Wind Driven: Barbara Kendall's Story by Wendy Kendall

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Wind Driven: Barbara Kendall's Story by Wendy Kendall

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Category: Biography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Wheldon Curzon-Hobson
Reviewed by Wheldon Curzon-Hobson
Summary: I thoroughly recommend this intimate portrayal of the challenges and successes of one of windsurfer's greatest stars.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: November 2008
Publisher: Random House NZ Ltd
ISBN: 9781869790431

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Barbara Kendell is an extraordinary woman. She has not only won windsurfing medals at three Olympics, she is a mother, an IOC representative, public speaker and mentor. This biography, written by her sister, tells the inspiring story of an extraordinary woman who overcame her personal challenges and remains at the top of her sport after twenty years of competition.

Back in 1986 the weather forecast predicted severe gale force winds to thrash the Auckland coast. Yacht owners battened down their boats, praying theirs wouldn't be one of the unfortunate vessels that broke free from their moorings and smashed against the rocks. The ferries continued to grind against the wind as they battled across to Waiheke, knowing they might not return that afternoon if the sea became too fierce, inducing varying shades of green on the faces of their passengers. The pilots approached the airport as warily as they might land at Wellington on a relatively mild day, and the motorcycles were soon to be banned from crossing the Harbour Bridge.

Meanwhile down at Eastern Beach, in the Eastern Suburbs, there was a flurry of activity. Cars raced to the beach, their drivers quickly unlashing their windsurfers from the roofs and attaching hurricane masts. The students at Macleans College raised their weary heads from their textbooks and the sight of the first windsurfers flying across the waves instantly dispelled the numbness of studying algebra. Even the teacher came across the window and expressed his amazement at their speed and skill.

Children living around Eastern and Bucklands Beaches grew up either on or in the sea. Backyards and garages were filled with sailing dinghies, Optimists and P-class boats. Then came the windsurfers, and they rapidly became the choice of many, especially as the Kendalls lived in the area. They were legends in yachting and windsurfing years before they won Olympic medals.

Barbara joined her gold medallist brother, Bruce, by winning the gold in Barcelona in 1992, making her the first New Zealand woman to win a gold medal for 40 years. She won silver at Atlanta in 1996, bronze at Sydney in 2000 and was New Zealand's best in Athens in 2004 with a fifth placing. She won New Zealand Sportswoman of the year in 1996, 1998 and 1999; Yachtsperson of the year in 1992 and 1998; and has been awarded an MBE in 1992 for services to windsurfing.

Wind Driven is written by Barbara's sister Wendy. It is an intimate portrayal of this remarkable woman. It portrays not only her remarkable strengths, but also her weaknesses, and how she triumped over them. It shows how important friends and family are in the success of such an individual sport. There are times of depression and isolation, of extraordinary happiness and triumph, of anger and frustration with various administrators. To even be a single woman on the international circuit, lugging 300kg of equipment from one country to another, let alone competing at the very top for over 20 years, is an extraordinary achievement. This is a book to inspire, to challenge and, ultimately, a book that will leave you in admiration of a singularly impressive New Zealand woman.

For another book about a woman who made the sea her own we can recommend Taking on the World by Ellen MacArthur.

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