Category Archives: Kayaking

17th February 2019: Rangitata River

Date: 17/02/19
River: Rangitata River, South Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 59 cumecs at Klondyke, water cold and clear. Grade 2.
Weather Conditions: Sunny, warm with light winds.
Number on Trip: 5 (plus 5 doing the grade 4 gorge section)
Time on River: 3.25 hours
Comments: There was a little bit of confusion over meeting times and other trip details after the trip had a change of leaders, so I was quite glad when I showed up at Caltex Hornby, running slightly late, to find there were a number of vehicles parked on the road with kayaks on them. Ian F was there with a small group of people keen to do the grade 2 section from Klondyke down, however after a sort discussion, it turned out that the grade 4 paddlers and the trip organiser had headed off or changed the meeting time and place. Ian made a few calls and then we headed off the BP Rolleston to sort out boats and vehicles. From Rolleston we drove up the Rangitata Rafts HQ to meet up with the rest of the group.

Getting ready at the put in.

Once we were all together, we drove down to the Klondyke put in and got changed. From there we took all the vehicles to the OPC take out and dropped off the grade 2 paddlers vehicles off there. We then accompanied the grade 4 paddlers to their put in and shuttled the vehicles back to Klondyke. We kitted up and walked down to the river carrying our boats over our shoulders. We were just having our safety briefing for setting off, when a guy appeared and asked if any of us had a set of jumper cables. As we only had the shuttle vehicles, no one knew what was in the cars. In the end, we gave him a push start in all our kayaking gear (it was a very warm day) and he managed to get the car started and drive off. We completed our briefing and then took to the water.

Ben runs the weir in style.

I was paddling my new Blitz Special and was keen to see what difference the lower volume would make. Our first obstacle was the weir and I suggested a line and went down first, turned out not the best line as I hit the rock that Ben had noted and tipped over. I banged my elbow but soon rolled upright, a little embarrassed at not having exactly inspired confidence to the rest of the group I was leading. The rest of the team had no dramas, though Merv manage to take a swim after tipping out in the eddy below the weir.

From there on, we worked our way through the various rapids and boulder gardens, picking our way down trying to maximise our fun by trying to catch as many eddies as we could, while surfing as much as possible. By the end of each rapid I was pretty tired, but it was a lot of fun.

SUP action on the Rangitata.

We were joining on the trip by Tony on his inflatable stand up paddleboard (SUP), which made an interesting addition to the our group and I was particularly interested in seeing how it would perform on the rapids. Tony was a very experienced paddler and we didn’t expect him to have any problems.

Tony styles a rapid on his SUP.

It was quite neat to watch Tony as he navigated the rapids and maintained his balance. As we were generally continuously on the move, in order to capture the action photos, I had to float down the rapids holding the camera and balancing the paddle on the kayaks deck.

A nice play spot by the groynes. Ben has a surf.

The river had moved away from the set of groynes that had been put in to reduce bank erosion, but quite a good rapid had form there and we had a good surf on the wave at the bottom.

A beautiful day for a paddle, no matter what craft you choose to use.

It was a beautiful day to be on the river and I soon settled in to my new Blitz Special, it felt very familiar but a little more responsive and certainly easier to dip the lower volume ends into the water. The main thing I did notice, was how sore my feet got. With my Blitz, I had to carve away some of the foam central pillar to make it comfortable and I thought I had removed enough from the Blitz Special, but apparently not. Mind you, at least I didn’t have to stand up for the whole trip.

Ben surfing while the gulls wheel over head.

There must have been some nesting sites for seagulls and in some places the air was full of their screeching calls as they wheeled and soared over head.

AJ having some fun.

Everyone seemed to have a good day and really enjoyed the experience, especially as it was the first time the rest of the group had paddled the Rangitata. The river provides pretty of challenges if you choose to accept them and there aren’t very many stretches without any rapids. It is a good section for beginners and for those just wanting a good fun paddle.

Merv enjoying his paddle.

It was great to paddle past the towering cliffs of gravel and rock, especially interesting from a groundwater perspective to see the volumes of water flowing out of the cliffs in specific locations.

It isn’t often that you get your boat delivered directly to you in this style.

At one stage Ben decided to get out of his boat and let it float away from him as he enjoyed a refreshing dip. Tony was kind enough to pick it up and ferry it back to him on his deck, otherwise there would have been more swimming involved.

… and at the end of the day, it just packs away for easy storage.

Eventually we reached the take out, which was a bit of a relief as my legs were killing me and I was getting pretty tired. Once on shore we packed up all our gear and Tony deflated and folded up his board (try that with a kayak). We drove back to Rolleston, pausing for a well earned cider and a chat at the Mayfield Tavern, and then off home, feeling somewhat sore and tired.

3rd February 2019: Avon River

Date:    3/02/2019
Avon River, Christchurch, NZ
River Conditions:   
1.54 cumecs at Gloucester Street bridge. Water mostly clear. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:   
Sunny and warm, strongish nor-easterly wind.
Number on Trip:    
1 person.
Time on River:  
1 hour.
Comments:  I was considering going for a bike ride for the Aotearoa Bike Challenge but the warm weather convinced me that I needed to take the new Blitz Special out for a test run. So I got changed, picked up the boat and carried it across the Red Zone to the river, fastened the deck and with a splash, launched into the river from the bank. I had only planned to go for a short paddle to make sure the new boat was comfortable and watertight, but once on the water I found myself powering upstream.

It was nice to be out on the water and was good to get a feel for the Blitz Special. It felt very similar to my Blitz (not exactly surprising given it’s basically the same boat), but it was much easier to push the bow underwater by leaning forward and the lower volume tail would easily slice in when pushing round sharp turns. Should be fun to take it out next time I’m heading for the Hurunui.

Some beautiful scenery to paddle through. Near the Barbadoes Street Cemetery.

The water was clear and reasonably swift around the Barbaboes Street Cemetery, where the banks had closed in a little due to lateral spreading during the quakes. The section is quite pretty and allows you to escape into the “countryside” whilst paddling through the Central City.

“Playing” on the Fire Station “Rapid” near where we used to live.

