Surfing, yachting fight for the rights to kites

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 05:00 13/05/2012
Kiteboarding
THOMAS BUSBY/Fairfax NZ
AIRBORNE: Kiteboarding's Olympic inclusion has spurred a potential battle between the surfing and yachting governing bodies over who controls the activity.

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Surfing is challenging Yachting New Zealand for the right to govern new Olympic sport kiteboarding – and the lucrative government funding that comes with it.

Surfing New Zealand, a national sporting organisation recognised by Sport New Zealand, says it has just as much claim to running kiteboarding as its national yachting equivalent and claims it can garner support from the International Surfing Association.

Kiteboarding has no national association in New Zealand and rival chief executives David Abercrombie (Yachting NZ) and Greg Townsend (Surfing NZ) have confirmed their respective organisations both want to absorb the unattached sport. Yachting NZ added a kiteboarding discipline to a key Auckland regatta this weekend.

In addition to Olympic status, the two NSOs will be duelling it out for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in high performance funding and also for improved commercial and sponsorship contracts.

Sport NZ chief executive Peter Miskimmin conceded he was unsure which NSO the responsibility for kiteboarding should fall to. And with both surfing and yachting claiming it, it appears the Crown sports entity may soon have to make an unusual, and high-profile, decision.

"In terms of which NSO that [kiteboarding] comes under, I don't know. It's a good question," Miskimmin told the Sunday Star-Times. "I don't know whether it's yachting or surfing."

A long-running push for amateur surfing to be added to the Olympic programme has found significant momentum over the last decade, and Townsend confirmed the latest development will be discussed within Surfing NZ.

Townsend said he will consult International Surfing Association president Fernando Aguerre before making an approach to Sport NZ. "There's no national body for kiteboarding and it's something we're going to discuss with Sport NZ," Townsend said. "It's debatable whether it falls under our national body or yachting and we're keeping the door open.

"At the end of the day they're riding a surfboard, [so] there's a real argument over which national sporting body this comes under.

"Being an Olympic sport, there's obviously funding opportunities there for high performance.

"Potentially this could be a significant new revenue stream. Because surfing's not an Olympic or Commonwealth Games sport, there's certain high performance funding we can't tap in to.

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"The main thing is we want to do the best by our athletes."

However, Abercrombie is adamant that yachting is not only rightful governor, but the most capable and sensible option.

In addition to the Yachting NZ website already advertising an open meeting "for a discussion around the implementation of kiteboard racing in NZ," Abercrombie says the large Olympic infrastructure already existing at Yachting NZ makes his organisation the only realistic option.

"I think it's going to have to fall under Yachting NZ's umbrella," Abercrombie said.

"Realistically, there's probably no other NSO capable of putting together a high performance programme to support kiteboarding. Clearly, no one is as up to speed as yachting. We want to try and help grow the sport, we see it as an opportunity."

Townsend said the most influential factor in who assumes control of kiteboarding could be the discipline applied, with the Olympics class set to be wave-riding as opposed to speed or freestyle.

- Sunday Star Times

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