Lloyd Perratt knew he was going quick but he didn't really know how fast until competing at the recent Australian windfoil championships in Queensland.
The 19-year-old dominated the event, winning 13 of the 15 races to finish first overall in the fleet of 32, and first youth.
A couple of other Kiwis also featured prominently, with Ian Young third overall and first grand master and Thomas Crook fourth overall and second youth, despite early breakages and racing with a borrowed board and mast.
"I was aiming for top five but didn’t really know the calibre of the foiling over there so I surprised myself," Perratt said. "It’s pretty much the first major regatta I have ever won so I’m pretty chuffed."
It was certainly one of his first windfoiling.
Perratt spent seven years sailing dinghies, from Optimists to 29ers, before trying windsurfing. He achieved decent success at youth level, but struggled to be at the front of the fleet with regularity so took a step backwards and started windfoiling mainly for enjoyment.
"I never really hit my stride in the RS:X," he said. "I was always quite competitive but never got particularly fast. I was always struggling with boat speed, fluency around the course and keeping myself together through a regatta. I tried windfoiling and just did so much of it I probably got quite good at it."
He's part of a burgeoning fleet in New Zealand as more and more fall back in love with windsurfing again.
It has also helped that he's been able to train regularly with some of the world's best, including RS:X world champion Kiran Badloe from the Netherlands who is a windfoiling disciple and regularly trains in New Zealand with Kiwi coach Aaron McIntosh.
The sport is likely to grow even further following the recent decision to replace windsurfing with windfoiling on the programme for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
"It’s a great evolution for windsurfing because it’s something that’s actually fun to do exclusive of racing," he said. "The problem with the RS:X is that it wasn’t a particularly fun board to sail in most conditions. You didn’t want to buy one and go recreational sailing and, because of that, you never got the weekend warrior fleet we get in foiling."
He's now wondering where a sport he thought was out of reach might now take him. Perratt is at an ideal age to take advantage, particularly as everyone is largely starting from scratch, and is contemplating dipping his toes in the European race circuit in 2021.
The main focus this year is university - he's studying law at Otago - because he's wary of the costs and difficulty of competing overseas.
"I’m not really in a position to be able to trailblaze," he said. "I know there are a couple of youth guys going to Europe later this year to compete and do the European windfoil circuit. "I can’t really do that this year because it’s a lot of money and I’ll look to learn off some others about the circuit in another year. Once it gains more momentum, I can give some serious thought to going overseas and competing."
Results and standings from the Australian windfoil championships in Queensland:
1st: Lloyd Perratt (NZL) (2) (1) 1 1 1 1 1 1 (3) 1 1 1 1 1 1 - 12 points
2nd: Julien Savina (AUS) 1 2 (33 OCS) (4) (7) 3 3 2 1 2 3 2 2 2 2 - 25 pts
3rd: Ian Young (NZL) (4) 3 2 3 2 (5) 2 3 2 4 2 3 3 (7) 4 - 33 pts
4th: Thomas Crook (NZL) (8) 4 3 2 3 2 (8) 5 (8) 6 5 4 7 5 8 - 54 pts
How can I get involved in windfoiling?
There's an active group of windfoilers in Auckland, with regular coaching and racing at the Wakatere Boating Club, Manly Sailing Club or Maraetai Sailing Club. Alan McIntosh at Lake Pupuke also offers lessons. Pockets of activity are popping up in places like Taupo and Nelson but anyone interested in learning more can contact Sam Mackay at Yachting New Zealand.