Games kiteboarding reversal rocks retailers
A back flip on the decision to include kiteboarding in the 2016 Olympics will not hurt Nelson's active kiteboarding community, but could be costly for local retailers.
Ever since the ISAF's (the international sailing federation) shock decision to drop windsurfing in favour of kiteboarding in May, the kiteboarding community have been busy preparing the sport for the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016.
Organisation and funding was being set up by the New Zealand Kite Association working with Yachting New Zealand. Locally, clubs were being formalised and $45,000 worth of race-specific stock was ordered.
But this week, the ISAF pulled a 180 at the annual meeting and reinstated windsurfing, leaving retailers around the country with all the latest race gear, and a sudden drop in demand.
"As a retailer, it is a kick in the guts," said Warren Mitchell, of Nelson's Kitescool.
"You have committed yourself into a racing programme and then they pull the pin and you lose that customer base."
Shane Anderson, of Kitesurf Nelson, said the gear used for the recreational or trick-based version of the sport differs from that used in racing. "There were Olympic-standard boards being imported into the country now, for the future training of potential Olympic riders," Anderson said.
"It was a complete surprise when they canned it. We now have a lot of race-standard gear that, quite possibly, may be surplus."
Both local kitesurfing operators said the decision to install kiteboarding as an Olympic sport had been a shock to both windsurf and kitesurf industries. They said the handling of the situation since had been farcical.
"I heard a story about a girl who has invested $40,000 in her Olympic campaign thus far and now it's all stopped," Mitchell said.
Tempering the blow to local operators is the base of riders in the region. The majority of the about 75 local kiteboarders and swelling seasonal tourist surfers are involved in either the trick-based freestyle, or the recreational-based free ride style.
In the main, those kiteboarders will not have been affected, but the decision has stilled a potential new market in the region, before the race version could take hold.
Winds of change, p9
The Nelson Mail