Mandy Emerson and Annie Kjestrup of O2 Dive N Surf Masterton. PHOTO/EMILY IRELAND

 

Emily Ireland

Masterton is a long way from the Great Barrier Reef, but for Annie Kjestrup, it’s always going to be home.

The Wairarapa College old girl has recently returned from working on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as a dive instructor and underwater photographer and will soon be sharing her skills with Wairarapa’s young people.

Annie, who works at O2 Dive N Surf in Masterton, owned by Tim and Mandy Emerson, will be running a snorkelling course at the Masterton pool over Term 4 for kids.

The programme, which reached capacity soon after it was announced, will teach kids about snorkelling equipment and skills, but will also teach participants to be “underwater ambassadors”.

“It will be completely focused on teaching kids ocean conservation, sustainable fishing, marine habitats, ecosystems – I’m going to teach them through games, and hopefully through those games, they will be developing their skills too,” Annie said.

“At the end of it, we will have a whole lot of little underwater ambassadors who are super passionate about the ocean.”

Dive shop owner Mandy Emerson, who is well known for her mixed media artwork, said since opening the shop a year-and-a-half ago, she had always wanted to run something for the kids to teach them snorkelling skills.

“But we never really had the time because I paint, and Tim dives.

When Annie came back to Masterton, everything fell into place to start rolling out the programme.

But Annie’s return was bittersweet – her mum Helen Kjestrup died in June at the age of 61 after a fall.

She was a well-known leader in the Wairarapa health community.

“I’ve just come back to spend time with family and Mandy and Tim have taken me under their wing,” Annie said.

She hopes to share her passion for the ocean while living here.

“There are so many coastlines that are just an hour away.

“I’d like to teach kids to read safe environments so that they don’t get themselves too confident.

“They need to know that the ocean is a dangerous place if you don’t respect it.”

Mandy said the shop would supply programme participants with the snorkel, mask, and fins, and that about 50 were already enrolled to take part.

“Lots of families can’t afford to do a lot of things, but most can afford a trip to the beach and take a picnic.

“If their kids are a bit more confident in the water, that means the parents will be more confident for them to splash around and look at the rocks – and it hasn’t cost a lot.

“It’s so important for kids to be confident in the water – it really is.”

For more information, visit the O2 Dive N Surf Facebook page, or email Annie on anniekjestrup@gmail.com.