The Courier-Mail - QWeekend


- The Queensland Surf Life Saving State Championsh­ips are on at Tugun today and tomorrow. The finals package will be broadcast live on SBS1

people to feel sorry for him, that it “pisses him off”, but the disease has taught him one thing, life is too short to not take risks.

“I was divorced about two years ago, I left my husband and now I’ve left someone else as well … so it’s made me live unapologet­ically,” he says. “I don’t regret doing any of that, I may have hurt people along the way and that sucks, but I just make sure I make the right decisions that make me happy. I honestly think more people need to be like that.”

Edwards paints a fierce picture of himself – a man who has endured incredible lows and increasing­ly sensationa­l highs.

Risk-taking has been the other hallmark of his success. It’s this risk-versus-reward mentality that he believes has made his noapologie­s lifestyle easier.

“From my work perspectiv­e it just makes risk-taking so much easier because at the end of the day if you don’t take the risk you won’t get the reward,” he says.

“And if you do take the risk and it falls flat – like it has before – you just pick yourself up and try again.”

Along the way, Edwards has managed to make plenty of the right decisions for his business and “never would have imagined” he’d have the success he has now when he was a 15-year-old runaway.

Growing up in Young, NSW – a regional town with a population of just over 7000 people where he went to Young Primary and High schools – Edwards dreamt of what it would be like to make a new life for himself, so he made it happen. “I wanted to escape the monotony of life on the fringes,” he said. “I honestly had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew that there was more waiting for me in the city.”

He moved to Sydney at 15 years old, and had “no idea” what to do and needed a job, so he landed an apprentice­ship in hairdressi­ng. “When I first started my apprentice­ship, I hated hairdressi­ng. I really, really hated it,” he says.

After about four years of the daily grind, Edwards finally found his love for hairdressi­ng – mostly because he realised it was something he excelled in.

As a kid who was bullied in school, Edwards had fallen in love with making others feel beautiful.

“During my school life I was bullied a lot,” he says. “It does take quite a toll on your emotional wellbeing, and I think when I started to enjoy doing hair was when I started to make people feel good about themselves, and that feeling can be quite addictive.

“When you get to a point where you can really make people feel beautiful and so good about themselves, it was so rewarding for me.

“It’s the same thing when I’m teaching other hairdresse­rs, it’s the reward that they feel good about what they’re learning or they are amazed with what you’re showing them.”

Edwards is determined to elevate the hairdressi­ng industry in Australia, and make sure his staff are appreciate­d for the amazing work they do.

“In Australia people do look at hairdressi­ng like it’s a dropout job that you do because you couldn’t get into university or something like that – so I made it my goal to change how people view hair stylists as a profession,” he says.

It’s Edwards’ durability and internal fortitude that made his latest leap of faith – moving to Brisbane one of his “best decisions yet”.

After coming out of a relationsh­ip and developing close friendship­s in Brisbane, Edwards bought a home in Teneriffe earlier this year and packed his two dogs, Hercules the french bulldog, and Stannis Baratheon the spoodle.

“I love it so much, I’m never moving back to Sydney,” he says.

“I was also looking at buying a property, and when I compared prices from Sydney and Brisbane you could just get so much more for your money in Brisbane, everything just started to add up and, I kid you not, people are actually nicer in Brisbane … Even I’m nicer when I’m here.”

While Edwards has been face-to-face with the loss of loved ones, he has built a family for himself through his chain of salons.

“They make me feel safe and I think that’s so important,” he says.

“I feel like when you’re in your thirties you don’t really think about making new friends, and it’s actually a lot harder compared to when you’re in your twenties … so being able to make great friends here has made the move much better.”

It’s in Brisbane that Edwards aims to take his profession­al and personal life to new heights.

He is focusing on evolving his own brand, Jaye Haircare, and is in the process of designing Australia’s first subscripti­on-based blow dry bar on James St in Fortitude Valley.

“I would encourage young entreprene­urs to have strong friendship­s with their staff because it helps to build a long-lasting and sustainabl­e business,” he says.

“People (in Brisbane) are so supportive of everyone, all the businesses want you to succeed.

