Layne Beachley: Empowering women to take ownership of their lives

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The first woman in history to gain 7 World Surfing Championships, Australia’s icon in 28 World Championship Tour Events, and today, the Founder of Aim For The Stars (AFTS); a foundation established to offer scholarships and moral support to help women achieve their life’s ambitions.

“My mission is to empower women to take ownership of their lives, get out of their way and take control. That’s what I’m all about,” states Layne Beachley (AO).

You can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of happiness while in the presence of Layne Beachley: a woman who has rode over more than her fair share of personal hardships on the waves to worldwide success. Contending with depression, surviving suicide, child abuse, and losing her adoptive mother at the age of six. It’s for these reasons, the tough struggle for so many women, that Layne founded Aim For The Stars.

Announcing her retirement from professional surfing in 2008, Layne was confronted by serious internal angst by the transition. ‘When I retired, I felt lost. I lost my identity, I lost my purpose, my vision, I felt like I lost everything. It was how I identified myself.’

Layne’s journey has been framed by a constant search for identity and a fierce desire to be considered equal, particularly among her male counterparts in the surfing world.

In the early stages it was a difficult battle for Layne as there was an overall lack of investment in female surfers, “I needed people to believe in me, I needed financial security, I needed a network of support. I looked at my career, in 1994, I was number two in the world, earning $8000 a year from my sponsor, I was traveling the world and trying my absolute hardest to claim my first world title and I didn’t have the financial means and independence to chase my dreams. That was one of the first times I wanted to quit.’

Luckily one of her employers believed in her potential and sent $3000 towards Layne’s next around the world ticket. She recounts that from the moment she left school and won her first world title, she was determined to be the best female surfer in the world. Believing an entrepreneur is someone who is living their life according to their truest values and beliefs while pursuing a career path.

“Sometimes they may not want to jump out of bed, sometimes they may have to roll out of bed involuntarily but they are still doing something that’s true and meaningful to them. They are not subordinating themselves to societal beliefs or expectations of them. They are innovative, creative, the life-blood of the economic success of most nations.”

The Foundation awards a minimum of $70,000 worth of scholarships each year. Open to girls 12 and up, individuals being granted a $4000 scholarship while groups have access to a $6000 scholarship. Since it’s inception, AFTS has supported over 170 girls and women, whom have all been instilled with the value of ‘paying it forward’.

“One exciting individual was a young girl we supported, Carolyn Buchanan, she’s a world BMX champion and world mountain bike champion. Having been part of the ‘Aim of the stars’ scholarship and seeing the positive effects we had on her life, she wants to pay it back and forward and she’s created this program called ‘Buchanan next gen’ and it’s identifying two future mountain bike or BMX aspiring champions and sourcing sponsorship and support for them, in turn AFTS is supporting that.”

Her ability to build a strong personal brand both in and outside of media is rivaled by few, now her mission is to empower women to take ownership of their lives, to get out of their way and take control of their futures. Through financial and moral support, they can dare to dream and aspire to achieve in all endeavours such as academia, business, arts and sport. But above all, she says, life and love are the two most important things in Layne’s world.

Lessons from Layne:
– If you have to ask yourself why you are doing something, justify and rationalise it to yourself, then your heart’s not in it.
– Hope defers satisfaction. Don’t hope for change. Make it happen.
– Be aware of how you’re thinking and how you’re feeling. You know what you’re capable of.

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