Where business meets pleasure

WAYNE MARTIN
Last updated 14:31 27/08/2012
Shanine Hermsen
COLIN SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

HOT PASSION: Shanine Hermsen was quickly hooked on mountainbiking, and loved the downhill aspect despite all the spills when she first tried it in Canada.

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Sometimes people just slot comfortably into their ideal job.

Shanine Hermsen is a perfect case in point.

Now into her second year as the Tasman secondary schools regional sports director, the 30-year-old administrator reckons she's found the perfect fit in terms of career options.

The Te Kuiti-born Hermsen's own sporting interests have been far from mainstream. She's always leaned heavily towards outdoor adventure pursuits and as such, relishes the variety the job now provides.

"My family did a lot of tramping when I was younger and I've always been interested in outdoor sport," says Hermsen, or Sha to her mates.

"I always walked from the top of the hill down to school in Te Kuiti. My family's from the Netherlands, so we biked everywhere. I used to bike from Bronte St to Nelson Intermediate every day for school."

Having dabbled in gymnastics and swimming prior to arriving in Nelson as an 8-year-old, her interests eventually turned towards snowboarding and mountainbiking. But it's been her wide-ranging pursuit of her passion for mountainbiking, including five years in Whistler, Canada, that's helped build her sporting profile and further her experience as a sports administrator.

It was a casual interest through friends that got her on to a snowboard.

"For some reason, I was really interested in it at school [Nelson College for Girls]. Basically, I used to go skateboarding with some of my mates and then realised that snowboarding would be a good thing to have a go at.

"I skiied first at intermediate and then I thought next time I'd try snowboarding, because it was, like, the new thing and then just got into it from there.

"We used to go on these Mt Hutt ski trips with Nelson College so maybe boys had something to do with it, I don't know. But yeah, those trips were really fun.

"Then I'd go up every possible weekend, whenever I could. I didn't care, I'd go by myself and I had to fund it all myself and got a job at a supermarket so that I could pay for it."

Her obsession with snowboarding led to a similarly casual introduction to mountainbiking "with a bunch of lycra-clad lads" up Nelson's Hackett Track, as the ideal summer alternative.

"I got left in the dust, but I really liked it. Another time at Hanmer, I went over the handle bars in the first 10 metres, but just got back up again and kept going."

When her former boyfriend and freerider, Kelly McGarry, headed to Canada to pursue his own two-wheeled passion, Hermsen also eventually decided to head overseas in 2006.

"My first experience of downhill mountainbiking was when I got to Canada and in Whistler, they have the chairlifts open for mountainbiking access. I borrowed a friend's bike and borrowed the big full-face helmet and the full-on armour.

"I was following a friend and he showed me all these crazy tracks and crashed probably 1000 times . . . but got hooked because it's so [much] fun."

She says crashing is an inevitable but essential part of the learning process.

"You kind of have to [crash] when you're starting. You just get used to it until you learn all the different skills and get better at it."

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She was determined that her Bachelor of Recreation Management and Community Recreation degree from Lincoln University and three years as community recreation adviser with the Nelson City Council wouldn't be wasted during her time in Canada. As a result, she put out some feelers and was promptly snapped up by an event management company.

"I really wanted to keep my career going while I was travelling, so I did lots of contract work.

"I worked at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics as victory ceremonies co-ordinator and team leader for both the paralympics and Olympic Games which was amazing, the coolest thing I've ever done."

She also worked on events such as the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival in Whistler and Whistler's Cornucopia Wine and Food Festival. The Crankworx 2008, Whistler's annual freeride mountainbike festival, also became a significant entry on her rapidly expanding CV.

"My official title during Crankworx was awards host. I was responsible for organising the prize giving ceremonies on each day of the 10-day festival.

"Think medals, podium, banner, loads of prizes, big cheques, champagne, all set up between bands on the main stage. It all had to be very organised and run smoothly.

"I also ended up working with the branding crew which involved anything to do with signage and sponsor bannering and making sure it was looking sharp.

"I was definitely working so that I could be there to ride as my main priority. It was really cool to keep my experience up for my career. Most people go over there and work in a bar or do hospitality stuff, so it was really neat.

"It worked really well doing contract management jobs so that I could work for three months really hard and then have some time off and do some more travel [through Europe and Central America]."

She returned to New Zealand for a summer to take on a role with Bike NZ, organising their national series races in downhill and crosscountry, before heading back to Europe. She eventually landed fulltime back in Nelson in late 2010.

"It was awesome to be back in Nelson, because it's such a great spot and I appreciate it so much more now that I've done all this travelling and when I come back here, it's just like a big playground now. It's really cool."

It took her time to readjust to Nelson's more laid-back, low-key environment after several years living in a thriving ski resort town.

"But now that I'm settled back in, it's great, I love it. It's a great community. The job I'm doing now is more grass roots. Some of the stuff I was doing over there really was all about marketing in a way. I guess that was a bit more glitzy and glamour, whereas this is more heartfelt I guess you could say."

Occasional weather concerns, requiring decisions about postponements and cancellations, and her one-person operation create certain pressures. But she enjoys the job's diversity and says it's important to keep pace with the current sporting trends. The introduction, this year, of secondary schools motocross and skateboard championships are indicative of that.

She's also planning to introduce a regular ki-o-rahi competition. Ki-o-rahi is a ball sport played in New Zealand with a small round ball called a ‘ki'.

The game is widely known in Maori communities and in scattered mainstream locations throughout the country.

It is a fast-paced sport incorporating skills similar to Australian Rules, rugby union, netball and touch.

"I really like the fact that one day I'll have a big day in the office getting certificates done or preparing entries, and then next day I'm out in Wakefield for the road cycling or whatever.

"It's really varied so it's very interesting and now I'm in my second year I've got to know everyone better, so it's really neat having those connections.

"With each of the sports, there's so many dedicated people who are passionate about what they do - it's really positive."

So for the time being at least, her roaming days are over.

"I'm loving it. I can't see me moving on anytime soon."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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