To know and understand Hastings teenager Xenia Berger and her band of people requires others to tap into her wavelength, so to speak.

Oh, and Berger impresses, it pays to have a licence to do that.

The Year 12 Havelock North High School pupil should know because engaging in the art of radiosport got her in contact with King Juan Carlos I, of Spain, in April.

Berger, whose call sign is ZL4YL, suspects she had struck a frequency in California with the 80-year-old monarch who goes by the credentials of EA0JC. He reigned from 1975 until his abdication in 2014 when his son, Felipe, ascended to the throne.


"I don't think at the time I realised it was him but my dad told me afterwards so that was quite cool," she says of the competition contact.

Royalty aside, the teenager immensely enjoys the excitement that comes with establishing a lucky dip-type of contact with someone unsuspecting in a random part of the world without the use of internet.

"We do imagery radio, which is when we contact other people on a radio band, either through Morse code or speaking through the usual band," says the 17-year-old from Waimarama who has returned from the World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC) in Germany last month.

Berger and her father, Holger Hannemann (ZL3IO), a sales manager for electronic company ABB based next to the Hawke's Bay Regional Airport in Napier, had formed a team to compete at the championship in Wittenberg from July 11-16.

The father-daughter team mustered 3600 contacts from 80 different countries in the 24-hour time limit. They suspect their farthest rapport was from either Japan or Indonesia.

"The more countries you get, the more points you get," she explains, adding the farther a nation of contact the more bonus points a combination accrues.

Not New Zealand?

"We didn't make any contacts with New Zealand."

Berger, who was one of only three female competitors and the second youngest, was mentally and physically spent after the champs.

"But it was a great experience for me. We were accepted among the world best radio contesters and we made many new friends."

Despite not making it on the podium with the European-dominated teams, the Kiwis got a lot of media attention at an event that lured rivals from 63 nations.

"So I had to give a number of interviews and join some live podcasts during those days."

What do competitors talk about once in touch with another party?

Berger elaborates that doesn't happen in a competition where they simply exchange control numbers because time is of essence in the numbers game.

However, outside the parameters of competition enthusiasts often strike a convivial chord.

"You make a lot of friends," she says where Morse code becomes an ideal bridge if language becomes a barrier.

Mother Birgit (ZL2YL), who also works at ABB, was at the world championship but helped out as a volunteer.

Berger's sister, Saskia (ZL2GQ), 22, is attending Victoria University, in Wellington, where she's pursuing a degree in public policy and political science, and engages in radiosport.

The family emigrated from an area not far from Berlin, Germany, to the Bay nine years ago when she was 8.

"Our family wanted adventure, somewhere new."

It was Hannemann, who has been engaging in it for 34 years as a hobby, who introduced Berger and her sister to the delights of amateur radio which saw her obtain an imagery licence three years ago.

He has won competitions but never a title at a world championship or their "Olympics" which is staged every four years with a qualifying phase over two years, via a series of 28 events, leading into it.

The Berger family went to a convention in April where radiosport enthusiasts mingle and find they put a face to others they have established contacts with but never met.

"We meet a lot of people we have contacted so it's really interesting to put a face to a name," she says.

Quite often they are people who are partial towards electronics and engineering.

And, yes, they have no qualms accepting they fall within the ambit of nerds, in a technical sense.

Berger doesn't believe radiosport will usher her towards a career path.

"It's definitely taught me about electronics and stuff," says the teenager who isn't sure what she wants to do once she leaves school.

Her classmates didn't have a clue she was into radiosport until the school newsletter published her feat from the world champs.

"I'm still a nerd," Berger says with a laugh when asked if the enlightenment has a made a difference to how people perceive her hobby.

New Zealand belong to the Oceania 2 region, which covers Australia to Tahiti.

"There are 4000 radio amateurs in New Zealand," she reveals.

A member of the New Zealand Association of Radio Transmitters (NZART), she is affiliated to the Hawke's Bay Radio Club and the East Cost Contest Club, which is New Zealand's most successful amateur radio contest club based here in the province.

The Bay has two centres in Hastings and Napier. The Bergers go to the former which has close to 50 members.