There will be sand, surf and hopefully some sun when the Swift Racing New Zealand Coastal Rowing Beach Sprint Champs are held at Titahi Bay, north of Wellington, on 4 and 5 May.

The regatta is being organised by Porirua Rowing Club in conjunction with Swift Racing and the Titahi Bay Surf Lifesaving Club, and it marks the first time the championships have been held outside Nelson.

Porirua club president Tony Tikiku is leading the organising efforts, and he says the club is planning a great event.

“It should be a really fun weekend. We’re going to have plenty of tents and marquees along the shore; the surf club’s building will be available for officials and volunteers and the athletes to warm up; we’ve got a great sound system to keep people entertained and to broadcast the commentary; and we’re going to be livestreaming via the Rowing NZ website for anyone who wants to keep track of the competition.

“I’m really excited about the event and I’m lucky to be able to draw on resources and expertise from Swift Racing, the surf lifesaving club, and Porirua club members. I’ve even told my son Liam, who’s with the NZ Under 21 squad, that he’s helping out. He’s going to be pretty busy that weekend, although I don’t think he realises it yet.

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Tony Tikiku with his son Liam Collins. Photo: Picture Show Ltd. 

“I just want to thank everyone who’s volunteered to help out with this regatta. There are a lot of people – including experienced world coastal rowing officials – who are giving up their time and lending their expertise. Their support is hugely appreciated!”

While it is on the schedule for the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028, coastal rowing and the beach sprints format is still a relatively new discipline, particularly in New Zealand.

“Beach sprints is to rowing a bit like beach volleyball is to normal volleyball. It’s shorter, faster and slightly less predictable,” says Tony.

“Boats are held in the water, and one of the rowers in the crew has to sprint down the beach, jump in the boat, row out 250m, head around a buoy, then back into shore, and sprint back up to hit a buzzer on the beach.

“So there’s definitely a place for good rowing technique and a decent amount of fitness, but there’s a bit of unpredictability with the swells out off the beach, and with getting in and out of the boat quickly.”

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Organised chaos As oNE OF THE CREW SPRINTS BACK UP THE BEACH TO HIT THE BUZZER. 

The format will be finalised once the registrations close but Tony says the plan is to hold time trials for the competitors and then use those results to determine a head-to-head knockout schedule for the finals.

Mark Weatherall, GM of Community and Development at Rowing New Zealand, says he’s excited about the national champs and for coastal rowing in general.

“Coastal rowing has been around overseas for a while but it’s still early days for the discipline here. We’ve had teams go to World Champs for the last three years and they’ve done well but we’re really looking to build.

“We’ll be looking at performances in the Under-19 and Senior events at the national champs with a view to New Zealand trials over King’s Birthday weekend, and ultimately for crew selections for the Coastal Rowing World Champs in Italy later this year.”

Looking beyond the nationals, Mark says he sees coastal rowing as a great way to get more people into the sport.

One way that the event will get more coverage is via the livestream on the Sunday (5th of May). The livestream has again been made available thanks to Milford's support. The livestream will be available on www.rowinghub.co.nz/livestream

“There’s huge potential for coastal rowing to get more diverse communities involved in rowing generally. It’s a lot easier for novices to get into a coastal boat and get out on the water than it is with flat water boats, so we’re excited about how these events could open up the sport to a wider public.

“One of the main hurdles we have at the moment is the availability of the coastal boats themselves. All the boats for the national champs will be provided by Sally and Phil Knight from Swift Racing, along with a number of clubs who are pitching in, so competitors don’t need to worry about that. But making that equipment more widely available to help build the sport over the long term is something we’re going to have a look at. Watch this space.”

To find out more and to register, visit www.poriruarowing.co.nz. Registrations close Sunday 21 April.

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The boats are provided by Swift Racing, along with several clubs who are helping out.

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Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith is a keen Masters rower based in Wellington. A member of Wellington Rowing Club off and on since 2000, he spends more time on the erg than the water, trying to convince himself he's still young.