Eventually I reached the spot near where we used to live and where I used to launch my old Dura before I took to the white water. As part of the post quake redevelopment of the river, they’ve modified the shallow Fire Station “rapid” to form riffles and have placed some rocks along the edges to form eddies, plus adding additional plantings to make it more natural. Kind of fun, but a little to swift and shallow for me to get any further upstream so I turned and headed for home.

Two dogs in a canoe exploring the Avon on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

The trip home was a lot quicker with the current helping. I passed the guy pictured above on the way up and then again on the way back. He was paddling a very old looking fiberglass canoe, with two smallish dogs sitting up the front and every time they saw a duck or something, they would both start barking and then the guy would try and quieten them, they made quite a racket.

Eventually I passed under the Swans Road bridge and pulled over to the left bank and scrambled out of my boat, pulled the boat out of the water and wandered home through the Richmond Community Garden for a well deserved shower and a rest.

27th January 2019: Hurunui River

Date:    27/01/19
River:    Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:   42.5 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2 – 3, water swift & slightly discoloured.
Weather Conditions:  Overcast & cool, with strong north westerly winds.
Number on Trip:   15 kayakers (11 doing Maori Gully).
Time on River: 
4 hours
Comments:  With Tekapo running, a number of club members head down to enjoy the course and run the Pukaki River as well. For those that remained in Christchurch, Blair organised a trip to the Hurunui. The weather was looking hot and someone suggested that there wouldn’t be any winds, though when the Met Service site was checked, gale force nor-westerlies were predicted. We met up at The Peg and sorted out vehicles, one group didn’t know where they were going so planned to follow us in John Rs’ car but seemed to get lost on route.

An eel at Jollie Brook.

We arrived at the Maori Gully take out and there was no one waiting so we carried on to Seawards and got changed before carrying on to the Jollie Brook put in. There was further confusion with one group heading up to the Sisters Stream put in, the on / off shuttle with one vehicle heading off with the pack raft on board. We put on the river around 11am to have a warm up while we waited for the shuttle to be run and for everything to be sorted out. I spotted a largish eel swimming close to the bank and managed to get a quick underwater photo of it before it disappeared down into the depths.

Chatting at Jollie Brook, while waiting for the trip to officially start.

Eventually everyone arrived back, sorted out their gear, got on the river and we were away a little before 12pm.

Playing on the Jollie Brook section.

At around 43 cumecs, the rapids down from Jollie Brook were lots of fun, with most of the rocks covered and plenty of bouncy rapids and small waves to surf on. It was a good warm up and I found it very enjoyable to work my way down the river, often backwards, from eddy to eddy, wave to wave.

Carving it up.

We had a fairly large group and we got quite spread out at times, but there didn’t seem to be any dramas. I didn’t witness any swims and every time I saw people upside down, it was followed by a roll.

More play on the Jollie Brook section.

Once through the boulder gardens, the river passes through a series of gorges on its’ way down the confluence with the South Branch. The gorges sheltered us from some of the winds but at times, gusts threaten to push us over and it was just a matter of keeping your paddle low and trying to keep your balance.

Rock splat!

There are some nice rapids on the Jollie Brook section and plenty of fun to be had, but eventually we reached the South Branch confluence and the river open up, exposing us to the increasingly strong winds.

Sheralee making the moves in a pack raft.

Sheralee borrowed one of Hughs’ pack rafts and really put it through its’ paces. Having thigh braces fitted to the pack raft meant that she was able to pull some tight turns and exert some very kayak like control over the raft. Quite impressive for something so light and easily portable.

Running Devils’ Fang Falls.

We discussed lines for running Devils’ Fang Falls, John R suggested aiming for the highest point of the wave above the drop on the river right and then straight down the tongue, as at this flow most of the rock would be covered. This seemed to be more or less the line that everyone took, I had to bit of a brace at the bottom to stay upright and everyone else seemed to manage with similar results. John R had a good play on the wave above the drop before carrying on down, enjoying it so much he carried his boat back up to run it again.

Ians’ new boat at Devils’ Fang Falls.

Taking good photographs at Devils’ Fang Falls was pretty tricky as the strong winds kept whipping spray into the camera lens and the increased flows meant that kayakers were moving swiftly, but still managed to get the odd good shot.

Chris in his open canoe shows how it is done.

It was good to see such a variety of river craft on the trip, with Sheralee in a pack raft, Chris is his huge open canoe, as well as a wide variety of kayaks from RPMs, Axioms, play boats, rarer creek boats and even Ian Fs’ new slalom inspired 303.

Playing below Dozy Stream.

We spent a bit of time surf on the wave below the Dozy Stream put in, always a good location for photos, then on down to Seawards. The wind was being to blow harder and we just focused to getting down the river, with a lot less play, it was still fun but you definitely had to keep your paddle low.

At Seawards, some of the group got out to run the shuttle while the rest continued on through Maori Gully. The wave train was great and bouncy, the wind knocked some of the fun out of the Magic Roundabout, but some people were keen to have a play, cutting back and forth between the rocks and eddies, and riding up on the pillow at the base of the bluff. Kerry encouraged Ruth, who had swapped boats with Kerry, to push through Simons’ Hole without any drama and John R choose to give it a surf, but almost got caught on exiting.

Worked our way down the boulder gardens and past Bum Rock. The Elevator was pretty good, with people choosing to run it either side of the rock in the centre. As usually there were a few nerves around Cheese Grater, but with the higher flow it was pretty straight forward, running it just right of centre, heading to the right. I went down the tongue and then straight of the top of a pretty big wave at the bottom of the drop, I’m pretty sure I got some air off that. No were good for me to pull over to, so no photos.

On down through the corner rapid, where some of the group had a bit of a surf on the wave, but it gets a bit hard to get on it and stay there at this flow. The next stop was the Pop Up Spot and a few pop ups where attempted to varying degrees of success, the rounded bows of RPMs seem to spill too much water to really work well. Off down the last few rapids to the get out and then the dreaded hike up the hill, before packing up and heading back to town.

