IF Briana Irving never again does anything in surf life saving, she’s already done her bit.
The Waikanae Surf Lifesaving Club member was aged just 15 when she and her friends saw three youngsters in trouble at Mahia Beach.
“They were only about eight or nine and we could see that they had got caught in a rip and were getting dragged further and further out to sea,” she says.
“There was lots of shouting and yelling and they were clearly really, really scared so we got our boards and paddled out to bring them in. They were a long way out but it was just the right thing to do and the kids were pretty excited to get back to shore.”
That was back in January but, for now, Briana is focused on the competition side of surf life saving, having already made her mark at this year’s national championships.
And she’s aiming high: the emerging athlete has secured a place in the national Junior Black Fins team, which gives her entry to November’s Lifesaving World Championships in Adelaide.
All this, however, comes at a cost (in addition to the personal sacrifice of training at least two mornings and six nights a week). And to help out, Eastland Port has come on board with a $1000 sponsorship.
“Getting to compete in Adelaide is really exciting but even before that there are two training camps in Mount Maunganui to get to – one in July and one in November,” says Briana.
“My family and I are madly fundraising but it’s never enough so to get sponsorship is amazing. That’s not just financially, but mentally as well . . . it means so much to have someone believe in you and really get behind you.”
And come November, she really will have to have her head in the game: Briana turns 16 a month before the worlds in Adelaide and, in terms of competition, she’ll have to make the leap from entering under-16s categories, to competing in the under-19s against older, often bigger and more experienced athletes.
But she’s not letting that get to her . . . at the 2018 national champs she won the under-19s beach sprint so she knows just what she’s up against.
“There is a bit of pressure in that I don’t want to let anyone down but I’ve always been really competitive so I aim to just keep on pushing and never give up,” she says.
“The competition side of surf life saving is fun and challenging and everyone has so much energy that you are constantly inspired.”
For Eastland Port, general manager Andrew Gaddum says the team was delighted to offer Briana sponsorship because “there is no doubt she has a very bright future ahead of her”.
“We are all very proud to be able to help this aspiring young athlete achieve her goals and we can’t wait to see her perform this year.”
Image by Strike Photography: Briana Irving trains at least two mornings and six nights a week.