14-year-old Nayland College Student Ariana McGee, recently braved the cold waters of Warrington beach, near Dunedin, to compete in the under sixteen division of the South Island Surf Lifesaving Regional Championships.
She finished an impressive second place in her favoured beach flags event, duking it out with 25 other competitors.
Ariana explained that the beach flag event was an intensive sprint that saw participants get eliminated one by one.
“You start by lying down, facing away from the flag,” Ariana said. “The surf officials place down 1-2 less flags than there are people. People get eliminated if they don’t get the flag. The adjudicators then say the commands, which are: competitors ready, heads up, heads down, and go! Then you have to get up, spin and run as fast as you can and dive for a flag.” The race continues until only one competitor remains.
Ariana competed in a variety of other events over the two-day tournament, including beach sprints, surf events and board races.
For Ariana, the event is just as important for the social element it provides, as it is for the competition.
“I really like getting to know the other competitors and how they got into it and what their strengths and weaknesses are,” she said.
Ariana has been involved in surf lifesaving since she was 6 years old, after coming across a story in a local newspaper. “We saw a little article about joining the nipper’s program which is for little kids,” Ariana said. “We went down to the open day and went for a ride in a rescue boat, and that is what got me hooked.”
A multi-talented athlete, Ariana also plays basketball, netball and volleyball. If that wasn’t enough, she also makes use of her surf lifesaving skills by volunteering as a lifeguard at beaches around Nelson.
She offered some good advice to would-be swimmers, so that they never need her services.
“If you don’t feel comfortable, just don’t do it. And if you’re a lot younger, and not comfortable (swimming), definitely have a confident swimmer with you as much as you can.”