Ruakaka Beach: a rideable kite spot

Even though it is a young sport, kiteboarders have been living and riding in the Ruakaka area since 2000. Over this time, the number of riders has grown but still is relatively small, with 10 local riders and a similar number based in Whangarei that drive out when conditions are right.

Kiteboarding has a very low environmental impact; it uses very little equipment, doesn’t burn fuel, and makes no noise.

Many of us choose this sport over the likes of wakeboarding or jet skiing for just these reasons.

We also have little interaction with other beach users, as we require around 12 knots of wind to start riding and prefer 18knots.

Most beach users will know it is very unpleasant to fish, swim, or kayak on any beach that has a stiff on-shore breeze blowing.

Ruakaka river mouth is a very special riding environment for kiteboarders, with the enclosed waterway giving smooth water, the outer bar giving us clean waves all the while being open to the strong winds we enjoy.

This location is not just a place to ride. It is, in fact, a world-class, best-you-can-get type of location - not unlike Shipwreck Bay in Ahipara, which is for surfers.

However, kiteboarding at the Ruakaka River mouth requires both high tide and moderate to strong Easterly winds.

In any given year the total number of days Mother Nature gives us with just these right conditions is around 25. On these 25 days, we will average 3 hours of ridable time before the tide drops.

Given an average of 12 hours of daylight per day, 365 days a year, kiteboarders can use this location less than 2% of the time.

For the other 98% of the year, we simply go to beaches better suited to other wind directions.

Usually, the number of riders out at Ruakaka on any given E wind is 4-5, on weekends this sometimes rises to 10-12 but this is rare rather than the rule.

As a group, Ruakaka kiteboarders are well aware of the importance of the Ruakaka estuary as a wildlife refuge, to this end, we have put in place a set of guidelines since 2005 to protect this area.

These include:

  • Stay off the sand dunes;
  • Rig up and land kites as close to the water's edge as possible;
  • Do not fly kites over the dunes or wildlife;
  • Keep your kite at 45degrees out to sea when walking up the beach;
  • Stay a safe distance from other beach users;

The locals also take a high level of responsibility to educate riders from other places who wish to use this area, along with educating other beach users of the care that should be taken.

Despite all of this, we have been targeted and tagged by a tiny group of local environmentalists as a hazardous and destructive activity.

In the last three years, kiteboarders using Ruakaka river mouth have had to endure being yelled at, subjected to verbal abuse, threatened with weapons (including scissors and fence posts), had equipment interfered with, had our way impeded, photos taken, videos taken, and most recently a young American traveler was assaulted on the beach by one of the women opposed to us using this area.

This same area is also used by many thousands of people throughout the year - fishermen, swimmers, kayakers, sunbathers, walkers, bird watchers, horse riders, boaties, jetskiers, windsurfers, surfers, bodyboarders, 4x4 drivers, motorcycle riders, campers, and even drinkers.

The river mouth lies between the largest campground in Ruakaka and the only surf club - over the summer, on any day, many hundreds of people walk between the camp and the surf club via the dunes or foreshore of the south side of the River Mouth.

There are also many other pressures on the wildlife in this area: cats, dogs, stoats, rats, hedgehogs, possums, storms, high tides, rubbish, pollution, fires, development, and erosion, to name just a few.

The kiteboarders of Ruakaka are working with the Department of Conservation to investigate and try to quantify any impact we may have on the wildlife in this area.

As kiteboarders we believe any impact we have is certainly lower than many of the other activities and pressures and is manageable within the guidelines we already have in place.

We believe we are being unfairly harassed simply because those opposed to kiteboarding do not have an understanding of how kites work, consider us ‘young’, our kites are visible from a distance and we are a small group who are easy to target.

All we ask for is some perspective on all the issues at Ruakaka River Mouth and where kiteboarding fits into that mix.

Words by David Kay

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