13th January 2019: Hurunui River

Date:    13/01/19
River:    Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:   25 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2 – 3, water swift, cool & clear.
Weather Conditions:  Overcast & cool, with strong north westerly winds.
Number on Trip:   17 kayakers (10 doing Maori Gully).
Time on River: 
3.5 hours
Comments:  Although it was in the WWCC trip calendar, nothing had really been organised as there was no trip leading or meeting time. Checking Facebook brought up the details of a proposed trip and so we loaded up the car and got down to The Peg by 9am. Chris and Helen were fitting in a final New Zealand kayaking trip before heading off on a big overseas experience, and so the trip was not an official WWCC trip. I got a ride with Mike up to the Maori Gully take out, where we worked out the trip details. The wind was blowing strongly and so the original plan of putting in at Jollie Brook was changed in favour of putting in at South Branch. So it was back into the vehicles and off the South Branch, pausing only for a brief look at Devils’ Fang Falls to check the lines. We we got changed and the drivers ran the shuttle, while the rest of us enjoyed a chat and some lunch.

Warming up on South Branch.

The wind wasn’t as strong at put in but it was still fairly cool, but once on the river we soon warmed up. The South Branch down to the confluence provided a nice practice section, to awaken skills and to remind me that I can actually paddle. From the confluence, the volume increased but at 25 cumecs, the Hurunui is still fairly cruisy, though the strong winds battered us a little. Not much in the way of major rapids in this section but we took the opportunity to practice moves whilst pondering what to do when we reached Devils’ Fang Falls at Dozy Stream. I wasn’t that keen on the normal right hand line as it was looking quite tight and any mistakes at the top might have resulted in some nasty rock interactions. I decided to take the left hand channel with everyone else, but instead of getting out to portage, I’d drop down on the far side of the rapid, coming below the main rapid. This was the theory away, instead I dropped down a little earlier than planned and found myself looking down into a narrow slot of boiling white water. As I was committed, the only way out was forward and so forward I went.

Devil’s Fang Falls.My line was just above the centre of the photo.

I kept a pretty straight line through the middle, with water spilling down all around me, pushing the tail down and me against the back deck. The boat went down deep, whilst remaining almost vertical, apparently disappearing completely from view for a few seconds before shooting out at the bottom of the rapid in a white maelstrom. I let out a loud “woo hoo!” and paddle out of the rapid feeling exhilarated and a little more confidant in my paddling abilities. Sergio was the only other kayaker to run the rapid, using the more usual right hand line, while the rest of the group portaged down the left hand side.

Chris pulls some moves.

Past Dozy Stream, we stopped at the wave play spot and much playing was done. I always find this spot a little intimidating as it is just above a bluff where I’ve had the odd swim in the past, so I mainly stuck to taking a few photos. From here on, we made our way down to Seawards, generally taking it fairly easy.

Helen in Maori Gully.
Surfing in Maori Gully.

At Seawards, part of the group got out to run the shuttle and the rest of us continued on through Maori Gully. The wave train down to the Magic Roundabout was nice and bouncy. A few people chose to have a play on the Magic Roundabout, bouncing between the various rocks and eddies, and riding the pillow at the base of the bluff. On past Simon’s Hole, where Chris had a bit of a surf, something I’d never seen before. Occasionally I’ve seen other kayakers flirt with the hole, playing around the margins, but Chris was having a good play without any dramas, I wasn’t keen to follow suit though.

Running Cheese Grater.
Post Cheese Grater, some people make it look easy.

On down through the boulder garden and then down the Bum Rock rapid, took an interesting line and slid between a couple of holes without any dramas. The Elevator was all good and then on to Cheese Grater. The odd person chose to portage on the left hand side but some people ran it right of centre without any dramas. Last time I ran it, there were quite a few rocks below the surface on the right hand side and the undercut on the left hand side, so I ran a fairly central line down the tongue, pointing to the right, with a reasonable amount of speed to punch through the wave at the bottom. All went well and I pulled into the eddy near the bottom to take photos.

Lining up to drop in to surf the wave at the Corner Rapid.
Surfing on the Corner Rapid wave.
Chris shows what you can do in a Blitz Special.

The corner rapid was good and the hole at the bottom provided some great surfing opportunities for those who could get on it. We had a brief stop at the Pop Up Spot and had a little play, even I gave it a go and didn’t do too badly, while those in larger volume boats struggle to get lift off. From here it was down to the get out, a little more play at the get out before trudging up the hill and then home via the Brew Moon for a beer. Definitely need to work on my fitness as I am now pretty sore and tired.

Queuing at the Pop Up Spot.

11th November 2018: Waiau Uwha River

Date: 11/11/2018
River: Waiau Uwha River, North Canterbury, New Zealand.
River Conditions: 11 cumecs at Malings Pass. 173 falling to 161 cumecs at Marble Point. Water discoloured, cool & swift. Grade 3.
Weather Conditions: Sunny & warm, light NE winds.
Number on Trip: 19 people.
Time on River: 4.5 Hours.
Comments: When I spotted the announcement for this trip, it looked pretty exciting as I had never run this section, but had often looked longingly across the river at its’ steep rocky gorges. Since this section is normally run as a two day trip which includes The Narrows (a very tight gorge with a number of grade 3 & 4 rapids), I wasn’t likely to run it in the future. The plan was to be transported via four wheel drives driven by the friendly folk at Glenhope Station, from the Boyle Outdoor Education Centre to Tin Jug Hut. We would then put in below The Narrows section and paddle down to the Waiau Uwha / Hope River confluence.

In the week leading up to the trip, the West Coast was batter by heavy rains and Canterbury received a fair amount of rain too. Rivers rose and even the access track looked like it could be compromised. Fortunately the weather cleared up for the weekend and the river flows fell, the access track was given the thumbs up and the trip was definitely on.

4:30am rolled round pretty quickly and it was up for breakfast and to finish loading up the car before racing off to Belfast for the 5:45am meeting. After loading up Hugh’s trailer, we had a brief wait for a few stragglers and we were heading off up State Highway One by 6:05am. The drive up to the take out point was uneventful but when we went to open the gate to get down to the river, it was locked and we didn’t have to combination. We left a vehicle there and then carried on to the Boyle River Outdoor Education Centre and got our gear sorted out before the shuttle vehicles from Glenhope Station arrived.

