Surf Sis­ters


mailife - - Contents - By MELA KATONIVUALIKU Pho­tos by JONE LUVENITOGA

Sis­ters Kim­ber­lee and Han­nah Ben­nett have had a Moana life­style, spend­ing most of their child­hood sur­rounded by the sea. Kim­ber­lee, 35, and Han­nah, 26, were born in Suva and spent their young days on Ro­tuma, in Hawaii and later in the United States be­cause their Dad moved around a lot for work. “My Dad is Amer­i­can, my Mum is Ro­tu­man and it was my mum who made sure that we kept our feet grounded,” Han­nah said. “My Dad is an en­tre­pre­neur, sailor and boat builder so when we were small he took us where his work took him,” Han­nah said. “We had the best of both worlds but wher­ever we travel, our hearts be­long here in Fiji,” Kim­ber­lee said. Both sis­ters speak flu­ent Ro­tu­man and have had award-win­ning suc­cesses in the sport of surf­ing. Last month they were in Fiji at the Druku Me­mo­rial Surf­ing Event held at Cloud­break, Tavarua. Kim­ber­lee started surf­ing when she was very young. “I en­joyed the ocean and was al­ways a keen swim­mer. I think Han­nah fol­lowed suit.” “I used to change Han­nah’s di­a­pers and I also taught her how to surf.” Han­nah at­tributes her down-to-earth per­son­al­ity to her mother. “My mother has al­ways taken us back to her is­land home in Ro­tuma from the time we were kids un­til to­day. We have a house in Itu­muta and we are wel­come there any­time to fish, snorkel and quench our thirst with the de­li­cious co­conuts.” Han­nah stud­ied in­ter­na­tional af­fairs but she said her dream job is to one day coach young surfers in Fiji. “Kim­ber­lee and I are very pas­sion­ate about surf­ing and we would like to en­cour­age youths in Fiji to take up the sport,” she said. Han­nah helps her par­ents man­age the fam­ily busi­ness, Fiji Is­land Nat­u­rals which sup­plies or­ganic cos­met­ics in bulk to var­i­ous cos­metic op­er­a­tions lo­cally and abroad. “I am able to jug­gle work and my pas­sion for surf­ing be­cause I can take time out from my busy sched­ule at work to surf, Han­nah said.” Kim­ber­lee lives in Hawaii with her hus­band and two-year-old son and comes to Fiji of­ten to visit. “I bring my fam­ily and at times I take them right to Ro­tuma for a taste of par­adise.” Kim­ber­lee’s son Kia’a also speaks Ro­tu­man.

“I also come to Fiji be­cause I sup­port Han­nah in her ef­forts to coach younger fe­males in surf­ing. I try to help out when­ever I can.” The surfer sis­ters have a motto: ‘do it for the girls’. They are of the view that young peo­ple, es­pe­cially young women, need to be em­pow­ered to take up the sport. They be­lieve that fol­low­ing them there are no other women here to con­tinue where they have left off. Han­nah rep­re­sented Fiji in surf­ing when she was 17 years old, com­pet­ing in the Me­lane­sian Cup. She has also taken part in in­ter­na­tional surf­ing com­pe­ti­tions in South Amer­ica, Aus­tralia and here in Fiji. Kim­ber­lee rep­re­sented Fiji at the South Pa­cific Games, Me­lane­sian Games and Pro Ju­nior Com­pe­ti­tions in Hawaii. De­spite surf­ing at var­i­ous lo­ca­tions around the world, they rate Cloud­break at Tavarua as the best surf­ing spot in the world. “The best surf is right here at home. We don’t have to look far.”

Slic­ing the waves at top speed

A child en­joys the day at the com­pe­ti­tion venue.

Girl power…Ben­nett shows off her skills

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