Olympic champion Tom Ashley is planning to shake the rust out of his system in Tauranga this week with his first competitive windsurfing outing in more than a year.
The 25-year-old will line up in the inaugural North Island championships, after taking a break from his sport following his gold medal win in Beijing.
He's spent a year studying at Auckland University and recharging after a gruelling Olympic campaign.
"I've only been back sailing for three weeks," Ashley said. "I'm a bit rusty and it will probably take me a good year to get back into decent shape but I'm totally refreshed and I'm enjoying sailing again."
Decent shape for Ashley exists in a different realm to most people. His extraordinary fitness paved the way for his Olympic success and he's an accomplished cyclist who trains regularly with former Tauranga doctor Mat Brick, a renowned endurance hell-man.
He won't get an easy reintroduction to his main sport this weekend though, with reigning national champion Jon-Paul Tobin and visiting Italian Olympic representative Flavia Tartaglini both competing. "It's a nice chance to get out of Auckland and sail somewhere new - it's quite a long time since I've sailed anywhere else apart from Takapuna while I'm in New Zealand so it's really cool to be down here," Ashley said.
New Zealand women's No 1 Kate Ellingham knows Tauranga Harbour a little better, however, having competed at the Starling nationals early in 2005, when Tauranga's Peter Burling broke through and won.
"I hit the sandbank the last time I was here - it was a bit of a shock and I didn't realise it was there but I'm well aware of it now," Ellingham recounts.
"They set the top mark on the other side of the bank and I was thinking Peter Burling was a muppet sailing the long way around. Next thing, I was the muppet high and dry and he was sailing around the top mark!"
The 21-year-old has spent the past two days coaching on Tauranga Harbour, helping the next generation of Olympic wannabes develop on the junior Techno boards.
Ellingham herself has had a breakthrough year, finishing 11th at the world championships in September, and is hoping to use this weekend as the kick-start for another solid season.
"I've been really focused on getting a good result at worlds and I needed it for funding just to prove to myself I was getting better and moving in the right direction."
RS:X and Techno Association president Dave MacKay said this weekend's event was the perfect opportunity to capitalise on a surge of interest in Bay of Plenty boardsailing.
With funding from TECT, Tauranga's Bay of Plenty Sailing Academy took delivery of six brand new Techno boards last week, which will be be in use this weekend.
"You've just got to get that initial kick-start and then you're away," MacKay said. "There used to be dozens of windsurfers sailing backwards and forwards across the harbour here but it goes in waves. The idea is to really get some momentum and things happening in the regions - and what a place to sail here."