Rather than squabbling over the spoils of 2016 Olympics decision to switch from windsurfing to kiteboarding, the value of which is still unknown, Windsurfing New Zealand (WNZ) believes we should be focussing on supporting our current 2012 Olympic competitor J P Tobin. They also think the victims of the recent decisions deserve more support than they have received so far.
In about 70 days the 2012 Summer Olympics will begin, and windsurfing will be there. Jon-Paul Tobin sailing in the RS:X windsurfing class is one of our best prospects of a medal. We should not lose sight of that fact.
Windsurfing NZ is a voluntary organisation representing the interests of all the windsurfers in New Zealand, most of whom sail in classes and disciplines unrelated to the Olympics. They say the dedicated few who compete in the RS:X Olympic class, and the kids who have loyally sailed in the Techno 293 (Youth Olympic) class have had their dreams and aspirations shattered and deserve more support and acknowledgement, including a bigger effort at a national level to get the decision reviewed.
Windsurfing and kiteboarding are caught in a situation not of their making. The ISAF chose to pit the two sports against each other for a single Olympic berth, when the obvious choice was to include both, given the differences between them and the other nine sailing classes which have nowhere near the same diversity.
Windsurfing has been displaced from the Rio Olympics in 2016 by a decision that was marginal and the validity of which is now being questioned following an admission by at least one organisation that they ‘voted the wrong way’. One vote was all that was needed. There is a strong move to have the decision re-heard. There will also be opportunities for the decision to be reviewed before 2016 as the implications become clearer.
Even if the current situation continues and kiteboarding does perform at Rio, the future is far from certain. The ISAF is not infallible. There are precedents for classes to be reinstated after being precipitately dropped. It is certainly premature to write off windsurfing as abruptly as it has been. At a national level there have been no clear statements of support for the windsurfing community going forward, in fact the issue has been described in some circles as ‘fait acompli’ and attention shifted to kiteboarding with undue haste. This is a mistake. If windsurfing does miss 2016 but is reinstated for 2020 the momentum will have been lost and development of the class will needed to be restarted.
The decision to include kiteboarding in the Olympics has caught the responsible organisations by surprise, and they are now rushing to catch up. None of the organisations claiming the right to manage Olympic kiteboarding have shown any interest in the sport in the past, so the developing squabble is somewhat unseemly and unflattering, and the kiteboarding community at large will be aware of that.
There is no national organisation representing kiteboarding in New Zealand, and ironically WNZ has filled this gap to some extent. Half the clubs affiliated to WNZ are ‘windsports’ clubs and include both windsurfers and kiteboarders, many members do both sports. These clubs organise events for both disciplines, sometimes combined, and WNZ specifically provides insurance cover for both activities. They are often the first point of contact for issues involving kiteboarding and endeavour to help where they can. WNZ is not however the national kiteboarding organisation and has no mandate to act as such. They have always indicated their willingness to help kiteboarders to set up a national body and take responsibility for their own sport. Now would seem to be the time to do that before it is taken away from them.
WNZ has been working recently with Yachting NZ to develop a youth development program for windsurfing within their structure, and they hope that will continue. One thing is certain, windsurfing is a safe and rewarding lifetime sport that can be learned at a very early age, and carried through into retirement. As a way to get kids safely on and in the water it’s unparalleled, and whether it leads them to a lifetime of windsurfing, or into other sports including kiteboarding and yachting, its lessons will never be wasted or lost.
“It’s time to stop focussing on the medals, the money and the self interest, and focus on the people and the sport.”