Navigating Windy Wellington to Shine at Oceans: Festival of Junior Lifesaving

Wednesday, 7 February 2024

“Windy Wellington,” the fitting nickname given to New Zealand’s capital, is all thanks to the ferocious winds that often rattle the city to its core.


Sitting proudly on Wellington’s south coast, facing these gusts head-on, is one of the country’s oldest Surf Life Saving clubs – Maranui.


Established in 1911, Maranui Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) has, for years, produced some of the hardiest surf lifeguards, shaped by the challenging elements they volunteer in, including 13-year-old Isaac Goodwin.


“It’s quite windy and cold, unfortunately”, Isaac says when asked about surf lifesaving at Maranui.  “But it’s not a problem,” he quickly adds.  “You just wear a wetsuit.”


Isaac is one of the 150 members that make up Maranui SLSC.


“I first got into surf lifesaving when I was seven.  One of my friends at school was doing it, and it looked like fun.  I was also keen to get involved so I could help the community.”


Isaac is part of Maranui SLSC’s Junior Surf Programme where he learns about the coastal environment, participates in lifesaving sport, and learns surf and beach safety skills.  Skills that proved invaluable when, earlier this year, Isaac and his family were down at the beach.


“Surf lifeguards weren’t on patrol, and it was starting to get dark.  I saw a woman was out on the pontoon, and she slipped and dislocated her shoulder.  I saw she was in distress, so I quickly swam out to her with a towel and made sure she didn’t need anything else.”


Meanwhile, someone on the beach called the police who soon picked the woman up on a boat.


“She was a bit upset, so it felt good to be able to lend a helping hand.”


Isaac said he didn’t think twice about leaping into action and was more than capable of swimming out to help, especially with Oceans: Festival of Junior Lifesaving just weeks away.


“Ahead of Oceans, we’re doing surf training three or four times a week, and I’m swimming in the morning as well.”


Oceans is the biggest junior surf carnival in the country.  It provides Surf Life Saving New Zealand junior members with the opportunity to compete, challenge themselves, and celebrate the camaraderie of surf lifesaving in a fun, exciting, and safe beach and surf environment.


This year, the event is being held at Mount Maunganui Beach, and it’s going to be Isaac’s second time participating.

“It’s a lot of fun going to Oceans.  I really enjoy meeting new people from all over the country.  I’m also quite lucky because my family is involved.  My mum, dad, and sister will be running around helping out and watching.”


Isaac’s dad, Daniel, will watching more closely than ever as he’s one of three Maranui SLSC Oceans coaches.


“I absolutely love it.  It’s great to be involved.”


Daniel didn’t grow up doing surf lifesaving, and neither did his wife.  It’s only through Isaac’s involvement that they’ve become a part of Maranui SLSC.


“I’ve never done anything like this before, but the club provides a lot of coaching support so as a parent, you don’t have to have done it your whole life – there are other pathways to get involved.”


He says surf lifesaving is incredibly rewarding and would encourage other parents to get their families involved.


“It’s a good challenging thing to be a part of.  It’s not easy, but I think that’s valuable for kids – to do things that are hard.  Even doing it in the Wellington weather is sometimes tough, but that makes the kids more durable and resilient.”


He says Oceans also supports this idea.


“It’s not about kids winning medals, it’s about the process of going through and coming out the other side.  Kids gain confidence by doing this, particularly during the teenage years which anchors them.”


The festival will be held from 22 – 25 February and Daniel says the whole club is looking forward to it.


“We’re a lot smaller than some of the other Surf Life Saving clubs, but for us, the kids put in a lot of effort getting to the starting line – and that’s a big achievement in itself.”


And while Windy Wellington’s ferocious winds may act as a perfect training ground, the club is looking forward to trading gusts for gentle breezes in one of the country’s sunniest spots, Mount Maunganui.


SLSNZ would like to thank the following partners who are making this event possible: Tauranga City Council, TECT, Just Sheds, NES Hire, PTS Logistics, Brandt, and McLeod Cranes, Hiab and Transport Services.