At sixteen years old Hayley Shaw-McGuinness was given the gift of surfing. Now she explains why this is the best present we can pass on to our friends and to the next generation.
Photos by Mark Morgan/MXM Surf Photo
Over the years I have been given many beautiful and thoughtful gifts. But the one thing that stands out the most is the gift of surfing. A lady called Helene selflessly chose to share the beauty of surfing with me when I was a shy 16 year-old girl who was very scared of sharks and the ocean.
I will never be able to thank Helene enough for that first session on a big blue foam board, when I watched the sun peep its head over the horizon and we were joined by a pod of dolphins. It was magic. And from that moment I was hooked to everything from the feeling of a wetsuit on my skin and the water moving beneath my feet, to the friendship we had founded.
Often, when something bad happens in my life I run to the ocean and it offers me a safe place. Many of the happiest times of my life have been spent in the ocean with my friends. So how can we not pass on this love for the ocean and wave riding? When I was younger I struggled with my self-confidence, and the strength and comfort of being a female surfer has increased my confidence as I’ve grown up. Life is constantly testing us – pushing us down and lifting us up – and just like surfing, one day you will be gracefully gliding along the face of a wave like a dang ballerina and the next you are rocketing face first in the sand with your bikini around your ankles.
Myself and my friend Kristi have embraced the time to pass on the gift of surfing by taking Zoe and Siena (both 9 years old) out into the waves. The first time we hit the beach the girls bounded excitedly to the sea, with huge smiles and childish joy. Seeing them have fun and hoot as we pushed them into waves reminded me that all the best things in life are free – the ocean, friendship, love and joy. After thirty minutes we needed a rest from our efforts, but we couldn’t get the girls out of the ocean as they were splashing around in the waves and had decided that they could be late for school that day.
Now these two happy little girls have utterly fallen in love with surfing and are so hooked that they will be probably be surfing until they are old and grey. What’s more, Kristi and myself were equally stoked with our morning adventures even through we didn’t surf ourselves. So we encourage you – pay it forward! Take the time to share a little kindness and teach a little person to surf. You are giving them a brilliant gift by teaching them patience, persistence and the beauty of nature, while welcoming them into an amazing community of people.
Thanks again to the beautiful Helene, and to Mark Morgan, who came down on this cold autumn morning to take photos for the girls that I am sure they will treasure forever!