Helping girls to 'walk on water'

A girls' surf programme with a difference.

A girls' surf programme with a difference.

Liz Alder with her dog Benny at Gisborne’s Wainui Beach. Liz has put a lot of thought and energy into her surf school Walking on Water, which has a vision that promotes a supportive community of young female surfers.
Pictures by Rebecca Grunwell
Beatrice Fawcett, 11, manages to stand up at her first lesson with Liz at Waikanae Beach.
Grace Taylor, 10, and Stevie Durston, 9, catch on fast at their first lesson at Waikanae Beach as part of the girls surf programme with Walking on Water surf school.

Liz Alder is running a girls surf programme with a difference — it combines technology with surfing, where girls learn editing skills so they can create their own media and produce content with positive messages. She talks to Kim Parkinson about her vision for the surf school.

Liz Alder is the director of Gisborne’s Walking on Water surf school and is running her first surf programme for girls aged between 8 and 12.

“I am not a professional surfer — I got into surfing quite late in life compared with many of the local surfers,” she says.
“I guess for me it was surfing as a vehicle for positive change in people.”

Liz took the corporate road and worked in publishing for four years. “I had a desk job and lived and worked in Melbourne, and travelled a lot to places like Hong Kong, London and Africa, but I always had an entrepreneurial streak.

“I always wanted to figure out what my thing was going to be.”

In 2010, Liz worked in a surf school on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia and loved it.

“There was this one girl who was having a really tough time in her life. She booked several sessions and I got to know her.

“She was a little bit younger than me at the time, so she was an adult — I was in my late 20s then.
“I just saw this lady going through a really hard time in her life — physically she looked worn out and weighted down. Her self-talk was negative.
“Over the weeks I coached her, I saw this change in her.”

She looked healthier, had a more positive outlook and was achieving great things by pushing through the obstacles she faced in her surfing.

“She went through this struggle in surfing but by getting alongside someone — me — she got out of her comfort zone. And by trying something new she found out that she was someone who could overcome a variety of scenarios.
“She got a new job and started following her passion.”

All about mindset

“It’s all about mindset, and this is something I’m learning about.
“It is such a big part of sport and life.

“You can learn so many life lessons — like perseverance — through surfing.

“In surfing you get knocked down all the time and you really have to get rid of that fear of failing.

“I struggled with that for years. I was always hard on myself.

“As children and young adults we were always celebrated when we did well. Whereas now I’m noticing kids are being celebrated for trying and failing. This is great!”

Liz finished secondary school at Gisborne Girls’ High School in 1999 and knew she wanted to do tertiary study of some kind.

“I definitely needed higher education. I knew I needed more skills.”

Meant to inspire one another to greater things

She first studied design at Unitec in Auckland, and describes herself as a design school drop-out. She then decided to embark on a commerce degree at the University of Auckland.

In 2004, she graduated with a degree in Human Resource Management.
“It’s a business degree with a human side to it.”

She got a job in publishing which saw her move around the world and work in Bath, England and Melbourne, Australia.
“I worked for Parragon Publishing, the biggest publisher of non-fiction books in the world. They also publish fiction and I was a product manager in licensed fiction, working with big brands like Disney & Nickelodeon and Ludorum.”

A turning point

The turning point was a trip to Africa with work, when she went to Iringa in Tanzania in a partnership with a microfinance organisation that supported women running small businesses.

“We visited about five women and listened to them talk about their businesses, saw their products, their families, their work spaces and their communities.
“It reminded me of my dream to be running my own enterprise with my own set of values. I thought if those women can do it, of course I can.”

Slower pace in Gizzy - and glad of it

She left Parragon and tried to work out how to start her own enterprise. Having lived in Auckland from 2000-2006, then Bath, England until 2008 and finally Melbourne and Torquay, in the UK, until 2011, Liz wasn’t sure how she would adapt to life back in her hometown of Gisborne.

“Now when I go to Auckland it seems so fast and busy.
“It’s definitely a slower pace here — and I like that.”

Last year, she ran a surf cross-training programme with Pilates teacher Vanessa Vette and Campion College PE teacher Rachel Williams.

“I taught skateboarding and surfing. Vanessa taught pilates and Rachel did strength conditioning.
“In Gisborne winters the nine-to-fivers won’t get into the water for a surf until the weekends.
“Our programme was a way for women to keep up their fitness and build on it.
“What came out of it was this amazing community of women,” she said.

They committed to training three nights a week, including some swim training in the pool.

“It was the brave, interesting, smart, funny women who together, in a positive, non-judgmental environment, empowered one another to charge a bit harder at surf and life that reminded me how much I needed that more as a kid.

“There was a moment as a coach where I realised that day in and day out, I was asking people to step outside their comfort zone and yet I was not trying any new sport myself.

“I asked myself what I was doing that was new.

“I had a couple come to me for surf lessons where the woman was incredibly frightened of the ocean and her husband was an extreme swimmer from Ireland.

“They were on their honeymoon and she was trying to do all these things for him that she was really frightened of.
“It made me get out of my comfort zone and try new sports.
“I got into outrigger canoe paddling with a local group here.”

