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Celebrity Spotlight: Layne Beachley
Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 3, No. 6 - November/December 2011

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What do you do in your spare time?

These days I don't have very much spare time as I am busier in retirement than I was when I was competing. I have my own charity called Aim for the Stars; I stage the richest professional women's surfing event in the world - The Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic and do a lot of motivational speaking, ambassador roles and media. In my spare time I surf, read and catch up with family and friends.

What was your first job?

My first job was folding t-shirts and sweeping the floor in my local surf shop in Manly. I actually worked for free for a while as the shop became my "hangout" and a place where I could store my surfboard to save me taking it home every day on the bus.

What are your career highlights?

My career is full of highlights! From winning my first ASP championship tour event in 1993 as a 20 year old, then going on to win my first of 7 world titles in 1998. Having the desire, drive and determination to continue that dominance for 6 years in a row was very satisfying, then recovering from a potential career ending neck injury to return to the tour 2 years after my 6th world title to win a 7th one was also amazing.

The accolades that accompany the success I had in the water such as being inducted into the US Surfing Hall of Fame and Walk of Fame, as well as the NSW Hall of Champions and just recently, the Australian Sporting Hall of Fame. It's incredible to think that committing myself to something that I love and becoming the best in the world can provide me with so much satisfaction, influence and appreciation from others. I love the fact I can inspire and motivate others through my love of surfing.

What is your most unforgettable personal experience?

Being told I was adopted had a profound impact on me and the direction my life ultimately took. Of course I wasn't aware of that until many years later but I realised that it actually drove me to become a world champion. When dad told me I was adopted, I felt like I no longer belonged. I felt that If I wasn't worthy of my own mothers love, whose love was I worthy of? If I become the best in the world at something I would be deserving of everyone's love. Once I won my 6th world title I realised that the love of self is more important than constantly seeking the love and reassurance of others.

Please tell us about your family

I was adopted at birth, into a beach loving family with the last name Beachley and became a pro surfer. Fortunate twist of fate I say! My mother Valerie picked me up from the hospital and brought me home, and then passed away 6 years later from a brain haemorrhage. My dad Neil surfed and is responsible for introducing me to the sport, while my older brother Jason rides a longboard and loves his surfing. My dad remarried many years later and had my baby sister Catherine who is now 21. Unfortunately her mother Christina, my stepmother, passed away from Breast Cancer 8 years ago. I have a huge amount of respect for my dad and all that he has endured in life, all while maintaining a positive outlook and responsibility to care for his family. He is my rock!

Where did your passion for surfing come from and how old were you when you started?

I started surfing when I was four years old. I was riding a skateboard from the age of three so it was a natural progression from land to the ocean. My dad introduced me to the water and I fell in love with it and its healing qualities.

You have surfed all over the world, where is your favourite place to surf?

I love big waves and warm water so my favourite place to surf is Hawaii. My favourite wave in the world is Sunset Beach because it's challenging and rewarding and very unpredictable.

You have had such a successful career and have worked so hard; what helps you to stay focused on your goals?

It's important to have attainable goals, both short term and long term to keep you motivated. As a teenager my ultimate goal was to become world champion but I had to set short term goals in order to achieve that. Some of my goals included doing some physical training every day, surfing for at least an hour a day, maintain a disciplined diet during competition or focus on winning a particular tournament. Learning to deal with disappointment and defeat taught me much more than winning did, even though it hurt a lot at the time, it made me more resilient and determined.

How do you stay fit and motivated?

Vanity helps me stay fit. I love feeling good in a bikini and I know what is required
to keep myself in shape. I have my "off " days where I eat or drink things that I know aren't good for me so I just refrain from those kinds of things the next day to give my body a break. I also acknowledge that I no longer have the motivation to train hard or consistently enough to stay in shape so I work with a personal trainer.

What are your top five tips for aspiring surfers?

  1. Take the time to learn the correct skills and techniques. I recommend going to a surf school as there are a lot of things to look out for and unspoken etiquette in the water.
  2. Start on a foam board then progress to a fibreglass once you are confident and in control. Work on building your upper body strength.
  3. It's meant to be fun so grab a few friends and learn to surf together.
  4. Be patient. It's not as easy as we make it look!
  5. Practice makes perfect. Once you have the basic skills and your own equipment, spend as much time in the water as you can. The best training for surfing is surfing.

You founded the Aim for the Stars Foundation, can you tell us about it and how people can become involved?

Aim for the Stars is all about empowering women to achieve their goals in all endeavours such as music, science, culture, art, academics and sport. I founded it in 2003 to provide financial and moral support for girls and women across Australia to achieve their dreams and to prevent them from experiencing similar levels of financial hardship that I endured in the early stages of my career. Girls apply through the website and we read through each application and determine who will receive the grants we have on offer. It's a very rewarding thing to do and I'm inspired by everyone of the successful applicants that I have the pleasure to support. Applications close on Nov 15 and we announce the successful recipients in Jan 2012.

Please tell us about your exciting role with the 2012 Australian Olympic team.
Along with John Eales, Steve Waugh and Keiren Perkins, I have been selected by the AOC to support the Australian Athletes in London to perform at their best. It's referred to as an ALO - Athlete Liaison Officer and each of us have been given 12 sports that we have to focus on. Some of my sports include Swimming, Athletics, Women's Hockey, Road Cycling, Triathlon and Fencing. It's an absolute honour to be asked to perform this role and I am really looking forward to supporting the journey of our sporting stars and hero's in London next year. This will be the first time I have attended a Summer Olympic Games.


Born in 1972, Layne was given up for adoption by her 17 year old mother. She lost her adoptive mother when she was just 6 and credits her adoptive father, Neil as being her rock. When she was 7 years old Neil told her she was adopted.
As a 16 year old, Layne made her debut on the ASP Women's World Tour and, by the time she was 20, she was ranked number 6 in the world. She won her first event in 1993.

In 1998, Layne won the first of 6 consecutive world titles. She recovered from an
injury to win her seventh world title. Her domination of women's surfing has earned her a place in sporting history.

She launched the Beachley Athletic brand for women and in 2006 staged the richest event in women's surfing history; the Beachley Classic at Manly Beach, Sydney.

In addition to her surfing and business commitments, Layne created the Aim for
the Stars Foundation in 2003 to support and help young women across Australia to realise their dreams in diverse fields.

Layne announced her retirement from professional surfing at the end of the 2008 ASP Women's World Tour.

She married Kirk Pengilly, a member of the Australian rock group INXS, in October 2010.

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Mark Bouris

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Get Ahead Kids® Nov/Dec 2011

Beneath the Waves

Authors: Michael Gordon with
Layne Beachley

'Beneath the Waves' is a touching book that takes readers on Layne Beachley's journey; from her days as the young girl known as 'Gidget' at Manly to becoming an icon of women's surfing and seven times World Surfing Champion.

World Champion is not a title that came easily to Layne Beachley. While dealing with loss after loss in the water, Layne was also in personal turmoil. Learning she was adopted left Layne feeling empty and pushed her to train harder than ever to earn the love of those around her.

The authors successfully connect with readers using a combination of Layne's diary entries and interview excerpts from Layne's family, friends, coaches, past boyfriends and Layne herself.
This is an inspirational and moving tale that is a testament to winning against all odds and reminding readers that with perseverance and hard work you can achieve your life's goals.

Age Guide: 15+ Years
Extent: 348 Pages (paperback)
ISBN: 9781741667288
Price: AU $19.95
Publisher: Random House
P: 02 9954 9966

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