Kitesurfers cross gulf for Starship

18:21, Jan 07 2013
Kent McNish
SURF'S UP: Kent McNish takes advantage of a swell at Muriwai.

The sky is literally the limit for Kent McNish.

The Te Atatu resident, joined by a handful of kitesurfers, is attempting to cross the Hauraki Gulf from Shakespeare Bay, Whangaparaoa, to Great Barrier Island to raise funds for the Starship Foundation.

McNish, 37, has been kitesurfing for 12 years and was one of the originals who helped bring the sport on to the scene in Auckland.

Kent McNish
GUSTY VOYAGE: Kent McNish is looking to kitesurf from Shakespeare Bay to Great Barrier Island for charity.

His close friend and kite maker Charlie Watson died from bowel cancer in July, something that hit close to home for McNish in more ways than one.

"I coincidentally had a tumour on my bowel which was removed four years ago.

"I was lucky, Charlie wasn't. His spread really fast."

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McNish's interest in kites started in his teenage years and quickly evolved into a full-blown love of kite buggies and kitesurfing.

The recent tragedy and his love for the sport has spurred him on to help others.

"Starship needs over $5 million in funding each year. I thought: Why not do something for kids with cancer? They're the ones given the raw deal from day one," he says.

Sarah Woodhams from the Starship Foundation says McNish and his team are nothing short of inspirational.

"We receive all sorts of amazing support in the form of sponsored challenges, from people climbing mountains to shaving heads, but I don't believe we've had a supporter undertake a kitesurfing challenge before.

"It is very touching to think that Kent has put so much time and energy into supporting the kids at Starship," Woodhams says.

The harrowing 70km journey, scheduled for mid-to-late January, could take anywhere from three to-five hours depending on wind speed.

"We've got a two week window," McNish says.

"We can't just pick a day and hope for the best because there are wind and sea conditions to take into account.

"We've set up a Facebook page so we can update the public on when we'll give it the green light."

And although he's had over a decade's experience, McNish admits it will be a rough ride.

"It's going to be a lot different than kitesurfing along the shore.

"I've done the 50km length of Muriwai Beach six years ago but this is a totally new challenge.

"My biggest concern is cramp, we're only going in one direction on a single tack through choppy waters.

"Also added to the mix, we've got to watch out for islands along the way, it won't be easy."

Western Leader