For some elite athletes, gratitude is not something that comes naturally.
Talented people, whether it athletically, intellectually or artistically, are often supported from a young age to help nourish their gifts.
Athletes are given funding, products, training assistance and more to help push them to new levels of success. This can sometimes mean they aren’t always aware of how much effort is put in behind the scenes to help support them perform at the elite level.
Attending the Surf Lifesaving New Zealand Awards of Excellence in 2016 brought me back to the roots of why I am fiercely proud to compete in this sport.
To sit in a room of people willing to give their time, an increasingly scarce commodity in modern living, to protecting the lives of those on our beaches every year, is humbling.
It’s so easy to be caught up in the chase of glory.
To be the world’s best, there is a need to be intermittently ruthless, self-absorbed and selfish. It’s a by-product of competitive success.
That’s why I was so glad to be sitting at the awards.
It refreshed my perspective.
That night I had so many people congratulate the team and I, we got to answer questions on stage, feel like superstars as we were showered in compliments.
But I couldn’t help but be inspired and awed by the feats of the lifeguards in that room.
From revolutionising radios to improve communication on remote beaches, to life and death situations, I was vividly reminded of the very small part I play in what is such an incredible organisation.
There were speakers who stood up and recognised the table I sat at, who drew inspiration from our athletic endeavors.
Those same people had upgraded technologies to better connect lifeguards.
Those same people had dragged lifeless bodies from the ocean.
These were people who trained, qualified and gave up their time to protecting our community as summer rolls over the country each year.
These were people who had endured fierce winds and rain to ensure that any stray person was kept safe while exploring our breath-taking coastlines.
While it is an unreal feeling to stand on top of the podium, to be crowned the best in the world, the meaningfulness of that moment is genuinely heightened by the shared camaraderie and passion by an entire community of people.
From athletes to lifeguards, officials to parents, coaches and volunteers, this is a sport defined by community.
It is a unique, multi-faceted sport which caters to a full spectrum of people.
I am forever grateful my parents took me to nippers.