Water world

16:00, Mar 29 2014
Kurt Robertson
Kurt Robertson

Kurt Robertson's job is his lifestyle and it is a life he loves.

The former Blenheim man still calls New Zealand home but since 1999 he has been living nine months of every year in the United States and Mexico, where he teaches people how to wakeboard.

The extreme sport is not widely practised in New Zealand, he says, but each year he returns to this country for its three short summer months and holds coaching sessions on the West Coast and in Marlborough.

Kurt Robertson
Kurt Robertson

Some of New Zealand's best wakeboarders come from Marlborough, he adds, identifying Theo and Guy Robinson as two brothers competing at international level and David Stubbs and Michael Parkes, also also represent the province at a high levels.

Florida is the world's wakeboarding mecca, though, and it was where Kurt instinctively headed when he decided to get serious about the sport. In retrospect, he probably left it too late.

"I started wakeboarding when I was 21 but I was 25 when I went to Florida. It's like gymnastics; if you are not super good by the time you are 19, it's too late. I do OK, but not when seen against some of the young pros around these days."


Kurt Robertson
Kurt Robertson

However, Kurt is clearly no slouch. He has won the New Zealand Masters wakeboarding national title three times and taken third place in three international age-group races. "My biggest win was in the Nautique Wake Games, Orlando, in 2010."

Kurt acknowledges his mother, former softball and hockey provincial rep Pam Robertson, as giving him the competitive drive. And she let him grow up as a "water baby," diving into rivers, the sea and swimming pools at every chance.

Water-skiing was a passion for a while but quickly abandoned when he bought a wakeboard. It is like a floating snowboard, he says.

"It's towed like a water ski and you use the shape of the wake to get into the air. You might do a straight jump, you might do a flip, or a 360 [degree] spin."

It was invented by surfers who let boats tow them round when there wasn't any swell, he says. Next, they started strapping themselves to their boards and jumping.

Kurt, who also surfs, saw a picture of someone strapped to a board, doing an inverted flip. "I was blown away and knew I had to do it."

He and a friend, Marcus Hammond, bought a board between them and tried it out, first on the Wairau River, then at Kumutoto Bay in the Marlborough Sounds.

First impressions?

Kurt smiles. "We went too fast and I didn't like it. But the difference between wakeboarding and water-skiing is the unlimited things you can learn."

He and Marcus found wakeboarding videos to watch, figured out the best speed to be towed, then tried copying the moves they saw. Others joined them, a (since-disbanded) Marlborough club was formed and wakeboarding contests organised.

Then Kurt went to Florida. "I knew if I went there it was warm, there were lots of boats and I could just wakeboard all the time."

He has his own coaching business, Enzeel Wakeboarding Development Programme, and has been sponsored by Liquid Force Board for the past 14 years. The 39-year-old sees his future as a wakeboarding instructor as a long one but he hasn't stopped setting his own competition goals, either. "As I turn into the next division, the veterans, I want to do better. I want to win the world champs in the veterans."

The Marlborough Express