A young daredevil who uses his rugby superpowers to fly across the water with the greatest of ease will be racing to win gold for Australia in an exhilarating new Olympic windsurfing event. 

Meet Grae Morris, who will contest the new super fast iQFOil windsurfing class that’s making its Olympic debut at the Paris 2024 Games along with kiteboarding in a bid to make the Games more thrilling and watchable.

“It’s a new form of windsurfing and it will be amazing to show the world the future of our sport at the Paris Games,” the 20-year-old Morris tells Sportshounds.

“And to be able to represent Australia while doing it is a long-held dream of mine. It’s going to be great to be out there.”

Grae Morris

Instead of a fin, the iQFOil board has a streamlined wing-like foil which lifts athletes almost a metre above the waves, allowing them to fly over the water rather than on it, with greater speed and manoeuvrability.  The reduced drag also means greater danger and the risk of high-speed crashes.

Morris says the 26 Olympic competitors who’ll contest the event in the southern French port city of Marseilles, almost 800km south of Paris on the Mediterranean, will reach speeds of more than 60km per hour as they accelerate, twist and bump their way around the course on the Marina.

“The best way I can describe it is that it’s hectic and intense,” the NSW Institute of Sport (NSWIS) athlete says. “You’ve got to have all your senses working and be really on your game otherwise a lot can go wrong.

“We try not to bump into each other, but it happens. There’s going to be contact, and we’ve just got to work with what we get.”

It’s not quite rugby on water, but rugby certainly played a large part in the near 100kg windsurfer’s life and mindset.

A dual citizen born to New Zealand parents, Morris grew up loving rugby and the All Blacks but also had an interest in windsurfing through his father.

“Dad played a bit of rugby but he ended up being too small and he got beat up a lot so he moved into sailing and helped get me into it,” Morris says.

“He got me into windsurfing racing because he did a lot of events and I would go along and it ended up that I raced with him and against him.”

While he spent a lot of time growing up on the water, he was also busy on the rugby field. He played in the first XV at Sydney’s Cranbrook College and loved the team atmosphere but eventually had to make the choice between footy and windsurfing.

He chose windsurfing with the Woollahra Sailing Club and NSWIS, but gives thanks to rugby for his strength, fitness, attitude and sailing superpowers.

“Rugby is all about the training ethic and is a huge team sport that has definitely helped me get to where I am,” he said. “It’s super strict and if you want to win, everyone in the team has to put in and that attitude helps with my training now.”

Morris’s dad Brett was his first coach, but he has since hooked up with Arthur Brett who coached Tom Slingsby to the Laser gold medal in sailing at the London 2012 Olympics.

Morris also praised his Paris Olympic sailing teammates who have shared their experiences from previous Games. He said it’s part of getting in the mindset of continual improvement.

He became the Under-21 World Champion and finished fourth in the open final at the 2024 world championships a month ago in the Canary Islands, after coming ninth the year before, and was also fourth at an Olympic test event on the Marseilles course in July 2023.

So does that mean he’s going for gold in Paris? “Yes, 100 per cent,” he said. “I’ve got a great team around me with lots of experience and I’ve got a great coach.

“A lot of my teammates have had experience of getting medals and going to the Olympics, so even though I haven’t been to a Games before I’ve got a lot of people around me who are supporting and helping me on this journey so it’s very realistic. I just need to do my best when the time comes.”

Morris doesn’t plan on stopping at Paris either. “I’ll be doing LA (2028 Olympics) and I’ll be doing Brisbane (2032 Games) and I’ll keep going until they tell me to stop.”

But for now his focus is purely on Paris and the waters off Marseilles. “It’s an awesome location with a mix of every condition,” he said. “It will provide a great backdrop for our sport.”

The only negative is that Marseilles is so far from the main Olympic action in Paris and Morris’s competition schedule clashes with the Rugby Sevens competition at Paris’ famous Stade de France. 

“It’s a little disappointing not being close to the other athletes but we need the ocean, and we need the conditions,” he said. “But we’ll get around the best we can after our competition, and we’ll try to get into Paris to watch and support Australia’s other athletes.”

For Morris it’s all part of that rugby team ethos.

Story courtesy of Mike Osborne, Sportshounds

Photos: Sailing Energy/Beau Outteridge

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