Orienteering, sometimes called map sport, involves running (or walking), biking or skiing while navigating with the aid of a map, and sometimes a compass, through a set course. Courses can be almost anywhere, and those used for competition include control points that have to be visited in a set order. The person who reaches all of the control points in the fastest time is the winner. But speed alone will not do it – choosing the best route between control points is crucial.
In 2013 there were 17 New Zealand orienteering clubs, with 2,000 members and 24 permanent orienteering courses. At the 2012 world championships in Slovakia, Matt Ogden won New Zealand’s first orienteering gold medal, and the junior team of which he was a member lifted their ranking to ninth overall (the highest New Zealand ranking ever). The Oceania Carnival, which included several World Cup events, was held in New Zealand in 2013. Lizzie Ingham, who is ranked 25th in the world, came third in the world cup sprint final.
It is believed that the first orienteering event in New Zealand was organised in 1952 by the Otago University Tramping Club. That same year, students at Mt Roskill Grammar School in Auckland began orienteering on a regular basis. The sport was a natural fit for harrier (running) clubs, some of which added orienteering to their activities in the 1950s and 1960s. The first official competitions were held in Auckland and Wellington in 1969, and in 1972 the first dedicated club, the Pupuke Orienteers, was formed on Auckland’s North Shore. The New Zealand Orienteering Federation (NZOF) was set up in 1973.
The challenge of choosing the best route and getting over it fast attracts a wide range of people, and all of them can be found difference courses on the same map at the same time. Young, old, male, female, elite and recreational orienteers compete together, enjoying the sport sometimes known as ‘cunning running’.
Mountain bike orienteering, rogaining and ski orienteering
Mountain bike orienteering arrived in New Zealand in the 1990s, with the first national championship held in 2000. There has been a regular Australia-New Zealand challenge (often won by New Zealand), and New Zealand riders go to the world championships.
Rogaining is long-distance, endurance orienteering done in teams. The sport was invented in Australia in the early 1980s, with the first New Zealand rogaine held by Orienteering Hutt Valley in 1991. Since then orienteering clubs across the country have run rogaines (which can last up to 24 hours), including the world championship in 2000. Both NZOF and the New Zealand Rogaining Association (set up in 2001) help organise and run rogaines.
Orienteering on skis (also known as ski-o), is popular in Scandinavia and Europe. Ski orienteering was first tried in New Zealand at the Waiorau ski field near Wānaka in 1991. In the 2000s the activity was run by the Dunedin and Southland orienteering clubs at Waiorau.