Surf break

By Alex Scott
Photography by Rhett Goodley-Hornblow

Featured in Capital #38
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For years, learning to surf was a pipe dream for Bronwyn Kelly. Now she can hit the waves like a boss (literally).

“Work hard, play hard.” That’s Bronwyn’s motto. And she lives by it – she keeps her surfboard and wetsuit in her office at Maranui Café in Lyall Bay, where she’s a co-owner.

Bronwyn first picked up a board about five years ago, and loves the fact you don’t need to be a pro to get stuck in. “Although, I’ve got one finger crossed,” she laughs. For her, it’s all about the thrill and the challenge. “Being in the water makes other day-to-day concerns feel not so important. Surfing is immediate and you have to respond to your surroundings.”

It’s a similar story on the floor at Maranui, where she never knows exactly what the day will throw at her. From paperwork to waiting tables, flipping pancakes and catching up with customers, “I love the diversity of my work,” she says. Even if the chefs give her a hard time for always burning the toast.

Aside from being a stone’s throw from the swells, Bronwyn says there are other perks to the job. “Being able to eat great, healthy, delicious food daily is awesome. Some days I need to restrain myself.” There’s also the commute from her home in Island Bay. “It takes about four minutes to drive to work around the South Coast, which is the best start to the day.”

In the evening, a favourite haunt is Italian restaurant Cicio Cacio in Newtown. “I always feel like I’m walking into a restaurant on the other side of the world. It’s fun, intimate, authentic and delicious.”

Brownyn used to live in Melrose, and while she misses the sounds of the howler monkeys, her twin boys Alby and Lukas make sure it never gets too quiet for her. Her dream is to one day own a house made from converted containers, right on the water.

When she’s not working or being a taxi service for her boys, Bronwyn is always on the lookout for that perfect surf spot. “I have an old beat-up van which has done me proud over the years, taking me to Castlepoint or Tora so I can indulge in some surfing and campfire time,” she says. “I usually try to incorporate an overnight trip with my boyfriend or surfing mates.”

It’s never hard to find keen companions for road trips. Just use the words “glass, swell, and offshore” within earshot of other surfers. “Their eyes go all twitchy and you can see them calculating how long it will take to get their board and wetsuit in the car.”

While it’s still a male-dominated sport, Bronwyn believes women are making their presence felt. “The World Surf League tour is massive and gives the females as much credence as the males – and they shred as good as any man!” She’s also noticed more mums showing their girls how it’s done, and there’s no age limit on testing the waters.

“The older I get, the more it dawns on me that you have to live for today and make time to enjoy being above ground,” she says.


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