Kite-surfing has gone, well, sky-high as a local sport. Just visit Tay Street at Mount Maunganui on a blowy summer day to see one of the most exhilarating extreme-type sports you’ll ever see. The idea is you’re hooked into a windsurfing-style harness, feet in footstraps on a short board that’s a bit like a cut-down surfboard or for the real experts, a wakeboard. The propulsion is provided by a large specialised kite that drags kite-surfers across the water at incredible speeds, to perform jumps (‘big air’) and at the top end, a whole bag of amazing aerial tricks. You guessed right … fitness and nerve required - along with lessons —unless you want to wind up out at sea, or catapulted into solid objects like toilet block walls.
Tauranga Harbour and the beaches of Mount Maunganui have been described as the ultimate in kite-surfing playgrounds, with more than half a dozen ideal spots to choose from. The experts say the harbour —with its extensive, shallow waterways and sandy bottoms —is perfect for learning and progressing. And they insist there are safe kiteboarding locations for all wind directions. When the wind’s blasting however, the experienced converge on spots like Tay Street at Mount Maunganui for spectacular wave-riding and aerials. Tay Street is also acknowledged however, as a perfect place to get into ocean kite-surfing, as it’s generally safe in lighter, sea breeze conditions. Other popular locations on the inner harbour include Fergusson Park and Kulim Park.
Wind & Sea Kiteboarding Centre: tel 021-212 1152, www.windandsea.co.nz .You want real thrills? The Centre provides lessons for beginners to advanced riders, with fully qualified, AKO (International Kiteboarding Organisation) - rated instructors Jesse Tuck and Jasmin Alder, who have a combined 17 years of riding behind them. The Centre is a mobile van, and the pair provide all equipment and the ‘the best and safest’ instruction to get you up and riding in 4 to 5 hours. Beginner and intermediate courses cost from $400 per person.
Assault Kiteboarding Centre: tel 027- 245 7540, www.assault.co.nz is a mobile bus providing specialist school equipment and qualified instructors (IKO rated). AKC is run by Glen and Wendy Bright, local kite surfing pioneers who owned the huge Assault surf shop. AKC charge $100 an hour, equipment included, with a four-session programme that begins on land focused on safety. The operation includes an inflatable boat to transport clients from to and from sand bar and beach locations to suit wind and tide conditions. The boat is always on hand for support if needed.