‘Different to what I imagined’

Liz says people have expectations about what they imagine their lives to be like.

“I’m 35 and life looks different to that of many of my friends and family, for example I do a lot of things on my own.

“I don’t have kids or a partner and I used to find that hard.

“In those early days of the business, I was across every facet of the venture myself, spending a lot of time working away wondering whether I was doing the right thing. There were times I felt weary about it, hoping for a sounding board, or someone who could relate to where I was at.

“I have learned that having to do things on my own has given me proof I am capable of way more than I thought.

“When you are out at sea you are at the mercy of the elements. When conditions get a bit rough you can only focus on the few seconds right in front of you and deal with that. It makes you dig deep to find levels of ability you didn’t know you had.

“There is a great saying — calm seas do not make a strong sailor, and it’s true.

“I have improved as an ocean woman through rough conditions.

“I want to see other people do well, to find what their gifts are and to be celebrated for being themselves.

“I want to see the end of comparison and jealousy, because I think we are meant to inspire one another to greater things.

“We all have a moment when we look at our lives and think ‘this is different to what I imagined’, but I didn’t expect it to be this wonderful either.”

Teaming with the Mind Lab

Walking on Water is teaming up with the Mind Lab to teach children how to edit surf clips taken at their lessons.
The Mind Lab will be teaching it and Liz said she wanted the technology element so the girls could learn to create their own media.

“We want them to have positive, empowering learning experiences and not be afraid of failure.
“I did a little bit of media studies at uni and I know how much control the media has over the messages coming out to young people.
“I want them to make their own positive messages and tell those stories. Like what have you learned? What positive thing can you see in your friends?
“I want the girls to look for good in other people and call it out.”
Gisborne has some great up-and-coming female surfers and Liz wants them to showcase what they can do to the 8-12 year olds in her programme.

Saffi Vette, Stella Smith, Hannah King, Daizee Rawls and Abi Daunton are a few she would like to introduce to her surf squad.

These female surfers are involved in the Gisborne Boardriders Club where Liz is a committee member of the women’s division.

Creating a non-competitive, community environment

She said her girls’ surf programme was about creating a non-competitive, community environment.
“If the kids choose to try a few competitions from there, the local boardriders is a supportive environment.”

Liz talks of research done recently that shows a lot of girls are dropping out of sport at the age of 14.

“A lot of parents are telling me that most of the options at school are mostly around competition for kids, but I think it needs to be about doing your personal best.

“I think competition is great, but there are other ways to enjoy sport and get the benefits.
“I used to think that was what was told to people who didn’t come first, second or third.
“I didn’t realise that it actually is about achieving your personal best.”

The programme started on Saturday, February 24 and Liz said she was excited to run it.

"The first intake was booked out and the feedback has been awesome on our first few weeks."

  • The second intake for the April school holidays is now open and they are taking bookings on their website.
  • <<

Liz Alder is running a girls surf programme with a difference — it combines technology with surfing, where girls learn editing skills so they can create their own media and produce content with positive messages. She talks to Kim Parkinson about her vision for the surf school.

Liz Alder is the director of Gisborne’s Walking on Water surf school and is running her first surf programme for girls aged between 8 and 12.

“I am not a professional surfer — I got into surfing quite late in life compared with many of the local surfers,” she says.
“I guess for me it was surfing as a vehicle for positive change in people.”

Liz took the corporate road and worked in publishing for four years. “I had a desk job and lived and worked in Melbourne, and travelled a lot to places like Hong Kong, London and Africa, but I always had an entrepreneurial streak.

“I always wanted to figure out what my thing was going to be.”

In 2010, Liz worked in a surf school on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia and loved it.

“There was this one girl who was having a really tough time in her life. She booked several sessions and I got to know her.

“She was a little bit younger than me at the time, so she was an adult — I was in my late 20s then.
“I just saw this lady going through a really hard time in her life — physically she looked worn out and weighted down. Her self-talk was negative.
“Over the weeks I coached her, I saw this change in her.”

She looked healthier, had a more positive outlook and was achieving great things by pushing through the obstacles she faced in her surfing.

“She went through this struggle in surfing but by getting alongside someone — me — she got out of her comfort zone. And by trying something new she found out that she was someone who could overcome a variety of scenarios.
“She got a new job and started following her passion.”

All about mindset

“It’s all about mindset, and this is something I’m learning about.
“It is such a big part of sport and life.

“You can learn so many life lessons — like perseverance — through surfing.

“In surfing you get knocked down all the time and you really have to get rid of that fear of failing.

“I struggled with that for years. I was always hard on myself.

“As children and young adults we were always celebrated when we did well. Whereas now I’m noticing kids are being celebrated for trying and failing. This is great!”

Liz finished secondary school at Gisborne Girls’ High School in 1999 and knew she wanted to do tertiary study of some kind.

“I definitely needed higher education. I knew I needed more skills.”

Meant to inspire one another to greater things

She first studied design at Unitec in Auckland, and describes herself as a design school drop-out. She then decided to embark on a commerce degree at the University of Auckland.