With almost 20 people doing the trip, the shuttle would take two trips in with the two 4x4s and the trailer loaded up with all the boats and associated gear. When Todd and Chris arrived, we hitched the trailer on and piled in. The drive through the Magdalen Valley was quite spectacular and we got to look down on the Boyle River and consider the potential for a future trip (looked like a nice grade 2/3 run with the right amount of water). The track was pretty rugged and there were a number of creek crossings, so we were very glad to have suitable vehicles and such excellent drivers to get us in.

Beautiful scenery on the drive in along the Magdalen Valley, Glenhope Station.

We crossed a low pass and then traveled down to Tin Jug Hut, that sits looking over the Waiau Valley and marked the put in for our trip.

Looking down the Waiau Valley from above the put in.

As we had a quite a bit of time to wait, Matt and I climbed up the track to see if we could get more of an idea what to expect downstream. The view was impressive, but the river looked a little daunting, brown and swift. We could also looked upstream to where The Narrows opened out into the valley and were quite glad we didn’t need to paddle that section today.

Waiting for the rest of the group at the Tin Jug Hut.

We ferried our gear down to the river and then sat around the hut, enjoying the warmth and sunshine, shedding the extra layers of paddling gear we had worn on the way in.

Here comes the rest of the group.

Eventually the second group arrived and then the preparations became a little more serious. Paddling gear was put back on, boats were loaded up and moved to the river bank and then we all pitched in to help Hugh get his cataraft down to the river. Part of the group went further in the vehicles, planning to put in below the first gorge and thus avoiding some of harder water.

Moving boats down to the river at the put in.

We had decided to split into three groups and most of us were on the river shortly before midday. Once I had launched, I felt the current pulling at my boat and it took some getting used to the turbulence and boily nature of the swollen river, it had definitely been awhile since I had paddled anything so high. Concentration was high and my confidence was feeling sapped as I worked my way across to an eddy above the first narrow section where the river turned tightly and some of the flow piled into a bluff. Things definitely looked scarier seated in my boat, down in the current than they did from the hillside above.

All fresh and ready for adventure.

Across the river, I watched the more confidant paddlers at play before they disappeared, one by one, around the corner. Eventually I broke out into the current and let it take me down stream, getting used to the power of the water took some time but as long as you kept an eye on where you were going and what was coming up, you could generally avoid the worst of it and by sticking to the centre of the flow, avoiding the boiling water around the banks and keeping a firm paddle blade in the water, keeping up right wasn’t too hard.

Breaking out to head down through the first gap.

Once through the first narrow point without any dramas, the river opened up again and there was a bit of a reprieved before the rock walls reared up and the river was forced through a narrow gorge. I was able to get a bit more comfortable during this section and was soon feeling a little more relaxed. The water was cold and I appreciated having put the extra layers back on, especially as the sun didn’t seem to reach into the gorge sections.

Kelly is all smiles.

The swift current meant there wasn’t much opportunity for playing but people took advantage of any fun that there was to be had. In the tight gorges, there were not too many places to stop, what looked like a good eddy to take some photos from was usually a turbulent swirl, full of boils. Any swims tended to be long, and recovery tricky, especially if people didn’t hold on to their boats and paddle.

Powering down a rapid.

Being in a tight gorge at a high flow can be pretty intimidating, often there are not good places to stop, just small, nasty eddies with boily eddy lines just waiting to trip you up and they can be pretty lonely too as your group can get strung out and there is no way to know what is happening out of sight either upstream or downstream. Keeping to the middle and keeping paddling worked, but I didn’t get many pictures, though seeing other people Go-Pro footage I’m not surprised I didn’t stop for some snaps.

Big water and swift currents were easily handled by Chris and his open canoe.

While most of the group chose to paddle a kayak, Chris bucked the trend and was paddling his big open canoe. He did well navigating the rapids and even though his boat was crammed with air bags, it often seemed to need bailing out. Definitely some impressive paddling with half the paddle and twice the boat.

There seemed to be a lot to smile about on this adventure.

The trip had a real adventure feel to it, as I had no idea what was round each corner or what was coming up. With trips on the Ashley or Hurunui, I know each rapid and the best ways to run them, I know where to stop to get that photo, where the play spots are and how far it is to the get out. With this trip, it was all new and nothing was expected.

Chris exits a gorge in his open canoe.

It was quite a relief to finally get out of the first gorge, the sky opened up above us, giving us the opportunity to relax a little and appreciated the splendor of the country we were moving through, with it’s rocky faces and bush covered mountains. At some stage after this, we met up with the rest of the group that had bypassed the first gorge. It was hard to tell exactly where this happen as our party was quite strung out.

Hugh powering through a rapid on his cataraft.

Hugh did a great job organising the trip and provided an extra layer of safety with his cataraft, as an extra person / boat could be transported if necessary. It was also great to see him powering through the rapids, though I did make certain I was well away from it in case I got run over.

Matt leads the way down another rapid.

We worked our way down the river in loose formation, with groups forming and breaking up as we went along, depending on whether people wanted to play or if additional support was required. One of the responsibilities on the river, is to always look out for the others in your group, to always be ready to lend a hand if needed and to make sure no one is left behind.

During one of the more open sections, I was enjoying running down a big wave train, bouncing up and down, feeling the slap of my hull against the troughs and the splash of water in my face, when the “wave” I was just about to punch through turned out to be a biggish hole. Too late to avoid it, I dug in to keep my speed up, made it through but ended up tipping over. I soon rolled up with no dramas. John H noted that he was surprised I didn’t notice the hole earlier and that I had dropped into it. Well I guess it looked like fun at the time.

There were some amazing rock formations.

With all the tight, rocky gorges we had to pass through, the were some impressive rock formations, carved out by passage of water over the ages. It was also interesting looking at the satellite images on Google Maps, trying to trace our route, picking out specific locations and realising just how tight some of gorges are from above.

Hugh in his cataraft leads on this rapid near the start of the second gorge for the day.

