End of an era: haere rā to the Surf Lifeguards clubroom

McKenzie Jones has been part of the Paekākāriki Surf Lifeguards for 18 years. At the recent closing ceremony of the old club building, McKenzie shares her farewell speech full of rich memories and fulfilling experiences of her years with the club.

I’ve been a part of the Paekākāriki Surf Lifeguards for as long as I can remember. My mum seems to think that I started at about age six or seven, which puts me at around 18 years in the club. I don’t have heaps of memories from when I was six; however for some reason I have a very vivid memory of my first day at surf as a nipper.

I remember walking down the ramp and being taken over to the left side of the club over here where all the girls my age were. I remember being nervous to start something new and to make new friends. I also remember how crazy it was that there was another girl with exactly the same name because back then McKenzie was a relatively uncommon name. Little did I know that almost 20 years later I would still be involved in the surf club, lifeguarding, training, coaching and competing.

Both my mum and dad competed in surf life saving. If you were lucky enough to go in the club before it was deemed too unsafe, you may have seen their photos on the wall of fame, where people who have won a national gold medal get their photo. Not only have both my parents won nationals titles, but my dad has also won four world masters gold medals.

Having a family who have a love and passion for surf lifesaving and shared interest in the ocean and water sports has meant that you could describe us as a typical surf family.

Currently my dad, brother and I all compete and train for the craft section of surf lifesaving which usually means that family holidays get merged into surf training camps and competitions.

It is safe to say that surf has become more than just a sport for me, it’s a way that I get to spend time, and bond with, my family.

When I was thinking about things that I wanted to talk about in this speech I couldn’t get past the word ‘privilege’. I honestly believe that I am so privileged to be a part of the Paekākāriki Surf Lifeguards. It wasn’t until my late teens when I became a swim teacher and expanded my social circle that I realized a large number of people can’t swim or are afraid of the sea. Surf lifesaving has taught me to love, appreciate and respect the ocean so that I am able to enjoy all it has to offer.

I am also privileged to be a part of the surf club for the opportunities it has given. Surf lifesaving is not only a physical sport, but it also provides learning opportunities and courses around beach safety, maritime rules and provides first aid courses which are applicable not only at surf but beneficial for potential career and job opportunities in life. For me, I have been able to turn a passion in the ocean into a career as I am in the final stages of a Master in Marine Biology with NIWA.

McKenzie Jones

Surf has also given me the opportunity to travel and visit beautiful locations and beaches around New Zealand for competitions and allowed me to meet awesome like-minded people from all over.

Finally, I am privileged to be part of the surf club for the people I have met and the family I have made. Being a part of the club has allowed me to surround myself with like-minded people who are supportive and share a passion for the beach as much as I do. The surf club has also allowed me to grow up and train alongside some amazing athletes and role models, like Kayla and Kurtis, who have competed at the Olympic for kayaking.

Being a part of the surf club has shown and taught me dedication. The surf club is a testament to the dedication of its members who work tirelessly, giving up their time to keep the community safe and to teach children how to enjoy the ocean and all it has to offer in the safest way possible. Whether it’s the volunteer lifeguards, coaches and behind the scenes crew or the parents who cart us and our gear to competitions around New Zealand, every person associated in the club is dedicated to sharing our passion of the beach and giving back to the community.

If I could go back in time and speak to six year old Kenzie on her first day of surf I would tell her that unfortunately in our almost 20 years and counting of surf we didn’t make surf friends, we made something better… a surf family. Not only is my family a surf family, but I now have a surf family.

I guess the final point that I would like to get across to everyone involved in the club is it’s not the house that makes the home, it’s the people within it. So… its not the club house that makes the Paekākāriki surf club but the volunteers, members and family within it that make the Paekākāriki Surf Lifesaving Club.

I do however hope that one day in the near future when the new club is built we can restore the wall of fame so that my children can continue on the Jones legacy that I wasn’t quite able to fulfill, although I’m not sure If that was due to a lack of walls to put the picture on, or lack of talent on my part.

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