Olly Brunton used to be an Olympic snowboarder — now he’s a national champion on a board of a different kind.
The 39-year-old Raglan acupuncturist was “super-stoked” to come away from last weekend’s Kiteboard Freestyle Nationals at Tauranga with a first in the masters section of the five-day event which is, he says, exactly what he wanted to achieve.

His was one of three successes for local kiters, with Matt Taggart taking out the course racing category — a new side of the sport, much like yacht racing but on a board — and design student Joel Savage placing second in the juniors.

Olly reckons it was “nail-biting” stuff on Sunday night watching the All Blacks hold out the French to win the Rugby World Cup final but at the same time waiting for the judges to release final results at the kiteboard nationals.

He also ended up fifth-equal overall in the more competitive open men’s division, which included a New Zealander who’s ranked No 4 in the world.
Olly has an extensive competitive career, first in rugby then in professional snowboarding where he won three national titles in the ‘90s and competed at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan. But it’s kiteboarding which has had him hooked for the last four years.

Raglan’s other new kiteboard champion, Matt Taggart, one of the founders of global brand Ozone which designs and manufactures kites, came to kiteboarding years ago from a background of snowkiting. “I really love the racing side (of kiting)”, he says.

The nationals was an “excellent” event, he adds — well run and with a big turnout.

At 18, Joel was Raglan’s youngest competitor and definitely “a bit surprised” at his second placing in the junior section because he hadn’t trained hard-out, having only just returned home from Massey University in Wellington.

Kiteboarding’s become something of a passion since his father Keith first taught him the ropes about four years ago. And he’ll kite every day there’s wind when at home on holiday.

Joel moves into the open men’s category next year, and while expecting the competition to be more difficult he’s still “aiming high”.
It’s the technical tricks that score the points in competitive kiting, he explains. The aim is to land “as many tricks as you can” during the seven-minute heats.

Edith Symes