The second major gorge wasn’t as tight or as challenging as the first one, but we had some less experience paddlers with us and this resulted in a couple of swims. Responses were good, with the experienced paddlers ready to help with recoveries and having the gear and technical know how to reunite paddlers and gear, and to get them back on the river again.

Matt breaks out to navigate another tight gorge.

Our groups split at this point, with Matt, Hugh, John H and others disappearing into the distance and not to be seen again until the get out, as they made a good pace while the odd swim slowed things up for the others.

… and it’s off downstream.

At one stage, an empty boat swept past with two other kayakers trying to maneuver it towards a bank or nonexistent eddy, I was about to set off in pursuit when I decided I wasn’t exactly comfortable and my little boat would probably just get in the way, rather than helping. Upstream another kayaker helped the swimmer to shore, while I waited in my eddy in case anyone else decided a swim down a flooded river would be fun. Once everyone and everything was “rescued”, then the tricky operation of reuniting the paddler with their boat and paddle begins, this involved through ropes, controlled swims and tows. Fortunately this didn’t occur too regularly as this wasn’t a good day to be spending excessive time in the water and we had a long way to go.

Later we spent quite a long time parked up, while most of the group scouted one of the bigger rapids. I remained in my boat but got the information from some of the others, it was a good exercise but I often find the longer you spend looking at a rapid, the worst it gets. Eventually a couple of others broke out and then I followed on down and got in to a suitable position at the bottom. No dramas as the rapid turned out to be easier than a number we had already done, but we did have at least one swimmer.

A narrow gorge.

In some places, the gorge became very narrow (though probably not as narrow as The Narrows) but just how exciting the section was generally depended on the gradient, as well as geomorphology of the river. The gorge pictured above must have had a fairly gentle gradient as there were no real hydraulic features and you could simply float through it, though it would be interesting to see what is was like at a lower flow. Somewhere near this point we passed under a narrow wire swing bridge, high over the river.

The river widen before closing in on the third gorge for the day.

The valley widen a bit before entering another gorge, this one was the least challenging of the three, which was probably a good thing as we were probably starting to get a little tired.

Some squirrelly water, a bit difficult to read.

The high flow still provided plenty of challenges, especially when the current and bluffs interacted. The random boils, swirls and pulses caused more than one kayaker to adopt a worried expression.

A beautiful waterfall added to the already spectacular scenery.

One of the plus sides of all the recent rains was the number of waterfalls running down into the river, made the scenery even better.


Out of the hills and on to the take out.

Once we exited the last gorge, the valley opened up and the end of our trip neared. By this stage I was pretty tired and was looking forward to getting into some warm, dry clothes. We passed under a very long suspension bridge that looked a little like it had been used in an Indiana Jones movie, complete with missing planks. From here the river split into multiple channels and we stayed in the right most in order to be in the right place when the Waiau Uwha joined the Hope. At the confluence, most of the group walked upstream to cross over the Hope to where the vehicles were parked, while I sort of ferry glided / paddled across and then walked up the opposite bank. We were off the water around 5pm, so it had been a long day out.

We got changed, packed up and headed back to town. On the way home, we stopped off at the Brew Moon, a few of the group ordered some tasty looking pizzas and while tempted I knew I’d be having dinner when I got home. It was with some relief when I finally made it home and tucked in to a Hell pizza ordered whilst at loading up at the Belfast.

4th November 2018: Ashley River

Date:    4/10/18
Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  
14 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water clear and cool. Grade 2.
Weather Conditions:  
Warm & sunny, gusty nor-westerlies, strong at times.
Number on Trip: 
 7 people doing the upper section and 4 doing the lower section.
Time on River: 
4 hours.
Comments:  With gale force winds predicted for the Canterbury high country and the Ashley flowing at a nice level, it was decided to divert the proposed Hurunui trip to the Ashley. There was some debate over which sections to run, with part of the group keen to just run the lower grade 3 section. However as we had a number of newer paddlers on the trip, it was decided that it would be better to split in to two groups and run the upper and lower sections separately.

Boats, gear and groupings were sorted out and we all headed off to our respective put ins. I left my car at the middle bridge with the dry gear for our group and we squeezed into another vehicle before heading up to the Lees Valley put in.

Safety briefing before hitting the water.

We had a brief safety briefing and sorted out buddies and on the water procedures, before taking to the water and making our way down the river.

Warming up in the Lees Valley.

The first small rapid and the eddy at the bottom provided a good warm up spot to practice moves and blow out any cobwebs. It also provided an opportunity to gauge the ability of the group and to work out who might need extra support before moving into the gorge.

Ernest surfing.

It was a beautiful day and the gorge protected us from most of the wind. We made our way down the river, taking our time, catching eddies and playing where we could. The upper section is a nice easy paddle with plenty of rapids to keep the interest up and offers plenty of challenges to newer paddlers, though with the shallower water, upside-down time can involve some geological interactions.

Sally styling a rapid.

We had a good group of people and a variety of skill levels, with the stronger paddlers happy to give support and advice to the less experienced ones, as well as providing the occasional rescue when required. It had been quite a while since I need to rescue anyone, but as each out of boat experience seemed to involve a swimmer, a paddle and a kayak all going in separate directions, there was plenty for everyone to do and I’d forgotten just how hard it is to clip on to and tow a water filled creek boat with my little boat and just how awkward it is to try and do this while holding a 30 degree crankshaft paddle against my 90 degree straight shafted one.

I was looking forward to running the “crux” rapid of this section, which is a bit of a boulder garden with plenty of routes to choose from and eddies to catch, but unfortunately one of the boulders caught out an unsuspecting paddler and I ended up chasing a boat through most of the rapid. AJ decided to walk the rapid and was in two minds as to whether he wanted to carry on or walk out to the road, quite a climb up above us.

Rafting up.

Ernest rafted up with him down the next significant rapid and I convinced him that everything got easier from this point, so he decided to stick at it, without any further dramas. Ernest himself ended up upside-down after playing around on an eddy line and I was somewhat surprised when instead of rolling up, his hands appeared and slapped the bottom of his boat. A closer paddler attempted a T rescue but not quite soon enough and a swim resulted. Turns out that he didn’t have much of a roll to use, fortunately his skills usually keep him the right way up.

