New Zealand's best stand-up paddle boarders will be arriving in Mt Maunganui to be crowned the undisputed national stand-up paddle boarding champion from the 4th – 6th March at the EVES NZ SUP Nationals.
The event, which is supported by funding from Tourism Bay of Plenty and TECT, is part of the Waterbourne Beach Festival.
The Nationals includes three components that will crown the national champions in Sprints, Technical and Distance.
The event started in Wellington and has since been held in Auckland during the America's Cup, but has made its way to Mount Maunganui this year.
Event organiser Laurence Carey says the event will be held in Mount Maunganui for the foreseeable future.
"Mount Maunganui is the ideal location as it provides conditions for all disciplines. This means we can have people racing in the waves and flat water from one venue, showcasing how unique the sport is.
"Alongside this, we have the ability to have a great viewing platform for the public to see the sports and beach activities."
Waterbourne Beach Festival will encompass a variety of water sports, games, competitions, water safety programmes, and other free public events.
The 2022 NZ Beach Volleyball Tour Finals will be a part of the festival, and the event will also be hosting the NZ Foil Centre Wingfoil Weekend, seeing people of all ages compete in wingfoil racing – one of the fastest-growing water sports in the world.
The Tip Top Paddle Ninja Games will see competitors take on paddle boarding with a twist – trying to stay on their board as they tackle an inflatable obstacle course.
There will also be music and sandcastle building competitions for families to be a part of as they watch the water sport action. There will also be a range of giveaways, including paddle boards and beach essentials.
Carey says the festival not only attracts people from outside the region, but also builds a strong foundation to showcase the region as a water sports destination.
"Waterbourne has the opportunity to bring athletes from overseas when borders allow, alongside international musicians for the evenings. Although we cannot bring the expected 10,000+ people to the city with the music, 2022 will attract families from around the country for the range of water sports."
The event is one of only a few still able to go ahead at the Red Traffic Light setting, and has faced a number of roadblocks along the way.
"Due to restrictions we have had to restructure and change the wider festival as we have had to cancel all our music shows, including international headliner Sub Focus from the UK," says Carey.
"Alongside these major changes, we have had to build in contingencies to ensure athletes and public are separated into groups of 100 to fit within the current guidelines.
"We are expecting 100 plus athletes to be competing, with athletes coming from both the North and South Island to compete. Unfortunately, we will not be able to have international athletes competing due to border restrictions, but we look forward to having these athletes here when achievable."
"We are working with the wider paddle board community to ensure they feel safe competing at the red light setting, where some obstacles cannot be overcome like when athletes are unvaccinated."
The EVES NZ SUP Nationals is one of 15 Coastal Bay of Plenty events that are being supported over the next two years by the Regional Events Fund (REF).
The Government introduced the REF to assist the tourism sector during the Covid-19 pandemic, while New Zealand's border remains closed to international visitors.
The aim of the contestable $500,000 REF allocation, which was overseen by Tourism Bay of Plenty, is to invest in events that will drive significant regional visitor numbers.
The fund was boosted by a further $200,000 allocated from the region's community-based trust TECT.
Carey says the funding has been fundamental to the NZ SUP Nationals, ensuring they can bring all components of the event to life, including the community components.
"The funding has ensured we could relocate the NZ SUP Nationals to the Tauranga region for the first time ever.
"This has allowed NZSUP and the Waterbourne Charitable Trust to move the festival to the Tauranga region and bring all components to life that are able to go ahead under a Red traffic light setting. We are so grateful for the support – it will be an event not to miss!"
TECT Trustee Mark Arundel says the NZ SUP Nationals will bring many benefits to the region.
"Stand up paddle boarding is a fantastic sport that keeps so many people in our community active, fit, and out enjoying our beautiful natural environment.
"Hosting the Nationals here will help reinforce Mount Maunganui as the pinnacle location for paddle boarding and water sports in New Zealand. We look forward to seeing the wider Waterbourne Festival bring hundreds of visitors to our region to see all we have to offer."
To learn more about Waterbourne Festival, visit https://www.waterbourne.co.nz/.