In 2004, she graduated with a degree in Human Resource Management.
“It’s a business degree with a human side to it.”

She got a job in publishing which saw her move around the world and work in Bath, England and Melbourne, Australia.
“I worked for Parragon Publishing, the biggest publisher of non-fiction books in the world. They also publish fiction and I was a product manager in licensed fiction, working with big brands like Disney & Nickelodeon and Ludorum.”

A turning point

The turning point was a trip to Africa with work, when she went to Iringa in Tanzania in a partnership with a microfinance organisation that supported women running small businesses.

“We visited about five women and listened to them talk about their businesses, saw their products, their families, their work spaces and their communities.
“It reminded me of my dream to be running my own enterprise with my own set of values. I thought if those women can do it, of course I can.”

Slower pace in Gizzy - and glad of it

She left Parragon and tried to work out how to start her own enterprise. Having lived in Auckland from 2000-2006, then Bath, England until 2008 and finally Melbourne and Torquay, in the UK, until 2011, Liz wasn’t sure how she would adapt to life back in her hometown of Gisborne.

“Now when I go to Auckland it seems so fast and busy.
“It’s definitely a slower pace here — and I like that.”

Last year, she ran a surf cross-training programme with Pilates teacher Vanessa Vette and Campion College PE teacher Rachel Williams.

“I taught skateboarding and surfing. Vanessa taught pilates and Rachel did strength conditioning.
“In Gisborne winters the nine-to-fivers won’t get into the water for a surf until the weekends.
“Our programme was a way for women to keep up their fitness and build on it.
“What came out of it was this amazing community of women,” she said.

They committed to training three nights a week, including some swim training in the pool.

“It was the brave, interesting, smart, funny women who together, in a positive, non-judgmental environment, empowered one another to charge a bit harder at surf and life that reminded me how much I needed that more as a kid.

“There was a moment as a coach where I realised that day in and day out, I was asking people to step outside their comfort zone and yet I was not trying any new sport myself.

“I asked myself what I was doing that was new.

“I had a couple come to me for surf lessons where the woman was incredibly frightened of the ocean and her husband was an extreme swimmer from Ireland.

“They were on their honeymoon and she was trying to do all these things for him that she was really frightened of.
“It made me get out of my comfort zone and try new sports.
“I got into outrigger canoe paddling with a local group here.”

‘Different to what I imagined’

Liz says people have expectations about what they imagine their lives to be like.

“I’m 35 and life looks different to that of many of my friends and family, for example I do a lot of things on my own.

“I don’t have kids or a partner and I used to find that hard.

“In those early days of the business, I was across every facet of the venture myself, spending a lot of time working away wondering whether I was doing the right thing. There were times I felt weary about it, hoping for a sounding board, or someone who could relate to where I was at.

“I have learned that having to do things on my own has given me proof I am capable of way more than I thought.

“When you are out at sea you are at the mercy of the elements. When conditions get a bit rough you can only focus on the few seconds right in front of you and deal with that. It makes you dig deep to find levels of ability you didn’t know you had.

“There is a great saying — calm seas do not make a strong sailor, and it’s true.

“I have improved as an ocean woman through rough conditions.

“I want to see other people do well, to find what their gifts are and to be celebrated for being themselves.

“I want to see the end of comparison and jealousy, because I think we are meant to inspire one another to greater things.

“We all have a moment when we look at our lives and think ‘this is different to what I imagined’, but I didn’t expect it to be this wonderful either.”

Teaming with the Mind Lab

Walking on Water is teaming up with the Mind Lab to teach children how to edit surf clips taken at their lessons.
The Mind Lab will be teaching it and Liz said she wanted the technology element so the girls could learn to create their own media.

“We want them to have positive, empowering learning experiences and not be afraid of failure.
“I did a little bit of media studies at uni and I know how much control the media has over the messages coming out to young people.
“I want them to make their own positive messages and tell those stories. Like what have you learned? What positive thing can you see in your friends?
“I want the girls to look for good in other people and call it out.”
Gisborne has some great up-and-coming female surfers and Liz wants them to showcase what they can do to the 8-12 year olds in her programme.

Saffi Vette, Stella Smith, Hannah King, Daizee Rawls and Abi Daunton are a few she would like to introduce to her surf squad.

These female surfers are involved in the Gisborne Boardriders Club where Liz is a committee member of the women’s division.

Creating a non-competitive, community environment

She said her girls’ surf programme was about creating a non-competitive, community environment.
“If the kids choose to try a few competitions from there, the local boardriders is a supportive environment.”

Liz talks of research done recently that shows a lot of girls are dropping out of sport at the age of 14.

“A lot of parents are telling me that most of the options at school are mostly around competition for kids, but I think it needs to be about doing your personal best.

“I think competition is great, but there are other ways to enjoy sport and get the benefits.
“I used to think that was what was told to people who didn’t come first, second or third.
“I didn’t realise that it actually is about achieving your personal best.”

The programme started on Saturday, February 24 and Liz said she was excited to run it.

"The first intake was booked out and the feedback has been awesome on our first few weeks."

  • The second intake for the April school holidays is now open and they are taking bookings on their website.
  • <<
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