Meet Ana: A Recipe for Success When it Comes to Surf Life Saving

Tuesday, 20 June 2023

Baking brownies and saving lives may seem an unlikely combination, but for Ana Naden, one of Waikanae Surf Life Saving Club’s (SLSC) much loved volunteers in Gisborne, it’s a recipe for success.


Her brownies have gained a well-deserved reputation at the Waikanae club, fostering such a fantastic team culture, that many in her group never want to leave. 


With a laugh, Ana said, “They’re a bit of a whanau tradition, a secret recipe! I’m a firm believer that sharing food can bring people together and it helps create an awesome team environment”.


Ana’s volunteering journey began 16 years ago when she qualified as a Surf Lifeguard.  She explains, “That’s probably where it all began for me.  I wanted to give back to the community, be surrounded by like-minded people, and I wanted to gain new skills.”


Growing up in Gisborne, a coastal city renowned for its surf beaches, joining a SLSC was a no brainer.  “We are fortunate enough to have some incredible beaches and we operate on ‘East Coast’ time so we can enjoy it! 


Since then, Ana has become an integral part of the movement, dedicating her time and skills to a number of roles, including patrol captain, instructor, inflatable rescue boat (IRB) coach, supporter and competitor, Search and Rescue (SAR) squad member, and club committee member.


One particularly memorable and challenging moment in her volunteering journey was her first rescue.  She admits, “I was on unsupervised study at the time – yes, my school principal found out!  I noticed an elderly Irish couple were getting swept out to sea pretty quickly and they were demonstrating typical signs we, as Surf Lifeguards, are trained to identify.  It was a very anxious time for them both, but luckily, it was one of those ‘right place, right time’ scenarios while I was searching for the perfect wave… I mean, studying!”


Experiences like these are precisely why Ana is passionate about volunteering. “For me, it’s about giving back.  Being able to give back to the community that I grew up in is pretty special.  I also hope to leave a place better than how I found it and inspire some of the younger generation and females in the realm, that they can do the same.”


Volunteering has also played a significant role in Ana’s personal growth and development.  “From being able to meet new people and develop networks, to achieving various awards in surf lifesaving, operating an IRB or rescue water craft, leadership skills and so on.  The opportunities have been great.”


However, it’s not without its challenges.  Ana’s day job as a Physiotherapy Team Leader at Te Whatu Ora Tairāwhiti keeps her busy, and like all volunteers, she faces the balancing act.  “Volunteers are great at saying yes and often struggle with the concept of saying no.  It comes down to always being able to find time and prioritise the things that we enjoy doing.”


Nevertheless, Ana wouldn’t have it any other way, and she encourages anyone thinking about getting involved with Surf Lifesaving to head to their local club and give it a go. “Get amongst it!  We have to be brave and learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.  There are so many avenues to take, so I would encourage you to give it a go.  And if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask.”


And if you find yourself on patrol in the Gisborne-Tairāwhiti region, you might even nab yourself one of Ana’s world-famous brownies and you’ll never want to leave!


To learn more about SLSNZ, its surf lifesaving services, and how you can support or become a volunteer, visit