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Belinda Slement, ‘super mum’ and ‘Yoda’ of the Wainui Surf Lifesaving Club

Sunday, 8 May 2022

Belinda Slement grew up directly across the road from the Wainui Surf Lifesaving Club. She qualified as a lifeguard in 1998 and then moved on to the role of advanced lifeguard. While still in her early 20s, she was the first to arrive at an incident that saw her resuscitate a three-year-old boy. Belinda received Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s (SLSNZ) Rescue of the Year Award for this lifesaving act. 

After leaving Wainui to study and develop a career, Belinda returned to raise her kids. She now lives close to the Wainui Club with her husband, Hilton and their children, Chloe (5) and Ryan (2). Along with a sense of purpose, love of the sea and great bonding experiences with her family, Belinda feels she has gained another family through her work with SLSNZ.  

 “Since having children and seeing Chloe start at the club, I feel Surf Lifesaving has given me much more than I could’ve ever dreamed of over my lifetime,” says Belinda. 

Belinda Slement grew up directly across the road from the Wainui Surf Lifesaving Club. She qualified as a lifeguard in 1998 and then moved on to the role of advanced lifeguard. While still in her early 20s, she was the first to arrive at an incident that saw her resuscitate a three-year-old boy. Belinda received Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s (SLSNZ) Rescue of the Year Award for this lifesaving act. 

After leaving Wainui to study and develop a career, Belinda returned to raise her kids. She now lives close to the Wainui Club with her husband, Hilton and their children, Chloe (5) and Ryan (2). Along with a sense of purpose, love of the sea and great bonding experiences with her family, Belinda feels she has gained another family through her work with SLSNZ.  

 “Since having children and seeing Chloe start at the club, I feel Surf Lifesaving has given me much more than I could’ve ever dreamed of over my lifetime,” says Belinda. 

Working with SLSNZ 

Belinda is in her seventh year working for SLSNZ, with her current role as the National Education Development Lead. She is also Director of Lifeguarding at the Wainui SLSC, sits on the Wainui Club committee, and is a Gisborne Search and Rescue Squad Coordinator. She has a great deal of appreciation for the work she gets to do with SLSNZ. 

“It’s so rewarding to have an influence on somebody's personal development and in their life, seeing them use the skills I'm teaching to be a better person and to develop their goals and ambitions.” 

Belinda also holds a deep admiration for the people she works with every day, “People in surf lifesaving are always humble people. They're not doing it for recognition or reward but because they love doing it and they want to help people.” 

Family life 

In addition to a host of responsibilities with SLSNZ, Belinda has the important role of “super mum.” While knowing she always wanted to be involved with Surf Lifesaving, she also realised she didn’t want to raise children in a big city “where they’d get lost.” 

“For us as a family, we want our children to be safe and have fun at the beach. Be confident in the surf, learn water safety and beach skills and enjoy themselves.” 

Recognising the importance of balance has been a big learning curve for Slement. “When you're passionate about something, sometimes it overtakes the logic around whether you should you or shouldn't do things, and that's when people can get burnt out.”  

To help her unwind, Belinda has a cherished family tradition that marks the end of the working day. Chloe’s school is across the road from Wainui Beach, and they walk over and check the surf conditions every day after school. 

“It's amazing how [being on the beach] makes you feel. It's quite hard to describe. I don't know how to put it into words.” 

(Image Credit: Canvas Magazine/Cody Keepa)

A natural leader 

Belinda has a natural capacity for leadership. “I seem to have this ability to indirectly start mentoring people, developing them, and be the person who everyone comes to for advice - like the Yoda of surf!” she says. 

On building a strong team culture and connections at the Wainui Club, Belinda makes it clear she couldn’t do it alone.  

“You can't create a movement individually. The surf club is one community, but there are all these pockets of support networks within a club, and you've got to help formulate and create that.” 

“As long as I provide the right leadership they need, we can all move in the right direction.” 

The Wainui Community  

More recently, Belinda helped establish ‘The Wainui Weapons’, a group of mums with kids in the Nippers programme. They assembled “because it was always the men that end up doing stuff.” 

The ‘Weapons’, as Belinda calls them, have formed a tight-knit group. “Oh my god, it's evolved like anything!” Together they tackle all sorts of issues; “mom problems, kid’s problems.”  

Mothers in the group have developed their water skills because of the camaraderie, with some progressing to achieve their Surf Lifeguard Awards. 

Advice from the ‘surf Yoda’ 

Three values are prominent in Belinda’s work and life. 

  1. Do what you do to help people 
  1. Work with great people  
  1. Do it because you love it. 

This approach gives her much in return. “In my volunteer space at the surf club, I enjoy it and love doing it. I love going down on patrols, being in the IRB and just hanging out down there. I’d do it every weekend if I could,” she says. 

For women interested or involved in surf lifesaving, Belinda has the following advice, “Be brave and don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone to take on a new challenge. SLSNZ offers so many ways to be involved. You will have fun and make some great friendships on your journey.”