Acclaimed yachtswoman and founder of the Penny Whiting Sailing School, Penny Whiting was born on the morning of the Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta. Having taught sailing for over 52 years, her motto is: "If it's hard, you're doing it wrong."
"I was one of five children and, as the oldest and a girl, I quickly became my father's son, doing everything he did. When dad was building something or fixing something, I was his right-hand man. When my younger brother came along, we welcomed him to the fold and became a band of three while my mother looked after the younger children. I had a great time learning about tools and fixing things. We even built a boat in the backyard.
"Our father had an industrial painting factory on Carr Road at the end of our street, a little dead-end called Clinker, so if we weren't doing something at home we'd whip down to dad's work and paint something, or make something. My brother and I even built a land yacht and raced it along Carr Road in the weekends when nobody came to the area. When it was blowing hard we'd tear along so fast and no one worried.
"I know a bit about helicopter parents today and thank goodness I was not brought up like that. Of course we hurt ourselves when we capsized and were flung out onto the road, grazed knees and elbows, but it was such great fun. We were the terrors of Carr Road.
"I trained as a swimmer under Lincoln Hurring. Most mornings I'd take off at 5am and rip over to Mt Roskill Grammar and swim like a lunatic till school started. Swimming was a good excuse to get out of class. 'Oh, I have to go to swim training and do some more laps.' At school my art teacher was Don Binney. Sometimes I'd avoid classes by hiding in his classroom. The English teacher would come marching along and ask, 'Mr Binney, is Penny Whiting in here by any chance?' And Don would say, 'No, she's not,' but I'd be lying on the floor at Don's feet. Then the English teacher would go and we'd have more fun throwing paint round his art studio.
"The day I turned 15 I left school, got my driver's licence and started making sails for Chris and Tony Bouzaid. I also started the sailing school and qualified for the 1966 Jamaica Commonwealth Games as a swimmer. A few months prior to the Games, over Easter, all my friends were going surfing at Piha and I wanted to go too, so I said to Lincoln, 'I'm going to train at Piha over the weekend.'
"I intended to go out the back and swim up and down while they surfed. I was a breast-stoker, which is a pretty specific style but, because of the waves, I had to keep lifting my head. On Tuesday after Easter, I dove into the pool to start my warm-up. I got to the end of the pool after my first lap and Hurring's great big feet are hanging over the edge of the pool. I looked up and said, 'I've not done all my training,' but because I'd swum all weekend out the back of the waves, I'd totally buggered my style. I'd wrecked years of effort. I was so angry with myself I went home and told my parents, 'I'm going to represent New Zealand in the world surf champs at Puerto Rico.'
"I was 18 when I set off with a 9foot2 board, which at that time was considered short. I took a ship from New Zealand to Hawaii, where I ran out of money so I had to work for six months as the gardener at a church in Makaha. I did the lawns, swept the paths and kept the gardens nice. I turned the lawnmower shed into a bunkhouse and kept my surfboards at the door. I could surf right outside the front of the church. I'd also visit Honolulu's Waikiki Yacht Club for the yacht racing. It possibly was unusual, a blonde Kiwi chick with plaits turning up to do bow on a 45-foot yacht, but I didn't think much about the difference between men and women. We were all just people, out there doing what we could to have a great time.
"While in Hawaii I won the junior title at the legendary Duke Kahanamoku surfing champs. I also met some fabulous American surfing girls who were also going to the worlds. We flew to LA together where I saw a notice - someone wanted a Kombi van delivered to Miami. This is 1968 - I was with two other renowned American surfers, Joyce Hoffman and Joey Hamusaki. We tied our boards to the top of this van and I drove us to Miami from LA. Being a Kiwi, I didn't realise how far it was, but off we went through Louisiana and the southern states, eventually ending up in Miami.
"The waves were really big at Rincon. I was used to Piha backwash and reform waves but I still came fourth. But while there I got into tandem surfing, running up to the bow, standing on my head or hanging over the edge and the guy I was tandem surfing with decided to take me back to California to do demonstrations, up and down the Californian coast.
"When I lived in Herne Bay my neighbour was Les Mills and one day he yelled over the fence, 'Pen, how about helping me run the city?' I said I didn't have time with the sailing school, two babies and all the other stuff but he asked if he could still put my name down. 'For goodness sake', I said, 'if you have to.'
"Unbeknownst to me, I was elected and Les called out over the fence to tell me. So I went in and we were all told who got what. 'You get the library and you get the sewers. You get the footpaths and you get finance.' Good lord, what's left? And we get to the zoo. 'Who's doing the zoo?' Next thing I know, I've put my hand up. My friends all laughed and said they always knew I'd end up running a zoo.
"I was chairman of Auckland Zoo for about six years. I saw a zebra and giraffes being born. When the baby hippo came out, that was fabulous. When John Banks was mayor, I took him for a ride in a golf cart. We stopped at this great big rhinoceros wallowing in his mud hole and I whistled. They've got these tiny little wee ears. I'd been whistling at him for years. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't but, that day he turned his head, got out of his wallow and came barrelling over to where we were standing. That sure got John's attention.
"I stopped the sailing school two years ago after 52 years. It was terribly hard to do but I'd been given two new knees and my balance wasn't the same. I just wasn't quite as confident on my pins to be teaching. But I'm still sailing a lot, and I'm on a race crew doing tactics on the main sheet.
"I love The America's Cup. It's so exciting to see them live, up close and personal. I can hear them coming, this whistle behind me and I spin around and there they are. I can't get enough of watching those boats race, the innovation and the technology. I never thought I'd see a single-hull yacht fly, yet they're doing it, they're flying and I love it.
"I've basically said no to nothing. I've taken every opportunity I've been offered and run with it and given it heaps. I've slowed down a bit now, but that's my secret to a good life, say yes to everything."