Surf Life Saving NZ is building great people, says DHL Volunteer of the Year

Friday, 27 September 2019

Rachelle Bright says Surf Life Saving NZ has done more for her than she has for the organisation.

“I was such a shy kid. I now have the confidence to achieve my life goals.

“I could never give back to the surf club what the club has given to me.”

Rachelle has been named the DHL Volunteer of the Year at the Surf Life Saving NZ Awards of Excellence held on September 21.

Growing up, the 29-year-old was a regular on Whangamata Beach because her Auckland family had a bach there.

Rachelle was a competitive swimmer and joined the Whangamata Surf Life Saving Club in her early teens, she qualified as a Surf Lifeguard and has been a club member for 15 years.

“I was asked to join the board as a General Director at the age of 19 and then later took on the Director of Lifeguarding role. I became Junior Surf Coach, then Junior Surf Coordinator and I was the first female Club Captain at the age of 21.”

Rachelle has since sat “on and off” the board to fit around university and work, and has just finished her second stint as Club Captain.

“The club has changed from building great lifeguards to building great people,” she says.

Rachelle, a teacher of Year 3 and 4 students at Katikati Primary, says her favourite time of year at the club is just after Christmas.

“I love December 26 – the place is humming. There’s a sense of satisfaction – all our hard work from the winter is paying off,” she says.

These days she doesn’t spend as much time on the beach in her “red and yellows” – she’d rather be behind the scenes, coming into the club and helping her fellow volunteers by doing what needs to be done to ensure the younger Surf Lifeguards are able to perform on the beach.

Earlier in the year Rachelle won the Coromandel Volunteer of the Year Award before being announced as the national winner on September 21.

“That was really exciting. I’m usually the one making sure people are nominated. I was so stoked.”

Rachelle’s parents were able to attend the awards ceremony, which she says was a wonderful way to thank them for being “extremely supportive” of her club life.

“I’m never leaving the club. The club has really developed and enhanced. I’m a member of the Coromandel Committee and I’m very proud of the Coromandel area.

“We are just pumping at the moment. We’re really making Coromandel hum rather than focusing on our individual clubs.”

Click here for the full list of Awards of Excellence winners.