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Meet The Guy Riding The Fluro Wave From Bondi To Venice

All for mental health.

21/07/2016 4:35 PM AEST | Updated 24/07/2016 7:10 PM AEST
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Zach Williams has brought One Wave's Fluro Friday to the beaches of Venice.

Zach Williams is best described by his friends as a dude. Such a dude.

He's the dude at the bar bursting with so much energy it actually bursts out of him, and into the energy field of anyone within a three metre vicinity.

He's the dude with the big hair and an even bigger grin. But Zach Williams' big smile hides an inner battle. He's a dude with depression. And most people hanging with him at the bar don't see this, which only prolonged his denial.

"I've always being super stoked on life so I was a little blindsided by depression," Williams told The Huffington Post Australia.

"A lot of my identity has been 'Happy Good Vibes Zach' so as you can imagine, it was easy to just smoke a bunch of herb and make myself smile. I think the turning point for me was when I realised I wasn't bothering my friends by being real with them."

Williams lives in Venice, Los Angeles, where smoking herb is legal but the higher expectations come down to your image.

A brief holiday in June found the 27-year-old creative designer thousands of miles away, sitting on the sand of South Bondi, confronted with a completely unguarded and disarming image; a circle of fluro-clad Aussies discussing mental health before jumping in the surf.

It was like duck-diving under a wave and being slapped by another, in the best possible sense.

"Obviously Venice Beach is an international mecca for freedom and expression, but wearing colourful shit in the water, paddling up to crusty Venice locals by the pier and explaining how you had a crummy week isn't exactly standard operating procedure," Williams said.

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Zach Williams on the first Fluro Friday in Venice Beach.

The One Wave community was founded three years ago, using surfing therapy to "free the funk" and build communities where mental health becomes part of the everyday discourse.

It all began in Bondi after Grant Trebilco paddled out in a shirt and tie and rode the waves to spark discussion around mental health, opening up to locals about his previously hidden bipolar disorder.

A few weeks later Fluro Fridays were born, with more people coming together at the end of each working week in the brightest attire to engage in conversations about mental health before a surf, yoga or a morning coffee.

Fluro Fridays have now grown from Bondi Beach to 102 other beach spots around the world.

And Zach Williams boarded the plane from Sydney back to LA with a drive be number 103, starting Fluro Friday in Venice Beach a few weeks later.

How Surfing Can Help Mental Health Recovery

Video by Emily Verdouw

One Wave surfing experience manager Joel Pilgrim said there's not a person who wouldn't be eligible to start their local Fluro Friday, which is why the tangible concept has taken off worldwide. All they need is to "grab their fluro and grab their friends".

"It goes to show that this is so needed in the world. There are not enough conversations around mental health, there are not enough people approaching mental health in an innovative way where we're normalising it," Pilgrim told HuffPost Australia.

"Surfing is the catalyst, and the catalyst for change, but it's actually the engagement the interaction and socialisation of people from all different walks of life –- that is the real change maker."

If any community needs this, it's LA, Williams said.

"The city of LA is tough on humans. It's lots of fun but it can be isolating if you're not mindful.

"The rad people who live here are some of the most creative, passionate and highly capable humans in the world, however, a lot of us are starved for realness. You could have a thousand friends in LA but no one to chat to."

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Six people showed up to the first Fluro Friday Williams held in Venice Beach, which is growing in numbers and real conversations every week.

"Most of us here in LA, like Sydney, are transplants. Our friends are functioning as our family so I hope to build that awareness and support system here," Williams said.

"Fluro Fridays are the silly string that can connect us in positive vibes and start the conversations that open hearts. There is so much potential in LA you can feel it in the air. People are ready.

"And you really can't help but smile back at someone wearing lime green leggings -- there is definitely something to that."

For more information about One Wave or starting up a Fluro Friday at your local beach, click here.

For more information about One Wave at Venice Beach, click here.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

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