My happy place: Andy Maloney, sailor

The Hauraki Gulf is Andy Maloney's training field. Photo / Getty Images
The Hauraki Gulf is Andy Maloney's training field. Photo / Getty Images

My happy place is the Hauraki Gulf. It's a really special place - it's where I spend a lot of my time, and it's where my passion for sailing really started to grow.

It's where I train in dinghies, and it's also where I go when I'm wanting some quiet time to relax, out on our family boat. You can just get out of the city and go to Waiheke Island, or anywhere in the gulf, and get away from it all. That's when I can completely relax and zone out.

One of my first experiences on the gulf was learning to sail a dinghy off Torbay, when I was about 11. We were out there in what I thought back then was a really gnarly onshore wind with massive waves, and it was one of the scariest things I'd done.

I remember drifting back to shore with my sail half down, scared as hell. I didn't really know if I wanted to sail again, but that definitely toughened me up and somehow I was convinced to give it another go.

My passion for stormy conditions, and sailing in general, has grown a lot since then. Now, the adrenalin I get in stormy conditions, when I'm putting in all the physical work in training to make the boat go fast, gives me a really big high and sense of accomplishment.

When the waves get up and it gets rough, it's definitely the most fun. You can get into the whole technique side of it, playing on the waves downwind and surfing and stuff. It's something I've learned to love.

I was born in the United States and we moved to New Zealand permanently when I was about 10. My parents packed up our bags when I was about 7 or 8 and bought a 44-foot sail boat.

We cruised around the South Pacific for a few years and my mum home-schooled us. It was awesome, really cool. That was where our knowledge of sailing grew.

After that, my parents decided they really liked New Zealand's more laid-back lifestyle so we moved here.

That's when my sister Alex and I really got into sailing dinghies and the competitive Olympics stuff.

My training is usually off Takapuna, in the area between Takapuna and Rangitoto.

One time I was out there next to a group of three orca whales.

It's a really good feeling when you have a hard session on the water and you know you're putting in all the effort to achieve your goals, and doing what you enjoy.

When you get a moment like that, as well, it really makes it a special place.

- as told to Bronwyn Sell

- Herald on Sunday

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