Like many young Kiwis, Laurence Carey dreamt of making it to the top in rugby. But this summer thousands of beachgoers will be grateful he turned his back on the game and instead fell into a love affair with water sports.
A former world-ranked windsurfer, Carey is bringing the 23-day Waterbourne Beach Festival to Takapuna Beach, an extravaganza that will feature an array of on-water activities, professional sports competition, premium international food, cultural activities, a rooftop bar, movies and live music from stars like Dave Dobbyn and Paige.
Waterbourne is among a huge list of events and attractions being held as part of Summernova, a four-month-long festival expected to be the biggest of its kind ever held in the city.
Summernova is being brought to by Auckland Unlimited through partnerships with many leading event organisers like Waterbourne and is designed to wrap around the staging of the 36th America's Cup and to help bring the city back to life in the wake of Covid-19.
Carey first staged the Waterbourne Festival in Wellington, where it has been held for the past three years. But now the born-and-bred Aucklander is bringing it 'home' to Takapuna Beach for 23 days – 19 of which will be free to the public – starting from 27 February, running to 21 March.
Waterbourne started as a water sports event but has evolved into a charitable trust, hosting New Zealand's biggest beach festival – bringing together multiple sports and entertainment but also promoting and supporting sustainable initiatives aimed at protecting the country's coastline.
Carey says his vision in starting the festival was to bring sports such as wind surfing, paddle boarding and kite surfing together to showcase them to the public and attract more young people.
"Originally I wanted to play rugby but, after trying sailing, I found I absolutely loved the adrenalin and freedom of being on the water," he says. "There is a purity about the water that is hard to express in words – but I was hooked."
He soon took up windsurfing, achieving considerable success. In 2011, aged 17, he finished seventh in the world under-19 championships in Curaçao. From 2015 –2017, he competed on the PWA world tour (with a season-best finish of 34th out of 111).
Carey says Waterbourne will include the New Zealand paddle boarding nationals, the Auckland kite foiling and wind surfing championships (both Olympic classes) – events expected to attract more than 400 competitors. It will also feature Tip Top paddle ninja games, three food weeks (Italian, American, seafood), comedy acts, a sand castle competition, six movie nights on the beach, art and over 30 live music acts.
Four of the music shows will be ticketed and will feature performances by artists such as Dave Dobbyn, Tami Neilson, SACHI, Goodshirt, Kings, Ria Hall and Hollie Smith.
Carey says a Long White rooftop bar will be built over two levels, giving elevated views of everything happening at the festival and potentially one of the best spots to watch the world's best sailors fly by on the water or the big screen.
But the festival has a serious side too. Beach clean-ups will take place at Takapuna Beach, the Wairau Estuary and at the Mangere Boat Club on the Manukau Harbour, while a Fun Run for a Cleaner Coastline will raise funds for conservation projects helping rebuild the coastline.
For every entry into the run, $5 will be donated to the Kaipatiki Project, a not-for-profit organisation facilitating forest, stream and estuary restoration, and the Blue Carbon Initiative, a programme focused on mitigating climate change through conservation and restoration of coastal and marine ecosystems.
A water safety course will also be run for 500 students through local schools.
Waterbourne is just one of the many Summernova events taking place all over Auckland this December to March, others include:
•Satellite Show of Toi tu Toi ora (Britomart, December 5 – March 31)
This is the official satellite show of the Auckland Art Gallery's renowned Toi tūu Toi ora and is the largest exhibition of contemporary Maori art in almost 20 years.
•Louis Baker and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (February 11) at Auckland Town Hall
Louis Baker takes to the stage for this one-off event in a fusion of modern soul and symphonic power.
•Island Time Food and Wine Festival (Motutapu Island, February 27)
Celebrate and savour the region's wine and food producers with picturesque views of the harbour, Waiheke Island and beyond. Guests will arrive by ferry.
•Sunsetter Food and Wine Festival (Smales Farm, February 13)
A Highlife Entertainment production, Sunsetter will feature some of the best international and local acts, New Zealand wineries, craft breweries, popular eateries and spectacular performers.
•L.A.B (Mt Smart Stadium, March 27)
One of New Zealand's hottest acts, L.A.B will be joined by some of New Zealand's finest music acts including Mako Road, Ladi6 and Ria Hall & The Leers.
•Summer Festival at the Village (Howick Historical Village, various December – March)
Auckland's living history museum is also getting in on the action with a range of workshops, special tours, summer soirees, storytelling and more.
For the full list of events visit summernova.co.nz