Six degrees of separation refers to the idea that everyone is on average approximately six steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person on Earth, so that a chain of, “a friend of a friend” statements can be made, on average, to connect any two people in six steps or fewer.”*

In New Zealand, it`s more like 2 degrees. Turns out Fiona Duncan lives with a couple of friends of mine in Gisborne, the first part of our fair land to see the sun rising over the east coast. She`s also a seasonal board-riding nomad and the current organiser of Wahine on Waves, a series of surf gatherings in Gisborne over summer. She took some time out to talk story and give us the skinny on this local community event….



I was born in Hawkes Bay NZ, in my early 20’s I took off on my OE adventure to Europe where I fell in love with snowboarding and that basically dictated the next ten years of my life. Traveling to America, all over Europe and New Zealand coaching and competing. I didn’t first surf till my mid-twenties and then between seasons I dabbled a bit where I could. It wasn’t till injury got the better of my snow career that I hung up the boots and got my first surf board. Gisborne became home and the task of surrendering to the endless winter and constant travel began. With thanks to our pacific ocean, my wonderful friends and my new career in Pilates I have been able to continue coaching and cross over some of the things I used to do in the snow.

How did Wahine On Waves fruition – what was the inspiration behind the event? Women on Waves was started in Gisborne back in 1991 by 4 local ladies, it proved to be really memorable in lots of my friends minds and got heaps of girls into surfing and increased their water confidence. It was laid to rest for a few years as people moved in other directions. So after a few years in Gissy I decided to bring it back to life, calling it ‘Wahine on Waves’. I contacted Roxy and some local potential sponsors to make the event possible for minimal cost. The inspiration behind Wahine is to give girls the opportunity to be in an all girls environment, some of us lack confidence to express ourselves when boys enter the equation, maybe we don’t want to look like an egg or fall off our boards. Another inspiration for me is that most wahine can feel more confident in their skin, body image and self confidence can plague our minds all too much. Days like Wahine on Waves remind us that FUN and good times are what life is about.



What has been the response by women and girls who`ve attended? The community is stoked to have it back and being in its second year the following is really positive. There are lots of talented young girls here and lots of the older ladies are giving surfing a go too. This year we introduced Stand Up Paddle and Carmen Fairlie from Tolaga Bay and Brent Rasby take care of that side of the Wahine Days, they go to the river to get the girls up and paddling.

All the Wahine are really joyful to have such an experience. Lots of buzzing smiley people. The young girls love to surf with Jayda Martin Fitzharris, Dayna Story and Jasmine Smith. These girls are doing really well competing in surfing and are the up and coming rippers, they are really supportive of Wahine on Waves and love giving tips to the other girls.

Plans for the future?
The plan is to keep rolling the days and giving more coaching to the experienced girls as well as the other levels of ability, just encouraging the healthy lifestyle surfing and oceansports bring. Encouraging local businesses to benefit from the days too! Just continuing to increase confidence for parents, kids and all participants, improving water safety and enjoying the wonderful surroundings we have on offer here on the East Coast. I like to think people will develop more respect for the ECO side of the ocean too and build a greater respect for Mother Nature. My goal is to build on this model and take it to other parts of New Zealand, also incorporating pilates/yoga networking with other holistic approaches to hold camps and retreat stays with the same ethos.

Any highlights or challenges from events or the process of putting it all together? The biggest Highlight to date was last Wahine Day in January, it was the most beautiful day we had 55 girls participating, the waves were perfect and everything flowed like riding a perfect wave. That in itself was a dream come true. The process of putting it all together is quite large, and planning starts very early on, but my past experiences from the snow days and organising other events definitely helps. I get really anxious before the days hoping that all goes to plan. Sometimes I dream that it all goes tits up, but then I wake up.  Managing my other jobs and working full time can be very tiring but I am lucky to have some super dooper mates to help me pull it all off.

Shout outs to anyone…Roxy, Blitz Surf Shop, Surfers Skin, Gisborne Boardriders Club, MF Pilates, Wainui Store, Morley Design Group, Go Bamboo, Sup Cuz, Raza Surf School, Kt Orthodontics, Mitchells Camera, Live Creative, Curl Magazine, Eastland Trader. Big thanks to all the volunteer helpers and most importantly my friends and besties who sound me out. Mum and Dad are lovely to come from HB to help too.

How do people register or find out information? You can LIKE Wahine on Waves on Facebook. Registration is at Blitz Surf Shop in Gissy – ph 06 868 4428 or contact me fioona@hotmail.com OR www.fionaduncan.co.nz




*Wikipedia – Six Degrees of Separation, sourced 15th February 2012


  1. "TWS" Tairawhiti Water Survival School

    Thank you what a great read 🙂 keep up the great work all 🙂 R

  2. Adele Clayton

    Thats sounds so cool. even old girls like me would give it a shot on a day like that. I’ve aways wanted to try stand up paddle boarding, that would be fun. Maybe we could organise a girls weekend away for it next year Dan, and you coudl supervise us, me Leone, Dee and Robyn!!

  3. fiona duncan

    sounds like a fab idea

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