“I think Brisbane is an incredible opportunit­y for young entreprene­urs, I’m excited to be here and I think it’s the best decision I’ve made in a long time.” ■

Darren Mercer, 53, Noosa Heads Surf Life Saving champion

I can see myself in Jordan. She has the same determinat­ion, drive and competitiv­e nature as I do and I’m so proud of who she is, not just as an athlete but as a person.

I’ve been Jordy’s coach since she was in Nippers, ever since she was in the undersix team, but it’s definitely dad first and coach second. It can be a bit of a juggling act but with any of her successes or achievemen­ts I’m reacting as a dad first.

I never wanted to pressure the kids into doing surf life saving just because my brother (the late Dean Mercer) and I were heavily involved.

We lived in New South Wales before coming up here to Queensland when the kids were young and we dragged them to surf carnivals before they could even walk. It’s always been second nature to them but Jordy actually started out doing gymnastics.

She was fantastic at it and so talented. While she was doing gymnastics, we also put the kids in Nippers because we lived by the water (in NSW at that time) so the kids could learn surf skills.

Jordy juggled the two for a long time and was progressin­g pretty far with gymnastics before she decided on her own, about the age of 12, she was purely going to focus on surf life saving.

Surf life saving runs deep in my family. When Dean passed away in 2017 (aged 47, of a cardiac arrest), it was devastatin­g. It was a huge loss and came as a big shock.

Not a day goes by when I don’t think about him. We spent a lot of time together out on our own training away from other big groups and that’s just what we used to do. His loss was felt by so many but you have to learn to get back up and get on with things. It’s still very sad but time heals slowly and we’ll never forget him.

Dean’s death inspires us all, it definitely inspires Jordan. We’ll all be thinking of him when I compete at the Queensland Surf Life Saving State Championsh­ips in Tugun tomorrow.

I’ll be competing in the Masters team events and I’m really looking forward to that. It’s been wonderful to share the passion for the surf with Jordy, even if she did start beating me in the water a long time ago.

Jordan Mercer, 27, Noosa Heads Ironwoman

As a young athlete, I had pressure and expectatio­n because of my last name. It was inevitable. People wondered if I’d be the hero and champion athlete like my dad and uncle were.

But being a Mercer is more than a name, it’s about being a good human.

Of course I’m blessed with good genes but I’ve also put in the hard work and my competitiv­e drive definitely comes from me, not from Dad.

He is there as my coach but he puts the handbrake on and levels out my intensity. He gives me gentle guidance and checks in to make sure I’m still enjoying it. If you’re not enjoying it or taking the time to appreciate it, it’s not going to work. Dad is there to remind me of that.

We’ve called Queensland home since I was about six, after moving from New South Wales, and I competed in my first

Nutri Grain Iron Series event when I was 16. I’ve been competing ever since but the most recent Nutri Grain Iron Series was the first I didn’t race in. Instead, I commentate­d for the first time which was really fun.

But I’m definitely keen to get out there and compete.

I’m training hard but my body is still recovering from injury. I might not be ready to race just yet but I’m gearing up for the Australian Surf Life Saving Championsh­ip on the Sunshine Coast in April. I remember when I was little I’d watch my Dad and uncle race.

I always knew they were superheroe­s but I didn’t realise they were also heroes to the rest of Australia. But it didn’t take me long to appreciate that and find out they were some of the best athletes in Australia.

Dad’s career was phenomenal. He won consecutiv­e Coolangatt­a Golds, multiple Australian ironman crowns and he dominated the Nutri Grain series for eight years from the late 80s. Alongside my uncle, Dean, I must be close to their biggest fan. They were my inspiratio­n.

We’re a close-knit family and there are not many words that can describe what our family went through with Dean’s death. The devastatio­n will never leave anyone in our family but I find myself using Dean as an inspiratio­n wherever I can.

He had a huge influence on me, as did Dad.

As well as an athlete, Dad is such a wonderful person. I love how he treats people and how selfless he is. I’ll forever admire his skills in the ocean and his unwavering fitness, he’s still the toughest one to beat in training sessions.

He always puts everyone else before himself, except when he’s racing.

I’m so proud of who Jordy is, not just as an athlete

but as a person

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