When the gun went off at 7am on January 2, 1990, more than 230 individuals and 80 team swimmers plunged into the tide and headed into a maze of boats clustered in the mist.
“We thought if we got 100 people in total, we would be doing okay,” says the Tauranga Half’s past race director Bruce Trask.
Now, 30 years on, the Tauranga Half has developed into an iconic event in the triathlon and Bay of Plenty community, with crowds lining the café-filled streets of Mount Maunganui to cheer on athletes.
This Saturday the Tauranga Half will be celebrating 30 years alongside more than 1500 athletes, including many of the country’s elite long distance triathletes.
“The festival is an event which the public can watch or participate in at one of New Zealand’s most popular summer destinations,” says general manager Lauren Watson.
“We are looking forward to celebrating the 30th anniversary of Tauranga Half this Saturday.
“The iconic event has been a part of the Mount Maunganui summer since 1990, making it one of NZ’s longest running and most iconic triathlons.”
The roll call of winners from the Tauranga’s Half 30-year history reads like a “who’s who” of the sport in NZ with past champions including Cameron Brown, Braden Currie, Jo Lawn and Samantha Bradley (nee Warriner).
There have also been several international athletes’ record Tauranga Half victories including Australian’s Craig Alexander, Melissa Hauschildt and Kate Bevilaqua.
Many former winners are returning for this year’s 30th anniversary, including women’s winner Karen Williams, 1991 men’s winner Dave Bradding and three-time men’s winner (1992, 1994 and 1997) Tony O’Hagan.
The Tauranga Half is the headline event for the Mount Festival of Multisport, which includes a range of athletic and community events in Mount Maunganui from January 11-13. The Mount Festival of Multisport is centred around a festival village in Pilot Bay.
“In 2015 a selection of events were added to Tauranga Half to create a festival that appealed to a wider range of people with varied athletic abilities. These events now sit under the umbrella of the Mount Festival of Multisport.”
“This year’s Mount Festival includes the hallmark Tauranga Half, the Enduro long distance triathlon, the Hopt Soda Aquabike, Mount Run, Athletes expo, and other iconic summer events such as the Mt Maunganui Beach Volleyball Open.”
The annual Tauranga Half is on Saturday, January 12, at 6.30am on Mount Maunganui’s picturesque Pilot Bay.