by CHRIS GILMORE

Ben Bischoff is determined that men’s mental health is not the one that got away.

The 44-year-old from Sippy Downs is the organiser of Row for a Bro, in which a group of keen kayak fishers will head offshore on November 21 to catch fish and raise awareness and funds for Movember. But for Ben, it’s all about the conversation.

“The goal is to encourage others to come out and talk to each other and meet some new people,” he says. “It’s just that ripple in a pond type of thing – a small conversation here and a small conversation there can end up making a big difference. That’s the main goal of it and if we raise some money along the way that’s a bonus.”

The father of three started Row for a Bro in 2018 after what he describes as “a moment” that made him focus more on his mental health.

“Going back four or five years ago I had that moment in my life where things weren’t great,” he says. “I think some people call it a mid-life crisis but whatever it was it wasn’t pleasant – a bit of a depressed state, I think you’d call it. 

“From there it was really around ‘what do I need in my life?’ to work through that, and having people around me and a decent group of friends; being able to get outdoors and do things that help you mentally work through different times of your life. So I guess for me Movember is a way of being able to share that experience to an extent.”

The inaugural Row for a Bro had seven participants and raised about $1700. The 2019 version didn’t come to fruition, but last year’s event attracted 32 people and raised more than $4000.

The fundraising target is $8000 this year, but Ben says “if we get there or not, it’s not our main goal, it’s an added bonus … it’s about having a conversation, which is the main message we’re trying to share”.

This year, instead of paddling from Mooloolaba to Old Woman Island off Mudjimba and back, participants are starting from Moffat Beach with the aim to spend more time fishing. 

Ben is also enlisting some help from his mates Dom Manca, Sean van der Walt, Adam Hempenstall, Brendan Schembri, Nathan Kirkby and Sam McMahon to run the 2021 event.

“This year I’m trying to get a few of my mates who’ve always wanted to help with this sort of stuff,” he says. “I’ve thrown it out there to them if they want to give me a hand they’re quite welcome to. It’s not just me organising this year.”

Row for a Bro will be on Sunday, November 21, from 6am at Moffat Beach. It will be followed by a barbecue and cold drinks at 11am, hopefully with some fresh fish. 

The free event is for capable off-shore kayak fishers only and participants paddle at their own risk. To register visit fb.me/e/2Izd3ay6M. 

Donations are appreciated but not expected via au.movember.com/events/view/id/JNX6.