QU NIE WAHINE

Ash­ley Nor­ris is fol­low­ing her dreams and has writ­ten a chil­dren’s book to in­spire her daugh­ters.

Surf Girl - - – Snap Shot – -

I am part of a fam­ily of surfers. Dad, sis­ters, hus­band, brother-in-law… we are bonded by the love of salt­wa­ter and the thrills you get from the ocean. So it was just un­der­stood that one day when we had kids, they would surf too. My hus­band and I al­ways talked about when our kids would get their first surf­board as an hon­orary rite of pas­sage (like learn­ing to ride a bike with­out sta­bilis­ers). So, when we had our daugh­ters, surf­ing has been what they know and see us en­joy­ing. We have count­less pic­tures of naked ba­bies and tod­dlers on surf­boards and skate­boards… we just can’t help our­selves.

So when my oldest daugh­ter turned five, all she wanted for Christ­mas was a pink surf­board. My hus­band and I ex­changed proud glances and obliged will­ingly. And then the day came to test it out. She looked at the ocean and at me and said: “Umm. Maybe when I’m six.” She is an anx­ious and cau­tious child, so this wasn’t too sur­pris­ing, but a lit­tle heart­break­ing. I knew she was wrestling with an in­ter­nal con­flict be­tween some­thing that scared her and some­thing she wanted to do. Af­ter

some re­as­sur­ance that we were not go­ing far and it would be fun, she de­cided to give it a try, had a blast, and that was when I had my mum­myepiphany.

I had re­alised some­thing re­ally im­por­tant. She knew we loved surf­ing and she en­joyed be­ing a part of that with us. But there wasn’t a lot of me­dia or books that por­trayed girls like her in surf cul­ture: Lit­tle girls who are ner­vous and have to find their in­ner brav­ery, but who do not want to miss out on the fun. I knew the story that needed to be writ­ten. I de­cided that very day that if I can’t find toys and books that re­flect the life we live, I’d make my own. So I did. Quee­nie Wahine: Lit­tle Surfer Girl, was of­fi­cially in the works.

One small prob­lem; I am no artist. Not in the least. And now I needed an il­lus­tra­tor. I called my sis­ter, Jes­sica, who was in New Zealand (surf­ing and trav­el­ling) and she was im­me­di­ately on board for our project. We both im­me­di­ately started talk­ing about our own per­cep­tions of women in surf cul­ture and how it had an ef­fect on the way we got in­ter­ested in the sport as kids. Lit­tle girls ev­ery­where needed to be able to see them­selves rep­re­sented in the ac­tiv­i­ties and pas­sions that their fam­i­lies want to share with them.

So we started work­ing, col­lab­o­rat­ing and email­ing con­stantly. I’ll never for­get the day I re­alised that my pur­suit of this mis­sion was hav­ing its in­flu­ence on my daugh­ters. It was the Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day and we were rid­ing in the car to visit fam­ily. We had fin­ished the third DVD and ev­ery­one was rest­less and bored. My oldest daugh­ter said: “Mummy, will you read Quee­nie Wahine?” My daugh­ter had been watch­ing, lis­ten­ing and talk­ing about Quee­nie Wahine like it had al­ways been a book on her shelf. I don’t even know how to ar­tic­u­late how that made me feel as a mum. So I pulled out my phone and read her the doc­u­ment that I had been work­ing on. We talked for the rest of the ride about Quee­nie. We talked about writ­ers and il­lus­tra­tors. We talked about how she could do any­thing she wanted to when she grew up – even the scary things that made her ner­vous.

Af­ter that day I had a new per­spec­tive on the book we were writ­ing. Not only did I feel as if I had a re­spon­si­bil­ity to give my chil­dren a role model that they need, I also re­alised that writ­ing a chil­dren’s book is my dream. I know that my daugh­ter is watch­ing me make up my mind to do some­thing new and scary and out­side my own com­fort zone. What bet­ter way to teach her that she can do or be any­thing she wants? Whether it’s hit­ting the waves or writ­ing a book. And es­pe­cially when it’s some­thing scary and un­known.

“THERE WASN’T A LOT OF ME­DIA OR BOOKS THAT POR­TRAYED GIRLS LIKE HER IN SURF CUL­TURE: LIT­TLE GIRLS WHO ARE NER­VOUS AND HAVE TO FIND THEIR IN­NER BRAV­ERY, BUT WHO DO NOT WANT TO

MISS OUT ON THE FUN.”

Ash­ley with her youngest daugh­ter, Amelia.

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