Here in North Devon we are immensely proud of our local community and love to hear about the incredible people who are part of it. There is a lot of good work being done in the area and we feel that this is something to really celebrate. We recently heard a story about local teenager Liv Bennett being named North Devon’s Most Inspiring Under 21 Year Old and we decided we had to find out more, so we sat down with Liv to catch up and talk surfing, volunteering and inspirations.
First of all Liv, please tell us about being named North Devon’s Most Inspiring Under 21 year old, where was the award from and who decides?
It was put out as a vote to the general public - I was put forward by the lady who runs Wave Wahines, I had no idea! I knew about the organisation and the awards because Peony Knight won it last year. I think a lot of parents of the girls I coach voted for me - because of the work I’ve been doing with Wave Wahines and Wave Project, as well as teaching yoga and surfing, so it all came about from that really. The award was from the charity North Devon Against Domestic Abuse (NDADA) and was part of the Inspiring People Awards, which celebrates people carrying out inspiring work in the community.
You mentioned Wave Wahines - what is it and how are you involved?
So Wave Wahines was started by a lady called Yvette Curtis - she approached me and my sister, as well as another instructor Karma - she got us together as she wanted to set up surf coaching for local girls. She had noticed there was a gap in coaching between beginner surfing and more advanced development squads and so the idea came about to set something up which would provide a fun environment for girls to come together and surf.
We work with local surf schools to teach on the beach and get the girls together as there is often a real lack of girls at surf clubs, which is a real shame. It’s been going really well, we did a few weeks in the sea last year before the surf schools closed and then we’ve been keeping the group together, doing things over the winter - the group has actually grown before we’ve even got back in the water! We’re hoping to be back in the sea next week and we can’t wait. The girls really make it special, some didn’t know each other beforehand, but as soon as they’re in the water you wouldn’t know who is friends with who, they just all surf together and have fun!
You’re also involved with the Wave Project, can you tell us a little bit about this?
The Wave Project is a charity that helps disadvantaged kids to learn team building skills and build self-confidence through surfing, there’s kind of no better way to do it! There are projects all over the country and I volunteer with the North Devon project. It brings together children from the local area who have been referred to the project, it could be by a counsellor or teacher, and they can be referred for a whole range of different reasons, which is really exciting to see how surfing can help so many different children. It’s all run by volunteers and I love being part of it - it’s also great be in the water all the time!
It’s incredible to see the improvement in the children - on the last programme I worked with one girl who at the start was so petrified when she was ankle deep in the water that she wouldn’t stop screaming, but by the end of 6 weeks she had learnt to stand up on her surfboard and ride waves to the shore - and had stopped screaming! It’s so good to be a part of and it’s one of those things where once you’ve done one programme you just get addicted and want to do more and then you’ll be volunteering forever, it’s so much fun. There’s so many smiles, it’s equal between the volunteers and the surfers because everyone just bounces off each other!
As you’ve been named North Devon’s Most Inspiring Under 21 year old, what is it that inspires you?
I’d have to say my sister Jasmine. She’s just super busy all the time! I think one of the reasons I was nominated for the award was because I’m involved in so many things - and I think that I have that from Jasmine. So she’s doing a degree at the moment but she’s also involved in so many things, she’s very passionate about activism, the environment, equality - she’s always researching or getting extra qualifications, so I think I followed in her footsteps in that way.
Also one of my teachers from secondary school, Olaf Rinvolucri, he passed away last February, he was just the most enthusiastic teacher ever, he was great. I was in my GCSE year when he died, it was a real shocker for a lot of people because he was very young. We just all realised how much passion he had for what he did, and he was super accepting of everyone and everything. He was all about teaching us that it’s not necessarily what you can do or being the best but it’s about how much passion you can put into each thing you do. So I took that message from him, he was a really big role model.
So Liv, we saw you in your dryrobe - how do you use yours and what does it do for you?
Well I got mine for my birthday from my dad, from Ralph’s surf shop, so I wear my dryrobe at Wave Wahines and also when I work at Surf South West. For coaching surfing it’s ideal - SSW have dryrobes for the instructors but it’s great because I don’t have to share with the guys! It’s amazing when you’re always in and out of the water when you’re surf instructing and need to stay warm. Sometimes I even walk to work rather than cycle so I can wear my dryrobe on the way there!
What’s next for you Liv, what are your dreams?
I’ve applied to go to uni in September, I really like science so I’m going to study dietetics and I’d like to be a dietician one day. I also teach yoga currently so I’d like to continue doing that and getting more people involved in yoga. I’d also like to travel and teach yoga, I think it would be amazing!
All images courtesy of Guy Harrop Photography