Black Fins’ Team Manager Masters the Art of Juggling

Tuesday, 18 July 2023

Getting hold of Fiona Hastie, Black Fins Team Manager, can be quite a challenge.  Not only does she live in Kaiwaka in Northland where cell phone reception is hard to come by, but her busy schedule leaves little room for easy access.


When I speak to her she’s fresh from her cattle-shifting duties on the 62-hectare sheep and beef farm which she co-manages with her family.


“I mainly handle the day-to-day operations on the farm, focusing on stock management.”


After residing on Auckland’s North Shore for years, Fiona unexpectedly found herself back on the farm 18 months ago, following the sudden passing of her dad.


“My life got flipped upside down and shaken around quite a lot after dad died.  I’d always imagined returning to Kaiwaka, but the move happened quicker than I expected in the circumstances.”


Kaiwaka, known as ‘the little town of lights’, is a fairly typical small Northland town, quiet, but Fiona keeps herself busy.  When she’s not tending to farm duties, she works two days a week as a senior veterinary nurse at The Vet Centre Northland, she serves as a marriage celebrant, and as of last month she’s Team Manager for the Blacks Fins team, who will be heading to the International Surf Rescue Challenge (ISRC) in Texas this September.


“It’s really exciting being a part of the Black Fins!”, she exclaims.  “And it’s a cool gig!  It’s nice to be able to give what I can to the team and it’s a pretty special environment to be in.”


As the Team Manager, Fiona handles all the minute details, such as flight bookings, accommodation arrangements, and entry submissions.


“Last night I was also chasing down everyone’s uniform sizing, so that’s a big part of what I do.  I’m in constant communication with the team, addressing their needs and ensuring everything is in order.”


Fiona will also manage on-the-ground logistics at the event, including familiarising the team with the location of things like the hospital, gym, and pool.  During the event, she’ll ensure everyone is in the right place at the right time, and will be across any rules or event protests.


“I’m a details girl and I have a weird memory that struggles to forget things”, she laughs.  “But a big part of my job also involves maintaining a sense of calmness – supporting the team and reassuring them that everything is under control.  ‘Camp Mum’ is what they call me!”


Fiona’s journey with Surf Life Saving began when she joined Auckland’s Mairangi Bay Surf Life Saving Club in her early twenties.


“This was mainly due to the strong connection my aunt and uncle, the Pococks, had with lifesaving sport.  Their whole familywere heavily involved and very talented, and I’d often go down to watch and encourage them.”


Over the years, Fiona helped out with various tasks, ranging from administration to providing support at carnivals and events.


She recalls, “Someone asked me if I liked ‘spreadsheets’ and it just progressed from there!  Otherwise, I simply tagged along as part of the support crew, helping out my family and friends who were all high achievers.”


Since then, Fiona’s involvement has only grown.  She served as the Assistant Manager for the Black Fins during the 2019 ISRC in South Africa, and was the Team Manager during the Lifesaving World Championships in Italy last year.


Fiona says during these events, her biggest challenge lies within herself.


“I make sure I do everything I can do so the athletes can do their best.  I’m aware that if I drop the ball, I’m letting them down… I’m very aware of that.”


Her connection and love for the team is evident.


“The Black Fin athletes are all surf lifeguards in their own right – they’re out there saving lives, first and foremost.  They’re also uber fun and there’s always a lot of laughter. For me it’s definitely these relationships that are important - I get more out of it than I put in.”


This sentiment seems to hold true for all of Fiona’s roles, whether it’s farming, being a veterinary nurse, or serving as a marriage celebrant.  It’s a lot for one person to manage but as she says, “it’s one foot in front of the other”.


And with that, she’s off again - this time, to shift some lambs on the farm which are scheduled for pick up tomorrow.