It’s fair to say that the longstanding champion of coastal rowing in New Zealand is Greg Reid. He has been attending the World Coastal Rowing Championships since 2005 when they were in Italy, and pioneered building coastal boats as well.


Now that the rest of us are catching up and learning about coastal, it seems appropriate to run through what you can already do here in Aotearoa. The modernisation of coastal and the rise in participation is due in large part to the World Rowing Federation taking up a new racing format called beach sprints. Guin Batten devised this race style to make it more viewer-friendly than offshore long-distance coastal racing, and to enable more places to host regattas with minimal costs (all you need is a beach and some water).

Rowing New Zealand has not been tardy in realising how important this new variant of rowing will be for an island nation with kilometres of coastline and plenty of magnificent lakes. A coastal rowing working group has already presented its recommendations to the Rowing NZ board in May for consideration as part of its new strategy. Progress is evident in other areas as well. It’s now easier than ever to buy a coastal rowing boat, and many of the global brands now have local representation (see suppliers list on the facing page).

There are three types of boat: singles, doubles and coxed quads. Greg Reid’s deep insight into the sport led him to design a boat for Custom Carbon that can be either a double or a single scull – same hull, with the riggers mounted at different positions. Laszlo are already making coastal single sculls and have plans for a double scull to be ready for the next rowing season.

Vera Bucsu of Laszlo says, “I’m excited and believe that coastal will be amazing for NZ – the whole country is invented for coastal. Our design will support the iconic Kiwi brand that we are building. We will be racing our boats internationally in future and want to make boats customisable and ensure they align with FISA requirements.” Kevin Strickland of Kanghua NZ says, “We are finding people that have tried a coastal boat and found it appealing. They love that they can just go for a long row somewhere they wouldn’t normally think of rowing to. There’s a group from Petone Rowing Club who go on adventures in Wellington Harbour in their own single sculls, out to the heads and around the bays visiting places for a coffee.”

They love that they can just go for a long row somewhere they wouldn’t normally think of rowing to.

If you want to try, race or watch coastal

First you need to get confident in a coastal rowing boat. The best advice is to start by rowing alongside someone who has some experience. Most people are cautious and realise they have a lot to learn, which is good. All the coastal boat reps below can put you in touch with people near where you live who have boats.

  • The World Rowing website has a rash of coastal events listed in Africa and Europe during October, after which there is a lull until the multisport World Beach Games in Bali in August 2023.
  • Nelson Rowing Club will host the Swift Racing NZ Nelson Beach Sprint Champs on 3 January 2023 at Tāhuna Beach in Nelson.
  • Rowing New Zealand will run national coastal championships in 2024.
  • Sally Knight of Swift runs rowing holiday tours in coastal coxed quads. She has two Abel Tasman tours planned in 2023 for April 12–16 and May 3–7, and is working on dates for the North Island as well. She has coastal singles in stock in Cambridge, and can organise a demonstration with Brook Robertson.
  • Kevin Strickland of Kanghua NZ has plans for a series of long-distance races in Whanganui, Wellington, Taupō and the Marlborough Sounds in 2023. Committee boats will be provided to participants (so you don’t need equipment). Your local rowing association will have the details.

A final warning: When you do hit the water, remember to take safety equipment with you!

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Rebecca Caroe