I became involved with surf life saving the summer prior to my final year of high school. The main appeal at that time was the competitive sporting aspect of it.
At that stage I was a keen competitive swimmer and was happy to sign up and be involved in a new sport that I could treat a little more casually. In fact in retrospect, the casual aspect of surf lifesaving was probably the reason I was suddenly deterred from the competitive swimming lifestyle, as after my first summer competing for Lyall Bay surf club I then gave up swimming.
For a bit of background – surf lifesaving comprises many different events, including swimming, knee board, ski, boats, canoe, IRB and beach running events. Almost anyone could find an event that they could participate in, however not many people even know surf lifesaving exists as a sport.
It’s now been 8 years since I quit swimming and thus my swimming fitness is lost. However it’s still so easy to return to a surf lifesaving season each year and continue competing. Initially I was involved in a number of the different events but I now only paddle canoe with a crew of four girls. The four of us have become really close over the years as we train together each summer at Lyall Bay and then travel around the beautiful beaches of New Zealand to race hard, gain a nice tan, and … occasionally have a celebratory drink or two to finish off an event. To me it’s a perfect combination in a sport!
The surf lifesaving slogan is “in it for life” and you can really take it literally. Why I love the sport is that you look across the beach and there are people of all ages and ability getting involved. The youngest you can compete is 6 years old in “Nippers” competitions and the oldest person to compete in the Masters age group this year was 85 years old. So I can look forward to staying involved with the sport for the rest of my life.
One criteria to compete at national competitions is to contribute at least 20 hours volunteer time patrolling your beach. This is a big initiative to keep New Zealand beaches safe over summer and is another unique reason why I compete in surf lifesaving, not many sports also contribute to saving and protecting lives.