Category Archives: Kayaking

12th November 2017: Ashley River

Date:    12/11/17
River:   
Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  
6.5 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water clear and cool. Grade 3.
Weather Conditions:  
Cool & overcast, slight southerly wind.
Number on Trip: 
 4 people.
Time on River: 
3.45 hours.
Comments:  I had been considering heading up to the Hurunui with the WWCC, but the weather didn’t look particularly flash and I wasn’t feeling that enthusiastic. However when I noticed an independent trip to the Ashley on the club’s FaceBook page, I felt a lot more motivated. The later start also meant for a more leisurely breakfast in bed with Lauri, before racing around scrubbing teeth and loading my kayak on the roof rack to make the meeting at The Peg by 9:30am.

Although the car park was full, the 4×4 drive club was meeting there and all the vehicles from the earlier Hurunui trip and beginners course were there, we only had 4 takers for Ian’s Ashley trip. Still this made the shuttle easy as we loaded all the boats on Ian’s car and took Bill’s car to run the shuttle. We got changed into our paddling gear at the Ashley Gorge Domain and piled into Ian’s car.

As the river flow was pretty low (we normally run the Ashley at 15 cumecs or above), we had to walk across a reasonable amount of river bed to get to the water, but once away, there was generally plenty of water to float a boat.

Not so much water today.

The low flow made for a fairly cruisy paddle as the current didn’t have a lot of force but you had to be careful to avoid the many rocks that were exposed and channel selection became more important than normal. The early rapids tended to be pretty tame but as we reached the grade 3 rapids, these were still interesting, the low flow and tightness of the lines sometimes requiring some quick thinking.

Ian makes a move.

There were plenty of challenges along the way and you had to pick your way carefully through the boulder gardens and rapids, least you got tipped a rock or stuck in a sieve, and generally the water was too shallow to roll in unless you liked a bit of head versus geology interaction.

Low flows can make the boulder gardens a little more challenging.

The big boulder garden before the forever eddy and the entrance to the gorge proper, was particularly interesting as you had to pick your way between the many rocks and make sure that your route wasn’t a dead end. Once in the gorge, the number of rapids increased and the challenge was greater, with plenty of rocks and some very tight lines. Still with the low flow not being as pushy as usual, there was generally time to correct mistakes and change direction, however I think we all managed to hit and bounce over our fair share of rocks.

Looking downstream from above the main drop.

The main drop was almost unrecognisable at this flow and it wasn’t until I’d gone done it, I realised where I was. At this flow it was sort of a couple of steps flowing through a narrow gap (Bill’s head is visible between the two rocks either side of the drop, as he looks upstream, wondering where the others are and if they are actually going to join him).

Looking upstream from the main drop as Bill catches the wave.

The hole at the bottom of the drop provided some entertainment and Bill had some fun surfing it, but the rest of us weren’t keen to delve too deeply just in case we got stuck in it.

Bill surfing.

There were plenty of other good surfing spots along the way and we all enjoyed the time on the river.

At low flows, sometimes finding the line can be a little difficult.

Eventually we made our way past the main rapids and the level of white water dropped off. The paddle out was pleasant, the crystal clear water flowing over green rocks, through a green sided gorge was quite beautiful and we pasted the odd fisherman and I actually managed to see a trout in the early stages of the trip. There was still the occasional rapid or surf spot but much of it was relatively flat and we had to pay special attention to the depth so as not to get beached. As the wilderness receded, people started to appear on the banks and we were soon back at the domain. Ian and Bill ran the shuttle, while Becs and I waited in the cold and fought off the sandflies. Despite the cooler weather and overcast sky, it was a good day out, being on the Ashley is always a special occasion.

29th October 2017: Hurunui River

Date:    29/10/17
River:    Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:   47.7 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2 – 3, water clear.
Weather Conditions:  Warm and sunny with light north westerly winds.
Number on Trip:    33 kayakers, with a number doing Maori Gully
Time on River:  4.5 hours.
Comments:  This was my first white water trip of the season and it is already nearly November. As such we were treated to a beautiful warm and sunny day, a even the nor-wester wind Canterbury is known for, kept to a manageable strength.

Driving into the car park at the Belfast Tavern was a bit of a shock, there were cars, boats and paddlers everywhere. So many people I didn’t recognise, still managed to find some familiar faces, sign the trip sheet and get a ride sorted out, then off to Jollie Brook.

