Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Features

Surfer dude riding wave of popularity with comic book hero who's helping children's self-esteem

Al Mennie's creation 'Confident Kris' is now used in schools to combat bullying and boost kids' belief in themselves. Claire Williamson talks to him

Al Mennie surfing at Portballintrae
Al Mennie surfing at Portballintrae
Claire Williamson

By Claire Williamson

Meet Confident Kris. He's the creation of big wave surfer Al Mennie - and he wants to show young (and older people) how with just a few minutes every day he earns strength and confidence, using it to conquer fears, worries and bullies.

He's a Viking child and his mantra is: "I am strong, I am confident and I can do this."

Al (38) has ridden some of the biggest waves in the world and is also a master Krav Maga instructor with a third degree black belt.

He lives on the north coast with fiancee Sara O'Neill and golden retriever Blyton.

The idea for the book came to him last year after he was told about a teenager who was being bullied.

He met with him and tried to help him focus on himself rather than the bullies.

He taught him some situational awareness and escape drills, but was more concerned about helping him create a daily habit of building strength that he could use to his advantage.

Sign In

He said: "That's where it started.

"He was having a hard time at school with a lot of kids giving him a hard time.

"We did a little bit of self-defence. I didn't want him to have to use any of that, but we did that anyway and then I wrote down some points, very much like what's in the book, about focusing on himself as a person and developing himself.

Al Mennie was inspired to write the book by the experiences of a youngster he knows who was being bullied
Al Mennie was inspired to write the book by the experiences of a youngster he knows who was being bullied

"Because the reality was he was focusing on them (the bullies) and what they were saying and telling him.

"But when he focuses on himself, he develops himself and can become anything then."

One of the most important things for Al was drawing attention to the natural world around him.

"I've learned so much from nature being a surfer, it's taken me all over the world and it's been something that's taught me to be aware of my environment and learn from it.

"He went away and it changed his life slightly, he ended up telling his parents things he hadn't told them before and was just a bit more confident in general.

"Then I realised that if it had helped him maybe it could help someone else."

Al Mennie's book
Al Mennie's book

The book tells the story of Kris and his life as a Viking child living with his widowed mum. It explains how he uses strength and confidence to combat fears and worries, and to not let other people's opinions impact him.

He says: "Life can be tough but I am tougher. I live life by my own motto. I am Kris the Viking, I am strong, I am confident."

The book deals with everything from bullying to how to make sure you don't waste a minute of your day, something Al says is as applicable to adults as it is to kids.

He says self-discipline is even more important now the older he gets.

He recalled when he was 18 and was working at the same time as trying to develop his surfing career.

"I knew I only had a very limited amount of time to do this," he explained.

Confident Kris cards that come with the book
Confident Kris cards that come with the book

"I got up in the morning at 6am and I went surfing and I got changed and drove to work, and worked till 1pm and drove to the beach and surfed for 20 minutes and came back to work soaking wet and worked till 5pm and was straight back to the beach and went surfing again.

"It was hard balancing both and trying to use my time as effectively as possible, but it paid off. You have to really use your time and not waste it." He hopes that one thing people will take from the book is for them to regroup and develop themselves, especially in the world of social media. Al says it's important to be a contributor and not just to absorb it all.

"It's always worth remembering to be a contributor rather than a consumer, so that you are giving more than you are taking," he added.

"Because when you take too much from it, it swamps your mind a bit.

"I hope that people can go back into themselves a bit more and focus on themselves and develop themselves as people.

"They are so caught up with looking at social media and looking at what other people are doing or what they are Photoshopping themselves to look like, it's really important to focus on yourself because if you develop yourself you can do anything, you can be anything that you really want to be.

"I want people to look at themselves and what they've got and know that they can sculpt their own lives without being caught up in being an onlooker or watching other people do things, they can actually be something."

For him that's part of the message of the book - to live fearlessly and experience things for yourself.

"It takes time to actually develop yourself by learning and reading and educating yourself and being outside and experiencing things in life," he said.

Al Mennie with fiancee Sara O’Neill and dog Blyton
Al Mennie with fiancee Sara O’Neill and dog Blyton

"Those are the things that really turn you into somebody and give you the experience to grow and overcome obstacles in life, that's the message of the book.

"You have to gain experience in life, do things with yourself, go out and push the boat out and take chances and try and learn and develop yourself by actually going out and doing it."

And most importantly, not to take under your notice other people's opinions.

"Most of the things that people say, usually is their perspective on something," he said.

"Everyone has their own mind and is entitled to their own opinion, it doesn't matter to you as an individual, it shouldn't matter.

"It shouldn't change your choices because of what someone else might think."

Another element of Confident Kris is a separate blank book to fill in affirmations about yourself.

This is something that Al has his own positive experience of when he was at college.

"I went to university in Plymouth in Devon and I only went there so that I could surf and do the whole British Professional Surfing Tour," he explained.

"When I got there, everyone could surf rings round me - I just froze up.

"What happened was I doubted myself and I used to take pieces of paper and I wrote things on it about my surfing ability or my performance that were positive and were true and put them on the wall.

"So I wrote affirmations on my wall, on my phone and anywhere, and I continually saw them. It turned it all around and I started competing really well.

"If you have a specific goal in mind, and you write down these affirmations daily, it really does have an impact."

And what advice has he been given that has stayed with him? A simple one from his father, which has helped him through many situations.

"The only thing that sticks in my mind is my dad saying to me "you can do it son", and so many times in life I've heard those words.

"'You can do it', anyone can do whatever they put their mind to, but you have to physically sit down and say what I am trying to do here? Work out what it takes to do it and systemically go after it until you achieve it."

Confident Kris has had a positive response so far, has been in great demand, and is even being used in schools.

"It's been really interesting. Before I even brought it out, there were teachers and parents contacting me for it and since they've had it, they've been reading it to the kids and that's the bit that has touched me about it.

"People are actually already benefiting from it.

"I'm hearing as well that some of the things that teachers and parents used to overcome with children haven't been that effective - but this is."

You can find out more by visiting www.almennie.com or visit instagram @confidentkrisbooks

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph