by Bob Anthony
DAMIEN Rider has never been one to back away from a challenge - no matter how big or small.
In his case, most of Damien's challenges have been big, in fact huge, such as paddling a board from there Gold Coast to Bondi, skate boarding the length of Route 66 in the US, recalling a rickshaw from Noosa to Surfers Paradise or carry a mattress on his back during the Gold Coast marathon.
Whatever the challenges, Damien has undertaking them to show others who may be struggling with issues in their own lives that nothing is impossible.
Now after seven years, he has finally fulfilled one of his biggest challenges - running Oceans Retreat at Casuarina on the Tweed Coast where he and his team of professionals can impart the same self-belief that has driven Damien.
The Retreat can cater for up to 24 people in the main complex which also features a cafe and spa with consultation rooms and Damien has plans for a gym, pool and some glam camping to be included this year.
"The beauty of what we are doing here is that the emphasis is on self-achievement without setting goals that are too far fetched,” Damien said.
"People come here for a number of different reasons and we offer very flexible and versatile programs - all the time promoting a positive focus which can really change lives.
"Whether there are stress related issues, personal problems or simply just rediscovering yourself, we have an excellent team which have all come through some sort of adversity to can relate their experiences to guests.
"This isn't a boot camp type retreat with rules to be adhered to though we do offer programs which can be a strenuous as you want or just to help sit back and 'de-stress'.”
Working with Damien is former Olympian and Retreat manager Sophie Edington, head chef Jenny Zwemer, guest relations Scott Rivera and cafe manager and juice guru Leanne Chapman.
"The range of activities includes sports science, yoga, strength and conditioning, nutrition, wellness and the professional day spa,” he said.
"Sophie, as an Olympian knows about pressure and stress which she had to live with to achieve her sporting goals, Jenny and Leanne not only help people to eat healthily but also can teach them how to prepare nutritious and delicious meals and juices and Scott ensures that it's as a rewarding experience for our guests.”
There are various packages from day visits to three, five and seven stays with a different levels of accommodation.
"At first the locals weren't sure about what is going on in - it was previously a health retreat but we have broadened the scope of what we do,” Damien said
"My philosophy in life has always been 'Never Lay Down and Never Give Up, Keep moving forward to reach your goals' and that is what I have done over the many challenges I have undertaken.
"Giving people the confidence to achieve their goals or overcoming those issues that are bringing them down or causing concerns in their lives through our programs and having them step outside their comfort zone while they are here is as rewarding for us as it is for our guests.
"We welcome anyone and everyone - be it corporate groups, families, individuals - we can work in programs and activities to suit.”
Damien said activities were as diverse as the people coming to Oceans Retreat.
"The beach plays a large part of what we do - from holding mediation or yoga classes to simply encouraging people to set them selves goals such as walking to Cabarita, the focus is on achievement and self belief,” he said.
Having finally fulfilled a personal goal of his own, Damien and his team also want to work with the local community, particularly the Cabarita Youth Service in providing learning experiences for young people in following careers in health and wellness.
He has also succeeded in having his Rider Foundation recognised as a registered charity which aims to raise awareness of the impact of child abuse and to provide the tools and practical support needed to assist at risk children.
"While we have plans to expand the facilities at Oceans Retreat, I would also like to see if we can acquire a premises which will allow us to develop programs for at risk youth to help build self esteem and promote health and wellbeing for them,” he said.
The biggest challenge these days confronting Damien Rider is finding the time to fit it all in.
To find out more about the Rider Foundation, visit www.the riderfoundation.com
Information on Oceans Retreat can be found at www.oceansretreat.net