The put in at Jollie Brook.

At Jollie Brook, we sorted out our gear and enjoyed resting in the sun as the shuttle was sorted out. Once the drivers returned, we got on the water and had an extended warm up session at the put in. As there were so many paddlers, smaller groups formed and then made their way downstream with significant gaps in between.

Practicing the play moves.

I always enjoy the boulder garden stretch down from Jollie Brook, it is a great way to warm up and remember how to paddle after an absence from the river. Working your way down the small rapids, catching eddies and surfing from hole to hole, brings a lot of your paddling skills into play without being too challenging. We did have a swimmer and it is the first time in a while that I’ve rescued anyone, towing Brian down a small rapid to reunite him with his boat and paddle.

Styling a rapid.

The bigger rapids provided a bit more entertainment for the more experienced paddlers but everyone did well and there were no more swimmers and generally the only rolls were either for practice or play. We took our time on this section and really tried to get the most out of every rapid and feature.

Looking down the Hurunui Valley from the South Branch confluence.

We stopped for a lunch break at the South Branch confluence before continued on downstream. Devil’s Fang Falls was on my mind, I wasn’t sure how much it had changed since last season and we hadn’t stopped for a look at it on the way up. Brian mentioned that the preferred line was now on the left hand side, whereas in the past, I had always gone down the right side. As we approached the rapid, I was a little nervous as I was feeling a bit tired and unfit.

We all chose to run Devil’s Fang Falls and moved into to the right hand channel, pulling in to various eddies above the rapid. I watched the others go down, one by one, and made note of the lines they took. No one seemed to have any issues and all went down the left had side of the drop. I took my turn, working my way down the river until I was in the eddy just above the drop on the right hand side. Looking down stream, I could see that the line I would normally take was pretty messy and that there was a nice tongue a little left of centre, that should offer a good ride down and then you just needed to punch through the hole at the bottom and it should be all good. Of course, in order to do that, I needed to be on the other side of the channel. To do that I just needed to surf across the face of the first hole above the drop before turning down stream, pass the second hole and then down the tongue, what could possibly go wrong? Fortunately it all work and I made a pretty smooth descent and hit the smooth water below the drop and cut into the eddy. There were no issues in our group and we carried on down the river.

Chris makes the moves.

The trip down to Seaward’s was pretty cruisy as fatigue from a long day on the water set in. I also had to decide if I wanted to paddle Maori Gully, part of me was pretty tired and would have been happy to get out before the gully but another part thought it would be a shame not to. In the end, I decided it would be wrong not too and headed down into the gully with five other keen paddlers.

The Magic Roundabout was pretty boisterous and the two rocks in the middle were mostly covered so I opted not to have a spin. The first boulder garden was also a bit pushier than I expected, giving me a little start and prompting me to raise my game. On past bum rock and down the escalator and into the eddy above Cheese Grater with out any dramas, the higher flow making some of the larger features slightly easier.

Running Cheese Grater. The kayaker is actually at the top of the large wave that forms below the drop.

Cheese Grater always makes me a little nervous, especially since I’ve had the odd bit of “excitement” in previous years. I watched the others go down one by one, dropping over the edge, disappearing and then surging upwards as they crested the large wave at the bottom of the drop. No one seemed to have any problems and then it was my turn. I lined up to the left of centre, looking down the tongue, my kayaks bow pointing to the right, a bit of speed as I dropped over the edge, down and then up, the kayaks’ nose pushing through the waves crest, a refreshing drink for me as I passed through it. The rest was easy and I bombed the rest of the rapid, pulling into an eddy below the rest of the group.

Two kayakers who enjoyed running Cheese Grater so much they walked back up and did it again.

Two of the others decided to run Cheese Grater again, apparently to try and surf the wave. I also got out of my boat and walked back upstream a little to see if I could find a better spot to take photographs from. I usually shoot from my boat and this tends to limit my angles and what I can see. No really spectacular photos of their second run but it is nice to get a view of the rapid from downstream that isn’t obscured by the rocks that form the eddy on the right of the above photo.

The corner rapid in Maori Gully.

The corner rapid was pretty bouncy and I weaved my way around the various holes, the big wave at the bottom was working nicely and was able to be accessed from both sides so much surfing was done.

