Mairangi Surf Club member breaks NZ Ski record
Mairangi Surf Club member breaks NZ Ski record at Aussie Champs
Mairangi Bay Surf Life Saving Club member Danielle McKenzie has become the first New Zealand women to win an open individual title at the 2018 Australian Surf Life Saving Championships (Aussies 2018). Danielle claimed gold in the Women’s Surf Ski race making her the New Zealand, Australian and World Surf Ski Champion.
Danielle, who is also a member at the Northcliffe Surf Life Saving Club on the Gold Coast, also won a gold medal for the Open Womens Double Ski Race, picking up two additional bronze medals in the board race and ski relay at the championships.
Her trophy count could have been higher, but mechanical issues with her ski prevented Danielle from competing in the Ironwomen finals. Despite not being able to finish this heat, the fault was fixed in time for her to top the ski finals.
Danielle says she’s disappointed about not being able to compete in the Ironwomen finals but is still proud of her progress and achievements. “I try not to think about winning or losing, racing is all about having fun,” she says. “When I’m competing I try to focus on what I need to do next. It’s about getting the little things right to give myself the best chance of winning.”
Danielle’s journey to the top started four years ago, when she came to the Gold Coast and became a member at Northcliffe. As a lifeguard of 16 years, Danielle says that the shift to the Gold Coast was a big stepping stone for her.
“For the last few years I’ve been coming back and forth, and each year I’ve been slowly improving with the last year-and-a-half being a big step up for me,” she says. “Ski racing is not a professional sport but we train like athletes.”
As a member at Northcliffe club, Danielle is coached by Olympic kayaker and world champion athlete Naomi Flood with four of Australia’s top ironwomen. She does three daily sessions six days a week, training for a total of 20 hours.
Danielle says she moved to the Gold Coast because she believed the challenging competition in Australia would be good for her development. “To compare it’s quite different. Overall it’s so much tougher in Australia, it’s a much larger country and that’s why a lot of other kiwis are heading over,” she says.
Surf Life Saving Northern Region Sports Manager, Lewis McClintock, says Danielle’s achievements are a real feat for a competitor from Mairangi Bay. “Given the considerable investment Australia puts into their high-performance Surf Life Saving athletes, it’s great to see New Zealand on the podium twice in one day. Danielle's strong performance and talent represent the strength of our national Surf Life Saving team. Despite limited resources given to these athletes, they still manage to win back to back international awards,” he says.
While Danielle has officially moved across the ditch, she says she will regularly travel back to New Zealand to race for nationals and to patrol in the summer. “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.”
During her years as a club member, Danielle has travelled all over the world to compete in places like France, Netherlands and Japan. Last year she won bronze at the Molokai 2 Oahu in Hawaii and Coolangatta Gold. She also placed 7th overall in the Nutrigrain Kelloggs Ironwoman Series Competition.
Currently she plays Australian Football League (AFL) for the Bond university squad and has played two AFL games for Burleigh Club in Division 1. AFL is a fairly new and exciting game for Danielle. She completed her university placement at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) with AFLNZ, and worked there coaching kids AFL skills in schools around Auckland. Danielle is planning to compete in the Surf Life Saving World Championships in Adelaide and Coolangatta Gold again next year.