• By Jenna Kelley

Who would have thought that I would be spending my Thursday afternoon surfing with 7 time World Champion Layne Beachley!

In February 2011, I was awarded an individual grant from this amazing foundation run by Layne.  On August 4th I and eight other talented females from all over Australia, made our way to NSW for the Aim for The Stars Foundation Grant Recipient Awards.  I left Melbourne very early Thursday morning and once in Sydney, settled into the magnificent Wyndham Resort.  At 12:45, I changed into my bathers and headed off with the girls to Manly Beach for a surfing lesson with Layne!

When I (eventually) got into my wetsuit, I was zipped up and we were ready after we had some photos taken (I felt like a seal!  Wetsuits are not attractive unless you’re Layne Beachley!  LOL).  The swell was pretty small, which was really good because I was a little nervous as I had never surfed before!

We dragged our boards behind us as we walked down the beach and sat on the soft sand.  Layne gave us a short theory session and then taught us the basics on the boards on the sand.  Then it was time to get out there.  We paddled out to the surf and the sets were on, they were rolling in by the dozen!

It didn’t take long before I stood up and went all the way in to the shore and I could hear Layne cheering me and clapping from the water as she looked on!  Buoyed on by excitement and a sense of achievement, I paddled back out again and again and again.  When I felt too tired to fight the whitewash, I found Layne behind me, pushing my board out and giving me really useful tips and when to actually paddle to successfully snatch the wave.  I was a bit eager and Layne helped me gauge when to paddle and when to go for it.  What a woman!  She made it feel so easy!  Every girl attempted to stand up and I think all of us did.

When it was time to come out the water, I went straight into an interview with the media, who asked me if I had ever surfed before.  When I said no, they were very surprised and said I looked like a natural as I had stood up and ridden the waves 90% of the time.  Then I was asked how felt to be surfing with Layne and if she’d given me any tips.

After changing back into our dry clothes, we walked along the beach to the Manly Surf Club, where we talked excitedly and celebrated with a BBQ.  We were all buzzing after our surf and we got to know each other better.  The rest of the night we had free.  I caught up with my friend Lou who I worked with in Antarctica and her friend Rita and then we went and saw an amazing band at the Mac, called The Conscious Pilots.  They were fantastic!

The next day started early.  We headed across the road to the business and conference department of the hotel.  We were greeted by Layne and Davina and Kirsty who have been appointed as our life coaches and mentors.

We gathered together and discussed the next steps to take in our lives to achieve our goals and make our dreams come true.  We did some very interesting exercises!  We had to write a letter to ourselves which will be posted to us all later this year and we went through magazines and cut out words and images that represent what we want in our lives.  Davina and Kirsty then asked us to explain some of the items we had chosen.  It was a very interesting and useful exercise!

During this workshop, I had an interview on the phone with a local newspaper.  After our mentoring session, we met Sharon Payne who provided us with some media training.  I missed most of the session as my interview went for quite a while and then I was called back out as they wanted to ask me more questions.

Once the media training was complete, it was time for hair, make up and a portfolio photography shoot.  I was second to do the photo shoot and I had my new driving suit with me that my AFTS grant enabled me to buy.  Carol Gibbons was fantastic and helped me strike (I hope!) some good poses. After my photo shoot, I had the rest of the afternoon free, so I went back to the hotel and relaxed.

I began getting ready for the Gala at around 5pm.  My gown was black and had lots of bling on it to go with the Gala theme of “Black and Bling”.  We made our way downstairs at 6:45pm where the amazing stretch hummer waiting for us!  My dad had flown in from Perth to celebrate with me.  We all looked amazing and had photos with Layne before we hopped in the hummer and we were joined by Jessica Watson and her sister Hannah Watson.

The funniest thing was that our partners or parents had to travel in a mini bus behind us!  There were lots of jokes about that.  We arrived at the Dolton Warf jetty in style and Layne talked with us while we finished our champers.  She gave the girls who were wearing shorter dresses some advice on how to exit the Hummer gracefully.  We had some photos taken and then walked inside the magnificent venue which was set to the theme.  There were goodie bags on our chairs from the various sponsors of the Aim for the Stars Foundation, which contained vouchers and hand crËmes, magazines, books  and a pamphlet that was all about the grant recipients.  I felt really famous!  It was incredible.

During the night several auctions were held.  Some amazing items were up for grabs like the signed rashie top that Layne wore for her 7 World titles.  It sold for $10,000 dollars!.  There were also trips to the grand final rugby and holidays and much more.  The Foundation raised a lot of money.

Finally, it was time for the presentations where Layne introduced us and presented us with our trophy ñ a magnificent, glass star.  We made a quick speech, thanking Layne and the Foundation told the guests what we had achieved since being awarded the grant.

I was so nervous about delivering my speech.  I decided I was going to speak from the heart and wing it and sat at my table, thinking about what I was going to say.  Dad and Davina said I would be great.  I had it all planned and walked up onto the stage.  After Layne had introduced me, I found I had completely forgotten most of it!  A lot of people later told me it was a really fantastic speech and that I spoke very well.

Layne’s introduction for my award went like this: “Jenna’s dream is to become an Australian Champion Co Driver. Sitting beside the driver, reading instructions about every bend, crest or junction, at high speed on gravel requires nerves of steel and a huge amount of trust in the driver and one mistake by the co driver can put an end to the rally for the team and end in a spectacular crash. Rallying is an expensive sport with the cost of entry fees and specific clothing required for events, it is also a sport heavily dominated by men.  Jenna’s strong character, her infectious enthusiasm and dedication along with the experience she has with top level teams, hold her in good stead to achieve her dreams.”

After my speech Layne hugged me and I was so overwhelmed I cried.  As I thanked her for supporting me, she said she knew how grateful I was and that she was so pleased to be able to help me.  We had some photos taken.

The band that played at the Gala also played and Layne and Kurt’s wedding.  They were amazing and played lots of ë80s songs.  The award winning girls started dancing first and everyone else then followed.

Midnight arrived before we knew it, which was really sad because we were all having so much fun celebrating on the dance floor!  Prior to our departure, Layne took us aside gave us a truly inspirational talk.&nb sp; Layne has a way with her words that really gets into your soul and encourages you and makes you believe in yourself.  A group of us then headed out to the Ivy nightclub and rocked on.

It was sad saying goodbye to the girls.  We bonded closely during our three days together, but we talk almost every day and we’re all connected on Facebook.  It was so comforting to know that we’re all experiencing the same elations, struggles and fears and Layne has been there!  She has inspired me to never give up and to always push through the rough times and when I do hit the big bumps on the way, to get back up, dust myself off and push on to make my dreams come true!  I aim to continue to reside amongst the stars where I belong, thanks to Layne.

The Layne Beachley Aim for The Stars Foundation strives to help struggling women who have amazing talent.  I will never forget my three days with Layne and the girls.  It was the best time and the best experience I have ever had in my life.  I am so proud of myself and what I have achieved.

Congratulations to my fellow grant recipients, you are all amazing women and you exude such strength and determination.  I am proud to know you and I hope to be able to support you in the future.

I am now striving to compete at Rally Australia in September of this year and I am very close to achieving that goal, thanks to my amazing and supportive friends.

From the bottom of my heart, I send out a massive thank you to Layne and the Aim for the Stars Foundation, their generous sponsors, Davina Park and Kirsty Keating, Carol Gibbons Photography, Sharon Payne from Bike Media, Heather Swan for her amazing and inspirational story and to my family, especially to my dad who travelled from Perth to celebrate with me, plus my friends, rally teams and service crews.


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