Kayla Imrie (right) with her brothers Ryan (left) and Kurtis (centre)
New Zealand Olympic Kayaker Kayla Imrie has put the paddle to the side to compete in the New Zealand Surf Live Saving championships in Christchurch.
Imrie competed alongside her brothers for the Paekakariki Surf Life Saving club, and has also gained selection to the New Zealand High-Performance team.
She's a performer on the big stage, but there's no doubt where her heart lies.
Imrie says, “I love the community, I love the racing. It’s a bit more exhilarating than Kayak in the sense that you have waves that you have to battle with. It’s a bit more skillful.”
It was by chance that the Te Whakatōhea native got into the sport. One day she headed down to support her brothers who were also competing.
"To be honest, I initially never actually was going to join Surf Live Saving, I was a competitive swimmer when I was about 12 years old."
Her brothers Ryan and Kurtis are reluctant to single her out as the best in the family, but they are immensely proud of her achievements.
Ryan says, “We’re all competitive in our own ways. And sometimes it’s on the day, so I can’t put a name to that.”
At home, she’s just down to earth, chilled out. I can ask her any questions because I’m kind of in the same boat (I) want to do what she’s currently achieving and hopefully back on the world stage,” says Kurtis.
Imrie believes that there is a place for many more Māori to take up the Surf Live Saving.
"I think it’s really important for Māori to get involved in sports such as Surf Life Saving. As a culture, we love the water, we love being around it, jumping off wharfs and having fun with all of your mates.”
Imrie will assemble later this year for camps with the goal of making the New Zealand team for the World Championships in Adelaide next year.