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Meet Debbie Tan | BY YOUR SIDE | Mother's Day 2024

Debbie
 Debbie wears Fox Cactus Bubble throughout.

Debbie's journey from her Kiwi roots to Sydney's vibrant coastal scene is a testament to resilience and ambition. With a background spanning business and media, she found her stride alongside her husband, Uge, as co-owner of the iconic Aquabumps. Motherhood, for Debbie, is a profound tapestry of growth and love, despite its myriad of challenges!

In homage to her late mother, she embraces life with gusto, ensuring not to miss a beat for her family. Balancing her career with raising two boys requires flexibility—a choice made consciously to savor every moment with her family. Their shared passion for the ocean not only strengthens their bond but also instills in the boys a deep reverence for nature.

We loved Debbie's sage advice to fellow parents navigating the entrepreneurial journey and hope you find comfort and inspiration. 

Tell us about yourself, your journey, and what led you to become the woman you are today?

I was born in New Zealand, grew up on the North Coast, and moved to Sydney when I was 21. I have a degree in business and worked for many years in Advertising Agencies, followed by almost a decade as the Sales Director @ Harpers BAZAAR and RUSSH, and for the past 15 years alongside my hubby Uge in our business Aquabumps. I look after the commercial side of our business – where I come up with creative ideas, produce content, and look for opportunities to grow our brand.


What does motherhood mean to you?

Motherhood is by far the hardest, most rewarding role yet – it challenges every part of you – but also allows you to grow as a person, I love that the most. It’s the meaning of love in all its glory, it will crack your heart open over and over again.
How do you celebrate or cope with Mother's Day?

I lost my mum a few years ago, that never gets easier, but I choose to live the life that she can’t. She gave birth to me on her own in New Zealand and gave me up for adoption and came back for me a month later.

We have our own love story. I choose to live my life to the fullest every day for her and not to miss a minute of the stuff that really counts. It’s all for you mum. Mother’s Day for me – usually starts with a cup of tea made by one of the 3 boys in my house, just like my mum used to start her day – then we surf. I love nature and the simple things – my boys know that best about me.

debbie tan saben mothers day campaign
debbie tan saben mothers day campaign


Something you love and admire about your own Mother?

My mum was always very calm and quite – she loved to cook and made it look effortless, always pottering around the kitchen from earlier in the morning. I loved that she kept things simple, always had time for me and made me feel so loved. At the end of the day, that’s all anyone wants – is to be loved. I do little things all day to show my people that – ‘that I love them’.


As a mother of two boys and co-owner of Aquabumps alongside your husband, how do you manage the delicate balance between family life and running a successful business?

Flexibility – it’s everything as a working mum. It’s a big reason we made the decision many years ago to work together, so one of us can always be there when the boys need us. I never want to miss a swim carnival, cross country, or to pick them up from school. I feel grateful every day that we get to blend our small family business with travel and our boys. I love also that I have retained a part of me, my career but still get to show up for the important moments for and with my boys.


Your love for the ocean is evident in your work and lifestyle. How do you incorporate your passion for surfing into your family's routine, and what role does it play in your upbringing of two boys?

Surfing together is our family time. They don’t realize it yet, but there’s not many other mums in the lineup. All their little mates call me into waves and make sure I’m getting some - because I’m Jet and Spikes mum! You should hear the hoots., Go Marm, Go Deb…from all the Groms – it's pretty gorgeous.

We surf together before and after school when we can – and the school holiday’s we spend more time in the ocean than out.

The ocean for me and surfing allows me to be present and in the moment, It kind of washes all the unimportant stuff away, so ultimately, I hope it becomes that for my boys too.I love that I can be a part of something that they love and its given me such a gift too. I’m the biggest frother in our family!


Growing up in Byron Bay and with a background in high-end fashion magazines, how have these experiences influenced your approach to parenting and your career in the world of art and photography?

A bit like my career and parenting– there are times where it appears very glamorous, but I worked so hard every step of the way through my career. I have always been very independent and driven – it’s been hard to balance still wanting part of that and being a mother, but I guess I get the best of both working in our business. I've always wanted my boys to see a hard-working female in our family and that Uge and I are a team.

Nothing came easy to Uge or I – so ultimately the influence that I impart on our boys with my career is to choose something that brings you joy and work hard at it. I always say to them – I don’t care what you do but promise me you will do it well. We don’t take any of the opportunities we’ve had for granted.

debbie tan saben mothers day campaign
debbie tan saben mothers day campaign


Given your deep connection to the ocean and nature, how do you instill a sense of environmental stewardship and respect for nature in your children?

I think they are still too young to truly appreciate it all and be conscious– but they often point out the light, the sunrise the sunset, the beauty and I instill in them that the best part of living happens outside. To respect and keep it this way – is through the little things, recycling, picking up rubbish from the beach, the ocean.

Making sure your footprint is as light as possible. The boys raise money for surfaid every year through surfing every day in September, so they have a good gauge on giving back and respecting the places we love to go and surf and visit. Surfaid being the main charity foundation for remote Indonesia and Sumba. I have faith that these little things will create awareness and choices in the way they live.


What advice would you give to other parents who are navigating the challenges of entrepreneurship while raising a family, especially in industries as dynamic and creative as yours?

You have to be a team. Work together, not against each other and make it work for your family. The wheels are going to fall off at times but be kind to yourself and know that you’re doing the best you can.

Fill your cup every day – it will make you a better version of you for your team at work and your family.I swim every day (6 minutes to ride my bike and dive in and out of the ocean and be back to pack lunches and wrangle the kids to school.) it can be a moment – but make time for the things that make you happy.

There will be times when you feel like you’re doing it alone, but make sure you check in with your person to remind each other of what the goal is and keep working towards that.

Make sure one of you is there for the important moments with your kids – when they’re running across the finish line, seeing their little faces at school pick up. It goes so fast and remember family is the most important thing.


Saben Style – What Saben bag is always by your side? And what’s next on your wishlist?

Fox Crossbody Bay in Cactus Bubble and I’m eyeing off the Matilda crossbody in Navy.

Debbie wears Fox Cactus Bubble throughout.

 Spoil them with Saben, shop the Mother's Day Gift Edit.