Kiteboarding treat this summer

IN THE WIND: Professional kiteboarder Lek will be on hand to give lessons during the summer. D7861-02

EASTERN Bay kiteboarders keen to fine-tune their skills, and those interested in trying the water-based action sport, are in for a treat this summer with one of Asia’s top kiteboarders now based at the Port Ohope General Store and Café Switch Kiteboard School.

Prawit Buachattur, or Lek, as he is known, has arrived in Ohope from Thailand where he is currently ranked number two in the Asian region following recent competitions in both Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

Specialising in the form of kiteboarding known as foiling, Lek hails from Phuket from where he has competed internationally for the past eight years, and where he works as an instructor for kiteboarding company, Kiteboarding Asia.

He says he was keen to experience life in New Zealand after meeting Port Ohope General Store owners, Greig and Ashlee Dean, who have undertaken kiteboarding trips to Thailand over the past three winters.

Greig says Lek faced a lengthy visa process, “but we’re delighted he’s finally here”.

“I was very keen to come to New Zealand because I’ve never been here,” says Lek. “It’s very beautiful, and I’m finding the people similar to Thais, friendly and helpful.” He says he’s looking forward to his association with the Port Ohope club where he will head up the kiteboarding school for the next four months.

Greig, who started a windsurfing business at Ohope 36 years ago and was instrumental in the creation of the Stand Up Paddleboard club which also runs from the store, says he learned to kiteboard at only the age of 58. “It’s an amazing sport because age is not a barrier at all,” he says. “Foiling, in particular, is well suited for older riders because you can ride in lighter winds and enjoy flying above the water without pounding through it.” He says Ohope is well-suited to kiteboarding with both the harbour and ocean providing environments in which to learn.

Lek describes kiteboarding as a cross between several water sports, “a bit like surfing, a bit like wind-surfing and like wake-boarding. “It’s definitely a very exciting sport but you don’t have to be young to master it.”

An avid participant of all the water sports, he believes kiteboarding is easier to master than some, “definitely easier than windsurfing,” he says, and is easier to be involved in. “The boards are smaller and very portable so along with the kite, you can easily pack it up and take it wherever you want to go. People really like that.”

The Port Ohope General Store is holding a welcome for Lek on Friday, December 7 with a happy hour from 5.30pm to 7.30pm that everyone is welcome to attend. “It’s a good opportunity for anyone wanting to learn more about kiteboarding, and just to welcome Lek to the area.”

He says they are pleased to have formed a partnership with local company “Switch Kites,” which will provide a showcase for their latest kite range.

When not out on the water, Lek can be found inside the Port Ohope General Store and Café.

Gift vouchers for both Stand Up Paddle boarding and kiteboarding lessons are available from the store.

By Lorraine Wilson