Surfing, orienteering get AIMS Games nod for 2024
From AIMS/Jamie Troughton
19 June 2023
Fresh from announcing record entries this year, the Zespri AIMS Games is set to expand even further with the addition of surfing and orienteering in 2024.
The annual intermediate-aged sporting tournament, which has attracted nearly 12,000 entries for the 2023 edition, has recognised the large growth in both surfing and orienteering, as well as the complementary roles they play in numerous other sports.
“We’re seeing a huge growth in orienteering, both in schools and nationally, so getting it into the Zespri AIMS Games and having it celebrated and recognised as something of a mainstream sport is awesome,” Orienteering Bay of Plenty president Erin Swanson said. “Orienteering has the physical side of it but it’s also got the mental side – it feels exciting navigating with a map and finding controls. The sense of satisfaction in completing a course is huge, and wider benefits include building greater resilience, confidence and problem-solving. You can also do it at all ages and it crosses into a whole lot of other sports – most of the world’s best adventure racers have had some orienteering background.”
It’s also a further boost for surfing, on the back of leading Kiwis Billy Stairmand and Saffe Vette qualifying for the Paris Olympics this week in El Salvador. Bay Boardriders President James Jacobs says with the Zespri AIMS Games hosted in Tauranga, the inclusion of surfing just makes sense.
“We have such a long and proud history of surfing here in our moana – hosting the first-ever New Zealand nationals back in 1963 – and we’re surrounded by coastline, with a lot of people who surf,” he said. “It’s a great thing the next generation are going to get the opportunity to surf at AIMS Games and represent their school and get a taste for competitive surfing but there are also a whole lot of great life skills on offer. Things like resilience, determination and self-belief are all skills you need for competitive surfing, and with surfers literally eye-level with the water, they become really aware and in tune with the environment.”
Non-traditional sports have exploded in popularity in recent years, reflected in AIMS Games interest, with codes like 3×3 basketball, rock climbing and mountain biking flourishing.
It’s hugely exciting for the likes of 11-year-old Mount Maunganui Intermediate surfer Haru Marsden, who will make his AIMS debut this year playing football but will then switch focus to his other sporting love next year.
“I’m really excited about having surfing at AIMS – there should be a lot of people there and it will be a really fun atmosphere,” Haru, who has been surfing since he was 8, said. “We have pretty fun waves at the Mount and you get to hang out in the water with only three other people in your heat, and they’re usually your mates. We get it all to ourselves!”
It’s a slightly different story for 12-year-old Rotorua Intermediate pupil Ryan Lei, who will compete in Futsal for the second year in a row at this year’s tournament from September 2-8.
He’s a poster-child for non-specialisation in sports, playing football, cricket, squash and tennis, while also mountain biking, climbing and competing in cross country for his school.
“I enjoyed playing with my Futsal team at AIMS last year and I made lots of new friends, while I also love running around the forest with friends in orienteering and meeting lots of new people,” he said. “I like all the sports I play and I don’t really have a favourite but I’m really glad to see orienteering being included next year.”
AIMS Games Trust chair Henk Popping said both surfing and orienteering put forward compelling cases for inclusion and the tournament was delighted to include them from next year.
“Above all, we want to foster inclusion and participation in all the great sporting options we have out there,” he said. “We want to stay relevant and reflect the codes our rangitahi are choosing to engage in and surfing and orienteering will really add to the flavour of a magnificent festival of sports.”
027 274 3559