New Zealand's best junior stand-up paddleboarder will join a field of international sports stars at the national championships this weekend in his longest race yet.
Weather permitting, two-time national under-18 stand-up paddleboard champion Ollie Houghton, 13, will take on the 15 kilometre downwind distance race on Saturday between Mairangi Bay and Whangaparaoa alongside the adults.
The distance race, which is part of the two-day national championships, has attracted national title holders in a varitey of sports including New Zealand and world champion Annabel Anderson as well as Olympic gold medallist sailor Jo Aleh of Takapuna Boating Club.
"If there is a good down wind you can catch the white caps and get pulled along," Ollie says of the race which will be double the distance of his longest training paddle. But the open ocean is quite scary."
Ollie has been competing in stand-up paddleboard for three years and is out on the water multiple times a week as he prepares to defend his national sprint distance title on Sunday.
With Takapuna Beach right on his doorstep, Ollie is a regular in the State Beach Series and is one of the leading under-30 male stand-up paddleboarders and also ranks inside the top-20 overall in the series.
Although the Rosmini College student has proven he can keep pace with the older athletes, it's his peers like Jack Evans and Daniel Orams who he'll be keeping tabs on this weekend as they resume their friendly rivalry.
Everyone in the Houghton household does stand-up paddleboarding and Ollie looks up to dad Gavin's achievements.
Father and son will compete alongside each other in Saturday's race but Ollie expects to be left in Gavin's wake.
Mum Rosie, herself a top-three nationally ranked novice, says her son is a naturally talented athlete who doesn't like to lose.
"He is very determined and he doesn't give up," she says.
However if Saturday's weather doesn't co-operate she might need to temper Ollie's enthusiasm for the 15km event.
"If it is really rough we won't let Ollie out there," she says.
But if there is a good downward breeze she will be out on her board competing too. Saturday: 15km downwind race from Shakespear Regional Park to Mairangi Bay or vice versa - 2pm race start.
Sunday: 1.5km knockout heats slalom course racing at Orewa Beach 10am race start, 500m mixed relay 3pm start and Have-a-Go activities, 8am to 3pm.
- © Fairfax NZ News