Tom Ashley

Tauranga's windsurfing scene is set to get an Olympic-sized shot in the arm over the next 10 days.

Beijing Olympic board sailing champion Tom Ashley will headline next week's inaugural North Island championship for both Techno and RS:X classes, while the city's rookies have also got a major boost.

Six brand-new Techno boards will arrive tomorrow in Tauranga, courtesy of the Bay of Plenty Sailing Academy and funded by TECT. At $5800 apiece fully kitted out, the boards aren't cheap but spokesman Stuart Pedersen is adamant they'll be a great investment for the sport's future.

"Getting these boards is huge - they'll provide a pathway from learning to windsurf through to getting into serious racing without having to commit to buying your own gear," Pedersen said.

Although kitesurfing has taken a big chunk of windsurfing's market, Pedersen explains the Olympic aspect is the obvious attraction.

"For recreational stuff, just going out for a blast, a lot of people are doing kitesurfing but you can't go racing around buoys and the competitive aspect is a lot different. There's a whole pathway from zero to hero and we are probably the world's top windsurfing nation. It's our top Olympic event and that's a major attraction to the sport."

After an official launch tomorrow, the new boards will be available for prospective sailors to try out over the weekend, with an introduction to racing and race training at the Tauranga Yacht and Powerboat Club on Sunday.

The club will then host at two-day training clinic next Thursday and Friday, with the North Island regatta starting on Saturday.

The academy's six new boards, meanwhile, are all being named after six of New Zealand's windsurfing legends - Bruce Kendall, Santha Patel, Aaron McIntosh, Barbara Kendall, Scott Fenton and Ashley.

The academy has also been promoting a "Learn to Windsurf" course at Kulim Park and 11 budding sailors aged 13 to 16 are about to graduate, with another after-school course set to be run in term one of next year.


SOURCE: RS:X Class