Surfing self portrait.

As the rapids eased off, we were able to enjoy the sunshine and beautiful scenery, it is a real pleasure to be out on the river on such a day.

AJ running a rapid.

As we passed under the middle bridge, one of the paddlers from the other group called down to us to let us know they were off the river and were just completing their shuttle. They were somewhat surprised that we had taken more time on the river than they had, still there was no rush and we all enjoyed our day on the river. We got changed and I shuttled the other drivers back up the the put in before heading back to town. On the way back, the car’s air conditioning system stopped work, not the best thing to have happen, heading in to summer, oh well I guess we add that to the list of things to do.

21st October 2018: Avon River

Date:    21/10/18
Avon River, Christchurch, NZ
River Conditions:   
1.94 cumecs at Gloucester Street bridge. Water mostly clear. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:   
Sunny and warm, light nor-westerly wind.
Number on Trip:    
1 person.
Time on River:  
1.75 hours.
Comments:  It was a beautiful, warm day in Christchurch and it almost felt wrong to not be doing something. Lauri kindly offered to drop me off at Hagley Park so I could paddle home without having to worry about shuttling a vehicle as well. We parked on Kilmore Street and I carried my kayak across Rolleston Avenue and seal launched into the Avon just as a group of stand up paddle boarders went by.

Stand up paddle boarders enjoying a beautiful day on the Avon.

The water was cool and clear, and it was real pleasure to be on the river on such a lovely day. I chatted briefly to the paddle boarders as we made our way towards the Armagh Street bridge.

The Botanic Gardens section was very popular.

Once under the footbridge, the numbers of other river users increased, as people used hired boats from the Antigua Boat-sheds to explore the stretch of the river that provides a watery boundary to the Botanical Gardens. For those wanting a slightly more subdued or luxurious way to enjoy the parks greenery from the water, there were a number of punts operating as well.

This section is easily navigated and the water is generally less than a metre deep. The banks are easily accessible on both sides of river, so anyone wanted to stop for a picnic can do so. Trout and eels can be spotted and there are plenty of water fowl to be seen. It takes around half an hour of steady paddling to get from the Armagh Street bridge to the Antigua Street boat-sheds.

One of the locals.

Once past the boat sheds and down the small riffle that was once the site of a small weir, the numbers on the water thinned out as the hired boats aren’t allowed to be taken past this point. The river winds its’ way through the city centre and there has been a major improvements to the riverside landscape since the earthquakes, there is a series of swift riffles to navigate, rocks & native plantings, terraces and even homes for the eels pictured above. Theoretically you could stop for a drink & a snack at a bar or cafe but you would probably want to make sure your boat and gear was well secured (locked to something solid).

The Anthony Gormley statue in the river.

As I moved through further through the city, I spotted a figure up ahead and at first thought it was another stand-up paddle boarder until I got closer and realised it was the the Anthony Gormley statue contemplating its’ own reflection in the water. The river through the city is quite scenic and the water was remarkably free of Lime Scooters. I paddled past other art works on the banks and reached the Margaret Mahy playground about half an hour after leaving the Antigua Street boat sheds.

The Margret Mahy playground was busy with families enjoying the sunshine but the river was largely empty. Down through the rows of tall poplar trees, past the Firefighters Memorial made from the twisted steel girders from the World Trade Centre and then down to our old put in at the end of Peterborough Street.

From here the river has some deeper spots and winds through Red Zone areas cleared of housing, giving this section a rural feel. I paddled past Pomeroy’s but didn’t stop for a beer, carrying on through the Red Zone towards home.

Pomeroy’s beckoned, but so did home.

It took less than 2 hours from my put in off Rolleston Avenue to reach the Richmond Community Garden, where I scrambled up the bank and walked the short distance home with my kayak on my shoulder. The trip took me through well groomed gardens, inner city environs and the semi rural Red Zone, well worth repeating on another sunny day.

16th September 2018: Hurunui River

Date:    16/9/18
River:    Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:   24 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2 – 3, water swift, clear & cold.
Weather Conditions:  Sunny & warm, with strong north westerly winds.
Number on Trip:   11 kayakers.
Time on River: 
3 hours.
This was my first trip of the season and my first paddle since May, work, Lauri’s health and the weather meant that I didn’t get in any paddling over winter and as a result I was feeling a little rusty and unfit. At the Belfast, it looked like all the vehicles were full and if I wanted to go, I’d need to drive by myself and I was close to just heading home. Fortunately Blair came up with a plan and I headed off with Paul, my kayak went on Andre’s car and our paddles went in the third vehicle.

We put in at Dozy Stream, below Devil’s Fang Falls and warmed up while the shuttle was run. The winds were strong and I was glad we weren’t putting in further up and some of the more exposed sections can be somewhat less fun in strong winds (when wind gusts blow you over, it isn’t fun anymore). Devil’s Fang Fall was looking fairly bony and Hugh noted that it appeared as though some of the large boulders had moved over winter.

Playing just down from Dozy Stream.

Once the whole group was on the river, we made our way down to first play spot for some fun. Andre demonstrated what you can do with just hand paddles and everyone surfed up a storm. Interestingly no one was paddling a creek boat, RPM’s and play-styled river runners seem to have returned to popularity and with them tail stands and whoopees. I took some photos from one side and then cut across to get shots from another angle. After sufficiently documenting proceedings, I decided to have a bit of a surf. Unfortunately it didn’t go so well and I found myself upside down and in a place I didn’t really want to be. The first roll failed, as did the next and I felt myself being pushed against the bluff near the bottom of the rapid so I pulled my deck and towed the boat to the opposite bank. The water was definitely cold but the swim was quite “refreshing”. I soon emptied out the boat and was back on the water, it is always nice to get a swim out of the way so I don’t need to worry so much about it happening.

Hugh, in his new Frontier pack raft, spots a cow on the river bank.

Further down we spotted a few cows by the river, it looked like the paddock was fenced off, but the gate had been left open, they weren’t in the water but it wasn’t a good look.

