Californian kitesurfing legend Ian Alldredge reckons Raglan exponents of the fast-growing sport have got it over almost everyone else.
Not that the 24-year-old’s complaining — he joined locals for an hour or two at Ocean Beach on an overnight visit to Raglan last week and found it a “pretty cool” experience kitesurfing with the wind in one direction and the current in the other.
When the Chronicle caught up with Ian, who’s famous for his mid-air tricks, he was still buzzing about “the big harbourmouth opening and the tide changes” that make Raglan kiteboarding unique and are a big reason why the sport has flourished here in recent years.
“It was quite different, actually,” he said of his time out on the water with the likes of Olly Brunton, a Raglan acupuncturist who also owns and edits New Zealand’s online kiteboard magazine.
With the current moving at 8-10 miles per hour, Ian said, kiters here didn’t need as much wind as was usually necessary to “get going”. Ten knot winds, as opposed to 15 or 20 knots most places elsewhere, would do it.
Ironically wind was not an issue anyway the day the American recognised as being at the top of his game blew in, but Olly later confirmed the conditions he encountered were unique to Raglan, giving lucky locals “many more riding days than the rest of the country”.
Raglan was in fact the hub of kitesurfing in New Zealand, he said, and where the sport’s fastest races happened.
“So much is going on here (in kiting)”, he said. “It’s massive.”
And hosting travelling pros like Ian — brought to New Zealand on a 10-day tour by his sponsor Ben Wilson Surf to promote an Auckland-based kite school — is pretty much the norm for what Olly calls “the usual crew” who kitesurf regularly at Ocean Beach whenever tide and wind conditions allow.
Ian, who’s kitesurfed half his life to become one of the world’s best, confessed he had no strict schedule while in the country but was simply “chasing conditions”. That brief had taken him from Surf Highway 45’s famous waves in Taranaki north to Raglan where he also had time to indulge in some other local sights and experiences.
The Point, Indies and Wainui Reserve got the thumbs up from the Californian pro, who also enjoyed “beer and a burger at the tavern” plus coffee and a game of hackysack with the locals in Volcom Lane.
Kiteboarding, as it’s more commonly known locally, started in New Zealand in 2001 and — perhaps because of the great conditions here — the country is building a strong reputation internationally with Kiwi riders finishing in the top 10 at the world racing championships in Italy last month.
The sport is set to make its first appearance at the Rio Olympics in 2016, a move welcomed by Raglan Windsports which supports and promotes competitive kiting.