There’s more to life than work …

1 March 2014

Nursing Review talks to two nurses about their out-of-work passions.

Making waves

Surfing a wave at Piha and chairing Nursing Council meetings in Wellington are probably two of the more diametrically opposed activities you could find. FIONA CASSIE talks to DR DEBORAH ROWE about sharks, dolphins, and the joy of surfing with the whānau.

Waves can look deceptively modest when you are sitting on the beach sunbathing.

But the reality offshore is those “not so big waves” can be “quite daunting”, says surfer and Nursing Council chair Deb Rowe.

“I remember my friend and I were out there sitting on our boards at Karekare having a yarn and looking at the shore.”

They were chatting so much that it wasn’t until they glanced behind them they saw a five-foot wave about to break on them. “We got absolutely pummeled,” laughs Rowe.

That brought home to her the lesson ‘keep your eyes out to sea’. It is one of the many lessons the Auckland nurse consultant and lecturer has learnt in the decade or so since she took to the waves.

Rowe has always been sporty and loved the sea, but it was her siblings’ enthusiasm for surfing (to the point of buying a surf shop as a family business) and Rowe’s decision to buy a bach in Piha that saw her start board surfing in her early 30s.

Piha is the home of modern surfing in New Zealand after two young American lifeguards spent a summer on the beach in the late 1950s with their long-style Malibu boards.

West Auckland beaches like Piha and Karekare are not the easiest places to learn, and you have to be quick and nimble to get yourself up on a modern short board when catching a wave, says Rowe. If you miss the ‘top of the fall’, you can end up dumped on the sand and churned around in the waves like laundry in a washing machine.

But Rowe persevered and is now severely hooked.

“When you actually master getting a wave and surfing down the wave… it’s such an exhilarating feeling that you’ve actually got up and mastered something.

“Just being out on the water and being able to relax and sit on your board and talk to your friends … it’s relaxing and is a good time to gather your thoughts.”

Now the second generation of surfers is joining her on the waves, with her brother’s and sisters’ children just as keen as their parents. “It’s especially fun going out with all my little nephews and nieces.” The youngest is a five-year-old nephew whose mum is an avid surfer and who can already get up on a wave.

She goes to the gym most days after work (which includes working shifts in neonatal intensive care) but says surfing reminds you “you’ve got a few muscles you forgot about”.

Her most challenging time on a surfboard was when she “popped” out her shoulder before getting dragged out in a rip. “That was the trickiest thing trying to get back in with a dislocated shoulder.”

She put her hand up to signal distress but says lifeguards tend to leave surfies to themselves as they’ve got boards and didn’t realise she was injured.

“So unfortunately they didn’t come and rescue me …” says Rowe. “My lovely brother-in-law was sitting in the car wondering why I was taking so long!”

“I managed to get in… but it took a long time… because the tide was going out at the same time, which wasn’t helpful for me,” she says with typical understatement.

“I wondered whether I was going to end up in Australia, but thankfully, I didn’t.”

Then there was the time at White Bay, around the corner from Piha, while surfing with friends when she had an unwanted mate of the shark variety come next to her board. “It was a fairly big one…”

She tries to avoid her finned friends and was happy to see shark nets around the surfing beaches in Queensland and has fond memories of how consistently and easily the waves ‘peel’ in Noosa, meaning surfers are “pretty much guaranteed” to catch a wave.

Rowe believes it is important for nurses – who sometimes can get so tied up in their work – to have an outside interest or passion that can be a “destressor” or allows them to take time out for themselves and their own thoughts and which will help them stay fit.

Surfing had to take a back seat for a while recently for Deb while she completed her PhD, but with that behind her, she is enjoying more time on the board with family and friends, which has reminded her that just being at the beach brings the potential for those magic moments.

“Just last weekend, I’d gone to the beach to take a look and there was a whole pod of dolphins surfing down the waves. It was quite spectacular.”

A life in art

Theatre Nurse ANNEMARIE McCAMBRIDGE’s passion for art.

Sometimes while scrubbed up and waiting, theatre nurse Annemarie McCambridge spies a scene she’d love to draw.

Occasionally, she fits in a quick sketch, but more often than not, the patient or surgeon arrives and the working day is under way.

But that is okay for the Waitemata District Health Board nurse and keen artist because painting and drawing is the passion she has outside of work. While her first ‘perioperative’ painting exhibitions in 2008 captured theatre scenes – and also the eye of Shortland Street art directors who used her paintings in a set – her latest passion is for life-drawing.

The Dutch-born and trained perioperative nurse has always loved art but it was put low on her priorities after marrying her Scottish husband, first juggling work and then being a mother of three children. The family lived first in Switzerland for 11 years and then for shorter periods in the USA, Scotland and England before coming to New Zealand in the year 2000.

It was working as a Dutch interpreter at Waikato DHB that lured McCambridge back into theatre nursing in 2004 but a severe illness at the end of 2006 saw her taking time out to rehabilitate.

“My husband was very supportive. He said, “Why don’t you take a year off and do something you really enjoy?” says McCambridge.

So she enrolled at an art centre to learn the basics. “And I’ve never looked back.”

Dealing with the human anatomy on a regular basis at work has carried over into her art with a growing enthusiasm for life model drawing in charcoal or pencil.

“Drawing from life models is just absolutely wonderful.”

McCambridge also finds art classes and working at the art centre to be important “me time” where she can relax and concentrate on her painting or drawing without being distracted by the washing machine or door bell. The results give her pleasure – most of the time.

“It’s the creating of this piece of work on canvas; it gives you an immense feeling of satisfaction when it goes well,” says McCambridge.

She adds with a laugh, “when it doesn’t go well, it’s really frustrating, but when it goes well it’s really, really good.”