Kiteboarders riding the wave in Perth

By Peter Thornton actionweekend nzherald@gmail com

Justina Sellers is looking forward to the challenge of the world-class fleet in Perth. Photo / Rick Pryce
Justina Sellers is looking forward to the challenge of the world-class fleet in Perth. Photo / Rick Pryce

New Zealand sent a kiteboarding course racing team to a World Cup event for the first time last month.

The six men and one woman, the founding members of the New Zealand Kiteboard Racing Association, competed at the World Cup in Hainan, China from November 18-24 alongside 150 of the world's fastest men and women.

Now the Kiwis are looking to put that experience on the world stage to good use at the Oceanic Kiteboarding Championship this weekend in Perth and at the NZ nationals from December 20-22 in Auckland.

Leading Kiwi woman Justina Sellers is looking forward to the challenge of the world-class fleet in Perth.

The Aucklander, 24, went to her first world championship in the RSX Olympic class at 17 and continued to race RSX internationally until picking up kiteboarding last year.

"There are a number of top 10 ranked riders attending this weekend so it will be great to get out in the beautiful Perth conditions and test myself against them," she said.

Sellers finished 15th overall at the Kite Racing World Championships in China two weeks ago, which she described as an "okay result" as she looks to climb the world rankings.

"At the moment I just feel so lucky that I compete in a sport I love and I can get out there and test myself against the world's best."

Sellers has made great progress for a newcomer to the sport. She admits she is learning all the time.

"My strengths are all the skills I have brought from my previous yachting and windsurfing experience. I have raced in international regattas before so know what to expect and have spent years out on the water, so it all translates and helps a lot with my kite racing."

That will be put to the test this week in Perth as the world-famous Fremantle Doctor grows in strength to about 18-25 knots and the ocean swell is significant.

World champion Erica Heineken, of the United States, will not attend so the four women on Sellers' watch are Katja Roose (Netherlands), Aga Grzymska (Poland), Nuria Gomez (Spain) and Lisa Hickman (Australia).

"All were ranked higher than me at the recent kite world champs so I'll hopefully be in front of them at the end of the week in the rankings."

Kiteboarding has had its ups and downs as a global sport this year. It was accepted as an Olympic sport, only to have the decision reversed.

Sellers, a podiatrist, is more hopeful than most that kiteboarding will be included in the summer sports showpiece before long.

She fell in love with it after she thought she'd try out the new Olympic discipline. "When windsurfing was reinstated as the board sailing Olympic discipline I did not return to windsurfing but decided to follow my new passion for kiting."

NZ's leading male kiteboarder, Torrin Bright, feels the same.

"It would be awesome if it were to be added alongside the others, so I am hopeful, but at this stage it's just a waiting game," said the 23-year-old.

Bright, who finished 10th at the world champs in China, is disappointed he cannot compete this weekend in Perth, but he will be back for the NZ Nationals.

The Raglan boarder won the Sail Auckland 2013 and the North Island Championships in 2012. Bright enjoys all aspects of kiteboarding - riding waves, freestyle and course racing - and tries to keep it all balanced.

He has been kiteboarding for nine years and said competing in China was a great learning experience.

He believed NZ's track record in board sailing has meant the move to competing on the world stage in kiteboarding has been much easier.

"Riding or sailing with athletes that have been competing in world regattas for years has improved our knowledge of sailing, rules and tactics. Competitive board sailors such as Dave Robertson and Justina Sellers have been a big help for the NZ team."

The tight-knit kiteboarding team encourage each other and are looking forward to a big 2014 season.

"It was super cool to have a good crew at the 2013 worlds," said Bright.

The Kite Racing Nationals on Kohimarama Beach this week will be a great way for the Kiwi riders to finish the 2013 season.

The event, hosted by the NZ Kite Racing Association with the Kohimarama Yachting Club, runs for three days from December 20-22. Racing begins at 1pm each day, with four races back to back off the beach.

Association president Michael Pepper believed the nationals would be a great showcase of the sport.

"On the last day we hope to run a few twin tip slalom races and foil races a la Emirates Team New Zealand, with the hope of raising money for charity," Pepper said.

"It is always great fun both on and off the water when the best kiteboarders from around the country come together for the nationals."

- NZ Herald

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