Surf Lifesaving Wāhine - Marilyn Moffatt

Friday, 11 March 2022

Let’s find out about one of the wonderful wāhine in the surf lifesaving movement, Marilyn Moffatt, the SLSNZ President. Marilyn is only the second female President and is passionate about supporting females in the organisation. This year is her 50th year as a qualified lifeguard.

Name: Marilyn Moffatt 

Age: 64 

Club: Lyall Bay SLSC (I’ve also been in Wellington Ladies, Fitzroy, United and Mairangi Bay clubs) 

Tell us who you are within SLS: 


Name the three most influential people in your SLS career: 

  1. Carol Quirk

Carol has been my friend and teammate for all of my career. She was the first 1st woman SLSNZ President and worked hard in the 70s and 80s so that women were treated equally in surf lifesaving e.g., allowing women to do board and ski events (seriously we weren’t allowed to do those) and boats (nope not allowed to do those either). Carol captained the SLS Women’s team to Sri Lanka and then managed the NZ Women’s team to the UK (yep, we used to have men’s and women’s separate teams). We all owe Carol for what we now take for granted. Plus, Carol and I have our own national medals and you always feel a bond with your teammates. 

  1. David Clarke

Coincidentally David and Carol have been “engaged” for over 40 years. And I visited them in Opotiki last weekend. David took me to my first nationals as a young 14-year-old and has been an influence ever since. His favourite sayings (after a few whiskeys) were “Are you happy” and “You have to have goals in life”. The men of Wellington really supported females in our area during the 70s and 80s. David also used to take us out rowing long before there were officially female boat crews. Also, coincidentally my sister married his son so we are truly family now. 

  1. Sir Bob Harvey

I worked for the Auckland Surf Association during one university summer and Bob, Malcolm Beattie, Denis Black, Russell Williams and the team have been great supporters and sounding boards for me since. Bob and I worked on the SLS Centenary together and I admire all that he has done in life and surf. 

What’s been your scariest SLS moment: 

Younger members won’t understand how this works, only those who did R&R events…. Competing in the ladies 6-man at the Nationals at Waimarama in 1975. I was swimming in the belt and the reel jammed on the beach so I was being pulled under big waves. I couldn’t pull the pin to release the belt. Carol was in another team and swam over to hold me up so I could get out of the belt. In those days there were no IRBs so we were on our own out there. I thought I was going to drown. 

WOW moment/favourite SLS memory: 

Winning the 6-man title at Lyall Bay nationals in 1994 -we had been trying for years but always one mistake away. We are all still friends and go swimming together. My daughter Kelsey (aged 4) was on the dais with us and some 20 years later she won the surf teams race with Anna Ballara who was in my 6-man team that day. That was really special to see and shows the generation we have in surf. 

What does Wahine on Water mean to you: 

How empowering it is that this programme was set up and how successful it has been in giving more women an environment to try out their IRB skills. 

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

I got my surf award 50 years ago today (4 December 1971) and had no idea what I would get out of it and achieve. My advice would be to soak it all in and don’t stop having fun. 

Life outside of SLSC: 

I have 4 grown-up children who have all been in surf (Kelsey is still there in the infamous Lyall Bay Lumps canoe crew). I manage a membership organisation and am still trying to keep fit by swimming. 

Anything else you want to let us know? 

I celebrated 50 years of being a lifeguard by getting refreshed.