Windsurfing: Dentist's sport is a breeze

Pictured at the New Zealand slalom windsurfing championships on the Otago Harbour yesterday were (from left) Harry Reed, Luke Watson and Laurence Carey. Team captain Jim Rodgers is in front. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Pictured at the New Zealand slalom windsurfing championships on the Otago Harbour yesterday were (from left) Harry Reed, Luke Watson and Laurence Carey. Team captain Jim Rodgers is in front. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Jim Rodgers is a semiretired Auckland dentist with a passion for windsurfing.

Rodgers (60) is in Dunedin this week for the New Zealand slalom championships on Otago Harbour. Rodgers has reached GPS speeds of 36 knots, equating to about 66kmh.

''I like the wind-powered speed, rather than anything with motors,'' he said.

''I like the freedom you have. The type of work I do is quite high-stressed and windsurfing is a natural release.

''On the water I am concentrating on sailing and my mind goes free. It is very relaxing.''

Rodgers goes windsurfing four or five days each week if there is wind.

''Now that I'm semiretired I look at the weather map and plan my work schedule as a dentist,'' he said. ''I finish work early in the afternoon and then go to the beach to rig up my windsurfer and train.''

He is one of a record 48 windsurfers competing in the 10th national championships to be held in the city.

Dunedin is a popular spot for the event with its northeasterly breeze that livens up the harbour. It is the ninth successive event to be held in the city and Rodgers has been to the last seven.

Rodgers has always enjoyed extreme sports. He was a whitewater kayaker in his youth and became a keen sailor in the dinghy and keeler class after immigrating to New Zealand from Northern Ireland in 1977.

''I like the speed and the technical side of the sport,'' he said.

''You can also train on your own and don't have to worry about other crew members.

''In slalom racing the board designs are very intricate in shape and form. We have different-sized sails for different wind conditions.''

A skilled operator can make significant improvements by tuning the sails and battens and by varying the tension that is put on a sail.

Rodgers started windsurfing in 1994 and in the last 19 years he has had a few serious crashes and injuries.

The most serious injury came after a crash in the national speed championships in 1997.

''I had a partial neural thorax. My lung came away from the rib cage.''

He has had other serious injuries.

''I had my cruciate ligament removed from both knees when my feet got stuck in straps on the waves,'' he said. He also had shoulder injuries and had five stitches inserted for a bad cut on his forehead.

''I'm getting older but I don't think I'm getting more sensible. I still tend to push myself pretty hard. The injuries are part and parcel of this extreme sport.

''I'd like to think that I will still be windsurfing in my late 60s. The passion is still there. It's just about my body holding up.''

Rodgers formed the Team 10 windsurfing club in Auckland and three other club members have joined him for the championships in Dunedin.

They are Harry Reed, Luke Watson and Laurence Carey. The best performed has been Carey (19), who won the junior men's title in Dunedin last year and was third in the open event.

Because of the lack of wind, no racing was possible on the Otago Harbour yesterday. But officials are confident of completing the championships today and tomorrow.