Wāhine on Water - Aoife Fyall

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

The Wāhine on Water initiative aims to get more female lifeguards trained up to crew and drive inflatable rescue boats (IRBs). The programme pairs less experienced lifeguards with an experienced female IRB mentor, and the events give women an opportunity to expand their boat experience in a supportive, relaxed and fun environment. 

Let’s find out about one of the wonderful wāhine involved in the initiative, Aoife Fyall. 

Name: Aoife Fyall 

Age: 20 

Club: Waikanae 

Tell us who you are within SLS: 

I started surf club when I was about 6 or 7. We had just moved to Gisborne and my parents wanted us to have basic water safety knowledge. Since then, I was hooked, I started competing as soon as possible and practically lived in the ocean. Eventually, I got sick of basic competing and got into IRB and the lifeguarding side. I got my crew and driver's license and did heaps of development camps all over NZ. In 2019 I was in year 13 and spent half a year teaching a group of kids all they would need to pass their Bronze Award. They were all too young to sit the exam but all of them had the ability to pass. I did a season of IRB racing in 2020 but it became too hard to continue with both crew members being at Uni. I'm currently still a member of Waikanae but not too involved. Once I finish Uni, I want to get back into surf club and be more involved with lifeguarding and IRB. 

Name the three most influential people in your SLS career: 

  1. My sister Casie Fyall. We both got into surf club at the same time but she went down the beachie route and I went down the water route. Because she was older, she excelled a lot faster than me. She has won multiple national and international medals and even now she's the most encouraging person. If I came last place in a final, she'd always find the silver lining. "At least you made the final, that's epic!"
  2. My parents. Casie and I were both competing and for a while in two different age groups, me in under 14 and her in under 16, this meant two different competitions. My parents did everything humanly possible to get us to these competitions, took time off work, drove us hours away, paid for everything, and would spend hours sitting at the beach waiting for us to do a few races. Without them, I wouldn't have gotten into surf lifesaving and wouldn't have such incredible memories and achievements.
  3. ‘Dads Army’. At Waikanae, there is a group of older gentlemen who call themselves ‘dads army’. These men are still involved in the surf club, some are life members and some just love the sport and can't seem to leave the club. One summer I was using the club gym and kept running into this group, I was lucky enough to become a member and was given the famous ‘dad army’ socks. These guys taught me that surf club isn't all about competing and winning, it's about the culture and the feeling of helping people in need.

What’s been your scariest SLS moment: 

The scariest moment for me would be sitting my IRB driver's exam. I got the call up to say the surf is big enough and to get to the beach asap. As I was doing a run out the back of the surf two massive waves were coming, my crew member (my coach) told me I couldn't make it but my gut told me I could so I went full throttle towards this huge wave. I got over them both only just, I knew if I turned (the boat) I'd fail, and if I didn't (turn the boat) I might make it. 

WOW moment/favourite SLS memory: 

My biggest WOW moment was at the national pool Champs one year. I wasn't the best swimmer so one year I decided to give line throw a go. I trained super hard, but because I wasn't the top swimmer the club wasn't too confident in me. They gave me my friend Ella as the swimmer, who was like me, not the best swimmer. I think we were the E team. We ended up winning the U19 line throw, broke the national record and had the fastest time out of all the competitors, even the Australian and Chinese teams that had come over! 

What does Wahine on Water mean to you: 

Wahine on Water means that women are capable of so much more than we are given credit for. When I was younger, IRB was "only for boys". Everyone was so surprised when I decided to get into it because it wasn't what girls did. But why not? Women are capable of driving an IRB just as well as a man. Yes, the boat may be slightly heavy for us to carry but we can still do it. 

What advice would you give to yourself when you first joined SLS: 

Just have fun. From a young age the competitive side of surf club became a bit consuming, it was fun at the time but it became very draining. It's not all about being the best ski paddler or iron man, it's about having fun and learning skills that can save yourself and others. 

Life outside of SLS: 

I am just about to start my third year of university at Auckland University of Technology. I'm doing a bachelor's degree in Business, majoring in Management and doing a double minor in Sport Marketing and occupational Health, Safety, and Wellbeing. I hope to get back into surf club once I finish my degree and have more spare time.