One of two double inflatables that cruised past.

We also spotted a pair of inflatable double kayaks making their way down the river. Looks like it would be a good option for Lauri & I, as the wouldn’t be as difficult to move and store as a plastic double kayak and they seem to handle the white water well too. We might have to investigate that when Lauri’s health improves and our bank balance also looks a little healthier.

Hugh took out at Seawards and we were joined by a group of kayakers from the UCCC. We headed into Maori Gully and through the Magic Roundabout. Andre briefly flirted with Simon’s Hole but didn’t plunge in.

This is how a throw bag works.

Somewhere in Bum Rock boulder garden, a kayaker and his kayak were separated. The kayaker ended up on the right back, I got the paddle and Paul was left with the task of getting the kayak to shore. Holding two paddles (especially as my 90 degree paddle doesn’t sit nicely with lesser angled ones), I was particularly inclined to go charging down the next drops in pursuit of the errant boat. Eventually Paul got the run away kayak to the left bank, somewhere above Cheese Grater. To reunite the paddler with his gear, he was thrown a line and got to swim / swing across to the left bank (the right bank is a little too steep to walk along easily) and then walk down to his kayak.

This is one way to cross a river when your boat is on the other side… and some way down stream.

We caught up with the UCCC group above Cheese Grater, as they were instructing their newer members on what too do. I didn’t hang around too long and was soon lined up to run the drop a little left of centre and heading right. I made sure I had a bit of boat speed before reaching the horizon line. From the top, you realised that there were a lot of rocks just below the surface on the right side. I followed a greenish tongue down and caught a bit of any eddy on the right before carrying on down and taking up a position to get photos of the others.

A successful run down Cheese Grater by a UCCC paddler.

Cheese Grater can be a little tricky and it was interesting to see the various lines and their results. The woman above from UCCC, got kicked left into the rocks but kept her cool and her balance, finishing upright with a big smile, the guy below wasn’t so lucky and at that point the camera went away away and I broke out in case any assistance was required. It wasn’t as the rest of his group were there and he may have rolled up anyway.

Cheese Grater… it kicks hard to the left, into the undercut rocks if you don’t get the line just right.

The rest of the river was fun, with a bit of a play at the corner rapid and a line up at the pop up spot. Then on to the take out and up the hill to the vehicles. It was good to be out on the river and even the strong winds weren’t much of a problem. Back to town via the Brew Moon in Amberley with a glass of Blood Moon IPA to round off the day.

20th May 2018: Hurunui River

Date:    20/5/18
River:    Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:   59 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2 – 3, water swift, clear & cold.
Weather Conditions:  Cold, with strong north westerly winds and occasional showers.
Number on Trip:   13 kayakers.
Time on River: 
1.25 hours.
I had arrived back in Christchurch around midnight on Friday and had a bit of a rest on Saturday, but the opportunity of paddling the top gorge on the Hurunui had me loading up my kayaking gear on Saturday and setting my alarm for an early start (well earlier than the 9am wake up on Saturday morning). The weather didn’t look too promising with gale force winds and snow predicted in some areas, but I decided it probably wasn’t going to be too bad so was worth going as there wasn’t likely to be too many more trips left in the season.

After a filling breakfast of French toast, fried banana and bacon, I raced out the door and just made it to the Belfast Tavern slightly after the meeting time of 8:30am. Hitched a ride with Tori and Hugh kept us entertained with stories from his trip through the Grand Canyon. The weather was looking very grey and spits of rain spattered on the windscreen as we drove down from Jacks Pass towards the river, and this had me wondering why I wasn’t still at home, warm in bed.

We passed one of our groups vehicles which had stopped to change a flat tyre and then paused briefly at Dozy Stream to have a look at Devil’s Fang Falls. The rapid looked fairly boisterous but with a clear line straight down the centre. We drove on to the Jollie Brook put in and decided on our plans. We intended to drive up to Sisters Stream, run the shuttle and the paddle down to Jollie Brook and then drive down to Seawards so those keen enough could paddle Maori Gully.

The waterfall on Sisters Stream.

I checked out Sisters Stream while the shuttle was run, as it is occasionally paddled my some of the more gung ho members of the club. It is a fairly tight, fast flowing stream that runs through a narrow gorge that includes the waterfall pictured above, before flowing through some farmland and then joins up with the Hurunui River. It could be an interesting one but the waterfall definitely puts it out of my league.

The sun came out at the put in to the Top Gorge.

The track from the car park down to the river was very boggy in places and I did my best to avoid those area, while others strode boldly through the calf deep mud. The sun was shining and we left the rain behind once the river came in to view and we all regrouped at the put in. Hugh inflated his pack raft and we all did a bit of a warm up before heading down stream.

Playing above the Top Gorge.

There are only a few play spots above the gorge to have a warm up on, so it is good to make the most of them, as the flow through the gorge tends to be relatively swift and this keeps you moving downstream. Fairly early on, I remembered why I retired my old Bomber dry top when the neck seal finally gave out, as it no longer seemed to keep out the cold water, I found myself getting chilled despite the multiple layers underneath.

Hugh paddles his pack raft through the Top Gorge.

It was good to see Hugh out on the river in his latest watercraft. The packraft is much easier to transport than a kayak or cataraft and is certainly quicker to inflate and set up, than the much larger cataraft. It seemed to handle everything the river put in its’ path and kept Hugh relatively dry, and at the end of the day, it can simply be rolled up and popped in the boot of the car.

The crux rapid in the Top Gorge.

The top gorge is sort of a mini Maori Gully, and while the rapids aren’t as hard (the crux rapid pictured above is probably a grade 2+), they still offer some challenges for newer paddlers, with eddies to catch, ferry glides and moves to make to get the best lines. Generally as we tend to paddle this section at higher flows, the current is swifter, the water a little more turbulent, so there is less time to set up and missed moves can put you in the wrong place fairly quickly. Still there is plenty of flat water between rapids so rolls or recovery isn’t too much drama. The gorge also sheltered us from the strong winds, which was a real bonus.

Playing in the Top Gorge.

