Young Kiwi Surf Sensation Eyes up Oceans: Festival of Junior Lifesaving

Tuesday, 20 February 2024

Being an island nation, the ocean runs through the veins of many Kiwis, none more so than 11-year-old Zara Owen.


“I really like the ocean, especially since it’s right outside my house.”


Zara lives in Dunedin and has spent most of her life surfing.


“It’s nice because my whole family surfs, so we’re able to go out together and just hang out.”


Earlier this year, she won the U14 girls division at the prestigious Surfing New Zealand Championships.


“It was just really cool, and I was super stoked as I surfed better than I thought I could.  Having my brothers there cheering me on was also amazing.”


Zara’s brothers, current members of the New Zealand Surfing Team and former surf lifeguards, helped instil in her a passion for surf lifesaving.


“I joined Warrington Surf Life Saving Club when I was around six years old.  My brothers had been involved when they were younger, so I followed the trend as it looked like a lot of fun!”


Located at Warrington Beach, just 20 minutes north of Dunedin, the club’s small size is something Zara values.


“It’s a tight-knit community, and I know everyone in the club, which makes it really nice.”


She says the skills she’s learned through surf lifesaving have helped make her a better surfer.


“You learn a lot about the ocean, like where the rips are and the surf peaks.  It’s also given me more confidence in the water while surfing, which then makes it easier for me to catch waves.”


Zara plans on getting her Surf Lifeguard Award when she’s 14 years old, but before that, she’s off to Oceans: Festival of Junior Lifesaving.


“I’m super excited about going!  I went last year, and it was lots of fun because you’re surrounded by people that are the same age.”


Oceans is the biggest junior surf carnival in the country for Surf Life Saving New Zealand members under 14 years old.  It provides them with the opportunity to participate in surf lifesaving in a fun, exciting, and safe beach and surf environment.  This year it’s being held in Mount Maunganui from 22 – 25 February.


“Mum and I are going to fly up, but I like that we have to do a bit of travel for it because it’s a lot warmer up there compared to Dunedin.”


Having secured second and third places in two surf events last year, Zara is determined to do even better this year, supported by her parents.


“My dad’s a coach with Warrington SLSC, and mum helps out during the competitions by giving me water, feeding me, and driving me everywhere!”


Zara’s brothers will no doubt be cheering her on as well, and she’ll celebrate by heading out for a surf – of course.


SLSNZ would like to thank the following event partners who make Oceans: Festival of Junior Lifesaving possible: Tauranga City Council, Tauranga Western Bay Community Event Fund, Race One, Sonic Surf Craft, Just Sheds, NES Hire, PTS Logistics, Brandt, and McLeod Cranes, Hiab and Transport Services.