Wāhine on Water - Kirsty Cullen

Thursday, 10 March 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. 

Name: Kirsty Cullen 
Age: late 40 … something 
Club: New Brighton SLSC 
Tell us who you are within SLS: 
I’m a Lifeguard, Patrol Captain, Instructor, Examiner, Peer Supporter, Surf Official, Coach and Junior Surf Co-ordinator for New Brighton SLSC in Christchurch. Event Guard Coordinator for local district events. And last year I became a SLSNZ facilitator, which was suuuper cool! 2021 Southern Region Volunteer of the Year, and 2020 Southern Region Instructor of the Year. Very stoked and humbled to win those awards, and for all my opportunities. 
Name the three most influential people in your SLS career: 
I’m only allowed to choose 3?? Scotty Roberts because he taught me so much, Linda Poulsen because I want to be as amazing as her, and Chris Jeffery because he’s absolutely everything that embodies surf lifesaving and the movement. But honestly, so many more I could name as well. Oh what the heck I will. Chloe Harris, Hayley and Liz Buckley, Tracey Bentley, Sarah Comer, Dean LW, Jess Larson, Sammy B, Myffy, Kate, Toni, Jade, Meg, Tisha, Helena, Beca, Belinda Slement, Jo Baker, Anina Upton, Georgia McLaren, Helen Mahon, Phoebe Havill, Stu Bryce, Luke Smith, I love you all! And of course my amazing own wāhines Ashley and PHIE! 
What’s been your scariest SLS moment: 
Probably standing on the start line of my first ever surf boat race at Gisborne Nationals 2019. (Rowed surfboat for 2 seasons). 
WOW moment/favourite SLS memory: 
Every time our hard work pays off. I love my club, but also find working with other clubs and the office on a district level so incredibly rewarding. At the end of any of our events, whether it be Wāhine on Water, Intermediate Lifeguard School, or even a Lifeguard exam or carnival, it’s absolutely EPIC to see the looks on everyone’s faces because we all contributed to something that made a real difference. 
What does Wāhine on Water mean to you: 
A great opportunity for girls to get together and work on building their strengths. And to gain confidence so they feel equal. Because everyone’s learning really, the girls, and the boys. 
What advice would you give to yourself when you first joined SLS: 
Try to be patient! But at the same time grab hold of every epic opportunity you can, because life is short. And to back yourself. And do what you love. 
Life outside of SLSC: 
Graphic designer, mum of two girls Ashley and Phie (20 and 17), married to Andy. About to start my EMT training on the ambulance, I’ve been a First Responder for nearly a year. 
Anything else you want to let us know? 
I joined surf 10 years ago because our daughters were little surfers, and we needed them to be safe in the water. They fell in love with it. But clearly so did I! So to those of you who weren’t born into it, or have ever wondered if they could do it, my message to you is YOU CAN DO IT. Do what you love! You only get one life. xx