PRIVATE school kids, state school kids, nerdy kids, cool kids and an inflatable unicorn with rainbow trim took to the surf at Mooloolaba this morning to mark the end of school days.
Some waited for their friends and others waited for no-one before launching into the water in what has become a rite of passage for many Sunshine Coast school leavers.
Represented among the sodden uniforms were Maroochydore State High School, Matthew Flinders Anglican College, Immanuel Lutheran College, Nambour High, Nambour Christian College, Suncoast Christian College, Kawana Waters State College, and St John's College.
Students from Narangba Valley State High School made the trek up the highway to join in while Mountain Creek State High students, who have always led the charge, were conspicuous in their absence, having finished up yesterday.
Kawana Waters State College were the most prepared for the celebration, bringing with them inflatable toys, a football, and KTB banners announcing the "Kawana Town Boys", a group of male students at the school who have gone through school together since year eight.
"We start the party. That's just Kawana for you," said Sam Williams, 17.
Maroochydore High friends Zahra Raffs and Paisley Mullins said the day had been one of mixed feelings and leaving school still did not feel real.
"I think it'll take a couple of days to sink in," Zahra said.
Both girls are the first in their families to finish year 12 and admitted there had been times they thought they would never make it.
"I had real trouble when I started all the way up to year 12. I struggled with everything, especially English. If it wasn't for my parents and my teachers and my community, I would have just dropped it and put the nail in and said, 'I'm done' but now the day's arrived, it's like, 'I've done it'," Zahra said.
Parents riding a rollercoaster of emotions watched from the beach and the Loo with a View as the kids they had said goodbye to as the school gates 12 years ago said goodbye to their school years and hello to an adult world.
Lou Shallis, whose daughter, Laura Mansell, has graduated from Maroochydore High, was struck by the contrast between leaving school on the Coast these days and her own graduation from school in England.
"When we left school, we just signed shirts and walked out the gates and that was it," she said.
She said she felt both happy and sad but it was "a beautiful day, a beautiful week."
Janeene Elks, watching her son, Thomas, in the surf with his Maroochydore High mates, said he had been "relaxed and chilled" all week while she was on "an emotional rollercoaster."
Thomas is giving schoolies week a miss and will continue with his part-time job with a view to saving enough to head to the United States as a camp counsellor.
Laura is heading to schoolies at Rules Beach, near Bundaberg, but hopes to make it into the Defence Force and study law with a view to one day entering politics.
Lou and Janeene are both looking forward to seeing what the future holds for their children.
"The school as brought them this far and now it's up to them to find their own way," Lou said.
Janeene said watching her son find his way as a person was exciting.
"I hope I've taught him enough to find his way and do himself proud."
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