Surf sports star paves the way for female success

For Surf Life Saving Northern Region

After making waves on the international surf sport stage, world ski champion Danielle McKenzie is back on home soil to compete in the national competition, TSB New Zealand Surf Life Saving Championships, from 12–15 March in Gisborne.

A trailblazer for female athletes, Danielle is passionate about giving back to the sport she loves and hopes to encourage young females to follow in her footsteps and take every opportunity offered through surf sports.

There are so many pathways surf sport can lead to into, Lisa Carrington is the best example, she started in surf and now is a two times Gold Olympic Medallist. Surf sports has taken me around the world, I’ve met awesome people and have made relationships with well-known athletes. As sport competitors you develop so many important values and skills you can use in everyday life such as resilience, motivation, teamwork and drive to accomplish tasks. You also gain better knowledge of the surf, safety around the water, and have the chance to make a difference in the community by saving lives,” she says.

Throughout her sporting career, Danielle continues to achieve international success, beating world records and adding to the significant number of surf sport titles she holds. Dubbed New Zealand’s most accomplished Ironwoman, Danielle is currently the 2019 International Canoe Federation (ICF) World Ocean Ski Champion, the 2018 Australian Title Surf Ski Champion, and has held the title of New Zealand Ironwomen, Ski and Board Racer for three consecutive years.

Alongside individual competitions, Danielle also regularly competes with the NZ Blackfins team and says she is having the time of her life, training, racing, travelling and adventuring while touring for the sport.

“No one day is the same in surf sports,” Danielle says. “My drive for winning and passion for paddling and the ocean keeps me going. Hard work and racing go hand in hand for me, I love living a healthy and active lifestyle and the physically rewarding challenges of training and beating my personal bests. Another perk of the sport is getting the opportunity to travel the world; Europe, France, Italy, Croatia, Budapest and China are only a handful of the countries I’ve competed in so far.”   

Surf Life Saving Northern Region (SLSNR) Surf Sports Manager Zac Franich says Danielle’s achievements are testament to her excellent work ethic and commitment to the sport. “Training is second nature for Danielle who puts many hours towards intense sessions in the lead up to competitions. Becoming New Zealand’s most accomplished Ironwoman doesn’t happen by accident,” he says.

Danielle herself says that it’s important that other female athletes don’t give up on their sporting goals.

“My advice would be to never get comfortable of where you are at, always try to be better. Make the right sacrifices to race and experience the highs of winning and the enjoyment of the sport. As we only line up to race a handful of times throughout the year, make sure any wins are special moments. Get into the sport because you love it not because your parents want you to, set small goals and challenge yourself to achieve them but also enjoy a balanced lifestyle,” she says.  

Danielle says she is driven to keep winning and succeeding. “My mantra is to be a better person today than I was yesterday. For 2020 my goal is to cross the Kai Iwi Channel and win the Molokai20ahu Surf Ski races in May.” She is also determined to keep her ICF world title for a consecutive year and win the Ocean Ski World Series.

SLSNR Sports Manager Zac says that Danielle’s success will continue to pave the way for national surf sport athletes. “When it comes to sports, leadership and mentorship is vital to keep future generations thriving. Danielle has set a huge precedent for our national athletes and we are proud to have such a great role model for our female competitors. These strong and enthusiastic athletes are also extremely important for our movement because they are the lifeguards who protect the public on our coastlines.”

A Mairangi “clubbie” at heart, Danielle started her surf lifesaving journey as a kid at the age of seven. “I spent my days growing up at the club and went to school in the North Shore area. It’s important for me to go back to keep up with the kids at the surf clubs. I want to make sure they stay engaged and that I continue to inspire them,” she says. “Belonging to a club is like having a family that keeps you going. NZ will always be home, there’s no doubt about that.” 

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