Once out of the gorge, the river widens out and there are several boulder gardens to play on. The last one runs down the the Jollie Brook rapid, which is another rapid that can offer some challenge to newer paddlers. Then on under the swing bridge to the Jollie Brook put in.

A number of us got out at Jollie Brook, including myself and Hugh, but over half the group was keen to carry on to Seawards. I was already tired and cold enough to call it a day and didn’t really relish being battered and blown over by the gale force winds that were already hammering us once we left the relative shelter of the top gorge.

Devil’s Fang Falls was a little boisterous but the line was clear.

It was nice to get into some dry clothes and be in a warm car. We stopped off at the Dozy Stream put in, to watch the rest of the group run Devil’s Fang Falls. As we waited in the car, the winds sweeping down the valley gave it a good shaking and we had to take care opening the doors. I went out and sat on a rock near the rapids, to get some photos and was disappointed to find that my camera battery was flat (I later found out the reason for this was that I had shot a reasonably lengthy movie in my pocket by accident, not exactly riveting viewing). I remembered that I had my cellphone and since apart from the occasional sheets of spray whipped up by the wind, being waterproof wasn’t a major requirement. I got some nice shots and then it was back in the car and off down to Seawards.

Most of the group got out there, while Andre and a few other brave souls headed of down the gully. We stopped off at the Brew Moon for a beer and then back in to town. It was a fun day out despite the weather but it will probably be my last trip for the season, unless the Ashley is running and the sun is shining.

21st April 2018: Ashley River

Date:    21/04/18
Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  
14 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water discoloured and cold. Grade 3.
Weather Conditions:  
Warm & sunny, gusty nor-westerlies, strong at times.
Number on Trip: 
 6 people doing the lower section.
Time on River: 
3.5 hours.
Comments:  Bea put up a post on Facebook, proposing a Saturday Ashley Trip and as the weather wasn’t looking so good for Sunday and other plans seemed a little vague, this was the trip to be on, especially with the Hurunui running at over 100 cumecs and gale force nor-westerlies predicted. Since I hadn’t really planned to go kayaking, breakfast was a little rushed as I quickly gathered up my kayaking gear and loaded the car. Fortunately I arrived at the Belfast Tavern just before 9am and Ian arrived shortly after, and we headed off to meet the rest of the group at the Ashley Gorge campground.

Kerry turned up a little after we arrived, having missed up at The Peg. He planned to do a little tree pruning near the start of the run and then run the gorge solo if he didn’t catch up with us. The rest of the group arrived, we got changed and loaded up the cars before driving to the middle bridge put in.

Kerry put in first and headed down stream to prune the willow trees that were overhanging the first corner and creating a sweeper hazard. He was hard at work as the rest of us floated by, taking care to avoid the hazard.

Bron runs the lower gorge for the first time.

This was Brons’ first trip down this section of the Ashley and Ian provided plenty of helpful advice on which lines to take and what to expect.

Looking back up the gorge.

It was a glorious day to be out on the river, with only the occasional splash of cold water reminding you that the season was drawing to a close and winter was just around the corner. We must have been going fairly slow and savoring the time on the river, as Kerry caught up with us after finishing his “gardening”. He had just expected to paddle out solo after the willows had been pruned and the hazard removed.

John R runs a rapid.

Around 15 cumecs is always a nice flow level, the rapids are nicely defined, with plenty of boulders to add extra interest (neither washed out nor constantly grazing your plastic away) and the slower flow providing plenty of recovery time if things don’t go quite as planned. This was a good thing as only Kerry and John managed to stay in their boats for the whole trip, with John spending longer than usual upside down, with his roll not really performing in an unfamiliar boat. Bron also managed to add a few scratches to her helmet after ending up the wrong way up in shallow water, always a hazard on the Ashley but fortunately the helmet wore the brunt of the rocks.

I took a swim on the rapid before the main drop, when I found myself the wrong way up in some swirly water. My roll didn’t work as I was partially out of my seat and the kayak was being pushed against a bluff. I bailed out and found myself in a smooth, green pool and finding myself alone (I was running many of the rapids first so I could get photos of the rest of the group), I swam to the shore with my boat in tow, as John arrived on the scene. The water was very refreshing.

John R on the main drop. Second time lucky.

The main drop went well, and for the first time in a few trips I managed to stay upright after getting the line right for a change. The rest of the group had no real problems, though John’s approach on his first go didn’t quite nail it and he had to roll at the bottom. He got out and had another go, this time was almost perfect.

I took a number of photos from the left hand side of the river, but these tended to be strongly back lit and didn’t work quite as well as I hoped. In fact, poor photography was a bit of a theme for the trip, with the low light or high contrasts with the low angle sun on the water, leading to a lot of blurry or over dark pictures. Plus the colder conditions meant the lens tended to get fogged up at times and I also missed the odd water drop on the lens in my haste to capture the moment (see below).

Bron running the last grade 3 rapid in the Ashley Gorge.

The rest of the main rapids went alright and everyone enjoyed themselves. At the spot that has a particularly good surfing wave, Ian decided to toss his paddle away and surf “au naturel”. Since he had learnt from the last time not to just let your paddle drift away, he threw it into the eddy on the right hand side. This worked great until he had finished surfing and then got caught out crossing the eddy line, resulting in some upside down time, some failed hand rolls and a slightly undignified “swim” in the shallow water of the eddy. Sadly although I took a number of photos of this sequence, most of them were a little blurry.

Later in the gorge, we had some really strong wind gusts as one particular section seem perfectly aligned to channel the nor-wester. We kept the paddles low and it was a bit of a struggle to make headway whilst fighting into the wind, so it was a relief to leave that section behind.

Eventually we reached the take out and my lack of fitness was showing and I was feeling pretty tired. Still it was a nice day and it was good to chat in the sunshine, while Ian, Kerry & Bea went to pick up the vehicles. On the downside, once I’d taken off my dry top, I realised the neck seal had torn, which was a bit disappointing as it was only a few years old and certainly didn’t last as well as my old Bomber top. Hopefully Twin Needles will be able to replace the neck seal and it will be all ready to go when I get back from Australia.