Action on the sand and the water in the Mount

Mount Maunganui volleyballer Julia Tilley is keen to get on the sand tomorrow for the 2022 NZ Beach Volleyball Tour Finals. Photo: John Borren/SunLive.

New Zealand’s best stand-up paddleboarders, volleyballers and wing-foilers will be flying on the water and over the sand at Mount Maunganui from today as the Waterbourne Festival gets underway.

The festival will encompass a variety of water sports, games, competitions, water safety programmes, and other free public events at the Mount across three days.

The Eves SUP Nationals from March 4-6 is one of the big events, with national champions in sprints, technical and distance categories to be crowned.

The festival also hosts the NZ Foil Centre Wingfoil Weekend, seeing people of all ages compete in wingfoil racing. And the 2022 NZ Beach Volleyball Tour Finals, also part of the festival, starts tomorrow and the tournament doubles at the sport’s national championships.

Mount Maunganui volleyballer Julia Tilley has been on the tour for 15 years and is keen to hit the sand tomorrow with teammate Olivia Macdonald in the women’s competition.

“NZ beach volleyball players are really laidback people but once we get on-court we love to battle it out– it’s really competitive,” says Julia, who has competing internationally for more than 10 years since her debut in the Under-19s NZ team in 2007.

Originally from Gisborne, she’s been in Tauranga for six years but has always had strong links to the Mount since her Waikato university days. “I definitely love the Mount; it’s got a special place in my heart is. It’s a great place to live and for volleyball.”

Julia says the NZ Pro tour is great opportunity for many Kiwi volleyballers who are self-funded to get some high quality play. “All the competitors really love this tournament because it’s really fun but really competitive, and we get to showcase our sport across the country and play on some of the best NZ beaches.”

This year’s tour format is split into Champions, which are the top-four seeded teams, and Challengers – all teams seeded outside the top four.

“This means the best teams play each other on day one. Meanwhile, Challenger teams play each other and the top-four to come through on top get to verse the Champions at the quarter finals.

“So there might be up to 16 Challenger teams as well as the Champion teams.”

Julia’s teammate Olivia MacDonald was also an under-19 player in 2013 and has since played in national and international tournaments for NZ.

She hails from Piopio, went to school in New Plymouth, and university in Arizona, US, and recently shifted from Auckland to Mount Maunganui.

“This is our first year playing together full-time,” says Julia, who says NZ’s top women’s team who have qualified for the Commonwealth Games are headed overseas so will not be playing this weekend.

“We’ll hopefully be seeded first so I like to think our chances of winning are high but it’s just whoever is going to bring it on the day.

“It is also the national champs this weekend so the win could be anyone’s – and you never know what conditions you’re going to get down at the Mount. There might be some wind and other variables.”

“But we’ll back ourselves to give it a shot.”

Event organiser Laurence Carey says Waterbourne 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-plus people to the city with the music, 2022 will attract families from around the country for the range of water sports.”

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