Niche sport heading in the right direction


A map, compass, checkpoints and unfamiliar terrain are all components of a sport that tests the brain. 

Whether you run, walk or ride a bike, orienteering is a challenging adventure that is sure to excite. 

The Scandinavian phenomenon is gaining some traction in the Hunter with more than 100 people regularly gathering to participate in the sport. 

Former president and current member of the Newcastle Orienteering Club Geoff Peel says it “is like a car rally through the bush where you’re the driver, navigator and the car”. 

“It’s one of the biggest unknown sporting events in the world,” he said. 

“The basic premise is to navigate around an area and locate checkpoints, known as controls.

“It’s a niche sport, we’re not high profile in Australia and the western world but it is very challenging – it’s a bit like doing crosswords while you are running.”

The orienteer of nearly 40 years says the sport can be enjoyed by a wide array of people, as there is something for people of most ages and fitness levels. 

“It’s not like your traditional ball sports,” he said. 

“You can go out on the same course with your siblings, parents or friends.

“My wife and I venture out with our son Baxter and there are a few groups who go out with three generations as a family.”

He adds that anyone is welcome to come and try the sport with the club. 

“A membership is not needed for your first few events,” he said.

“Those who fall in love with the sport then join up.”

Peel believes most competitive orienteers would be fitter than the traditional sportsman, given that high levels of the sport involve running or mountain bike riding while navigating rough terrain and finding checkpoints. 

Despite some challenges created by the pandemic, the nature of the sport means they haven’t had to change too much. 

According to Peel, they already kept records of who attended each event to make sure they make it back and are not lost within the course. 

They also have staggered starting times in a bid to stop teams from following each other.  

The club’s next event will be at Elrington near Cessnock on Sunday 18 April, followed by an event at Wallsend the following Wednesday. 

Go to for more information about the Newcastle Orienteering Club and its events.