary after what they did for me, I will always be forever grateful. I will give what I can to help.

I signed up for 2023 to do my best to raise what I could and get in the water for such a great cause. I absolutely love swimming, so raising money to help the researchers at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse improve or design new devices such as Restorabite in this way is something I can’t wait to be a part of.

Living so far from the ocean I took on be doing my swims at our local pool or stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking at the local dams and weirs. I’m hoping to get our local community involved to raise the much-needed funding and give back to the incredible Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

Thanks SurFebruary!



Our Values

First and foremost, we’re for everyone. We believe to our core that anybody can benefit from being connected to nature and purpose, and we know that SurFebruary can be that means of connection.


We act with a spirit of generosity and good vibes, drawing that stoked feeling out of the water and letting it have an impact in everyday life. Kick starting the ripple effect of change in the community and for our cause.


Yes, we’re in the serious line of work of creating real impact in the cancer space, a heavy topic for sure, but we’re 100% about having a good time while we do it! We holistically enrich the lives of our community through surfing, positivity and fun.


We foster unity and togetherness by caring for, supporting and celebrating each other like a family; welcoming everyone with open arms, huge grins and shakas.