Sailing: NZ starts quest for kiteboarding glory

By David Leggat

Kiteboarding. Photo / APN
Kiteboarding. Photo / APN

Plans to rev up kiteboarding in New Zealand with an eye on the 2016 Olympics started in Auckland last night.

Yachting New Zealand hosted a forum as its first move in reaction to the International Sailing Federation's decision to install kiteboarding instead of windsurfing for the Rio de Janeiro Games.

There is no national kiteboarding association but YNZ wanted to gauge interest and try to light the touch paper so that in four years' time New Zealand will be a solid presence in Rio.

"We're currently gathering as much information as we can about kiteboarding," YNZ boardsailing coach Dave Robertson said. "Hopefully we can get a sense of who puts their hands up to be involved taking it forward."

Robertson expected a strong turnout from a range of interest groups - casual and serious kiteboarders, instructors, coaches, importers and volunteers who run regattas at weekends.

The stepladder in front of YNZ is easy to follow: start at club level, get an administrative operation in place, develop racing and build up to the high performance side of the discipline.

Robertson, who kiteboards casually, admitted to being surprised at the ISAF decision which has provoked an outcry from windsurfers, particularly given that it is a sport in which New Zealand has been a strong Olympic performer. He is anticipating no change to that decision from the ISAF. On that basis Robertson is an advocate of the sleeves rolled up; get stuck in attitude.

The lack of specifics on the kiteboarding equipment and format so far from the ISAF means there is a limited amount of bedding in that can be accomplished. However, knowing it is to be course racing rather than the more spectacular freestyle means some plans can be made.

"We assume that because it comes under a sailing event it will be racing around marks and buoys, just like any other yachts," Robertson said. "People who enjoy watching sailing will enjoy watching kiteboarding."

Robertson disputed the idea that course racing's proper place was in an X Games format.

"That is a bit ridiculous because this is racing, not freestyle - along the same lines as downhill slalom [skiing], which is not halfpipe."

The men's top 20 is dominated by France (five), the United States (four) and Germany (three), but the women's top 20 is a more evenly spread, including athletes from 15 countries.

There are no New Zealanders in sight, but Robertson is confident that will have changed by 2016.

"We can definitely be competitive in four years' time. We've got the right people in New Zealand to do the job."

- NZ Herald

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