A growing sport with Raglan roots

Matt Taggart Race Foiling.

Small town Raglan has become home to big time kiteboarding action, with some great local talent helping drive the revolution.

The status of kiteboarding as an Olympic sport is changing again, with the sport scheduled for the youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires in 2018, and kite foiling now supporting two international pro-tours.

Kiteboarding was picked as a sport for the Rio Olympics in May 2012, then unfortunately dropped with some intense lobbying from the windsurfing lobby.

But the positive for kiteboarding was the change to racing with hydrofoils. Being dropped gave the fledgling sport time to mature into an incredible class with one of the strongest fleets in the world. The sport has gone from strength-to-strength, with a team based in Raglan at the leading edge of its development.

Their designs having won 12 consective World Champioships since they started focusing on offering a race kite design back in 2007 and the world’s leading paragliding, speedflying and paramotoring brand.

Kite boarding’s competitive side owes a lot to Raglan-based Ozone Kites’ co-founders Matt Taggart, (World Hydrofoiling Champion in 2016) and designer Rob Whittall (World Champion Hang-gliding and Paragliding).

Breaking boundaries

Having grown-up with fathers that were pioneers of hang-gliding in the early 70s, their backgrounds seem to have been set in stone to continue breaking boundaries in the air and in windsports.

Matt says it’s his sailing background, before he and Rob Whittall began Ozone Kites in the UK in 2001, that resulted in the company pushing the racing side of the emerging sport as well as Rob’s obvious love and talent for racing (hanggliders, paragliders and motorbikes)

“It’s come a long way, especially in the last five years,” says Matt. The strengths of the sport are in abundance. The gear is able to be bought off the shelf, making kite boarding an inexpensive entry into a major international sport.

“It’s just more accessible and compact,” adds Matt. “It’s easy to transport and set up, and of course the gear is now super safe.

“It’s an amazing sport wherever you go now, and on beaches worldwide it has become a mature industry with professional schools located globally and on most major coastline towns and cities in New Zealand.

“With kiting there is no pressure on space. We can go wherever we want, up wind or down wind. You have the whole ocean at your disposal. That’s one of the things I love about it and why it’s so accessible for all ages.

“My daughters, who are aged nine and ten, are both kiting as well as my wife Rebecca and my step father. It’s a great family sport – it’s dynamic and so much fun. Whenever we travel we have our kite gear with us and the global kite community are open minded, so we meet new friends where ever we go.

Kiteboarding has many aspects to it, including wave kiting, freestyle, racing and even snow. And then there is the kiteboarding community.

“Everyone is really welcoming and open,” he says. “There’s a hugely diverse age group, and it is super healthy. That’s why I’m passionate about it, because there’s such a good group that get into it. It’s not elitist.

“We were all wind surfers and surfers and we got into kiting when kiteboarding first started on a windsurfing holiday in Maui in 1998. We love kiteboarding - it’s a mix of those airsports and water sports.  

“I married a Kiwi and came back to meet her family in 2005 and fell in love with Raglan.”

Rob, who was the extent of the Design Team at that time, moved to Raglan during 2008. “They thought I was nuts moving the team here, but we made it work because we all wanted to be in a place together,” he explains.

Local Raglan team

Ozone was in its early days, there was a lot of competition and they were just starting to find their feet. As the company grew, Ozone started employing locally.

Now, a team of five are based out of Raglan, including top New Zealand kiteboarder and Mount Maunganui’s own Torrin Bright. Ozone employed Torrin when he was 17 and he’s now their product manager and has been instrumental in their media content creation, while graphic designer Andy Banks is Raglan born and bred.

”We have ended up with an incredible team and running a global brand from little old Raglan,” says Rob. “It’s a great feeling”

The latest development is the opening of their first flagship store and school in Raglan that carries the full range of their designs across all of the sports Ozone designs - Kiteboarding, paragliding, speedflying, paramotoring, paddleboarding,  hang-gliding.

It is also a fully-functional school for all the sports they are obviously so passionate about.

Ozone’s now a global brand, with offices in the South of France, Barcelona and a factory employing 1300 people in Vietnam as well as the head office in Raglan.


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