Surfing the wave on the corner rapid in Maori Gully, all smiles here.

More playing at the pop up spot and then on to the get out, followed by the traditional slog up the hill and then back to town.

29th September 2017: Avon River

Date:    29/09/17
River:   
Avon River, Christchurch, NZ
River Conditions:  
2.99 cumecs at Gloucester Street bridge. Water mostly clear. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:  
Sunny and warm, light nor-westerly wind.
Number on Trip:   
2 people.
Time on River:  
1.5 hours.
Comments:  It was a beautiful warm afternoon and Lauri suggested it would be a nice day to go for a paddle on the Avon. She also suggested it would be a great day to stop off at Pomeroy’s for a glass of beer and some pork crackling, something that usually gets thought of as we are on the river with no money or means to secure our kayaks.

We got dress in our paddling gear and dragged the kayaks down to the river. Lauri had checked out a nice launching spot, complete with steps cut into the back and a nice flat platform to launch from. I helped Lauri into her boat and then while she paddled off up the river, I tried to climb into mine from the bank. It was all getting a bit wobbly and I was looking at possibly ending up in the river if I continued down that path. In a switch of tactics, I seal launched off the steep bank, the nose of my kayak diving deeply in to the water, which swirled around my spray skirt.

I sped after Lauri and we were soon paddling in tandem up the river. The water was clear and it was lovely to be on the river with Lauri. Spring was bring the trees back to life and everything was green and bright in the sunshine. We were soon at the quake damaged wharf above the Fitzgerald Avenue bridge. We clambered out and padlocked the kayaks to a park bench and then wandered across the road in our paddling gear with our paddles.

Beer & pork scratchings at Pomeroy’s.

We found seats in the outdoor area and stored the paddles under the bench. I went in and order two dark beers and some pork crackling, and we were soon enjoying a tasty repast on a sunny afternoon. After we had finished, we strolled down to our kayaks and got back on the river for a relaxing paddle / float down the river towards home.

A leisurely trip home.

11th June 2017: Avon River

Date:    11/06/17
River:   
Avon River, Christchurch, NZ
River Conditions:  
1.72 cumecs at Gloucester Street bridge. Water mostly clear. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:  
Sunny but cool, nor-easterly wind.
Number on Trip:   
2 people.
Time on River:  
1.5 hours.
Comments:  Winter is now on us so we really appreciate any weekend where the sun shines and we don’t need to spend the whole time inside, watching the rain beat against the windows. Lauri’s new kayak trolley makes it easy to get her kayak down to the river, whilst I use the traditional shoulder carry method. There are some river bank works that we launch from on our side of the river, near where a local community group plan to hire out kayaks. Not sure if their plans include a proper boat ramp similar to the one on the opposite bank, but it would be great if they did. I usually just  seal launch in from the bank as this reduces my chance of slipping whilst getting into my kayak and ended up in the river, covered in mud.

Navigating the “slalom” course below the Fitzgerald Street bridge.

We paddled upstream again, but this time we evaded the debris traps (pictured above), picking up a couple of footballs and carried on around the Avon Loop section.

Passing one of of our favourite houses on the banks of the Avon.

The Avon Loop was a favourite area of ours when we lived on Peterborough Street. We would often go for walks along the river bank, admire the stylish old houses and wish we could afford to buy one of them. Unfortunately after the earthquakes, the area enclosed by the Avon Loop was Red Zoned and the land was cleared, all the old house we loved were demolished (the one pictured above is on the opposite side of the river) and only the trees now remain. Where lateral spreading had caused the banks to slump, narrowing the river, the current is relatively swift. No so much fun on the way up but definitely appreciated on the way down. We got as far as Te Wai Pure o Tautahi (St. Mary’s Stream) by the Barbadoes Street cemetery (only a short walk from our old home) be fore turning and heading for home, the current hastening our journey down stream.

The old, earthquake damaged wharf near Pomeroy’s Bar.

The old jetty near Pomeroy’s has seen better days but will hopefully be repaired in the not too distant future. We also regretted the lack of foresight which once again saw us by Pomeroy’s with no money to buy beer & pork crackling to aid our journey and no means to secure our kayaks & gear if we did. So once again, the opportunity was wasted.

Birds!

There is quite a variety of birds that call the Avon home and it is always nice the see them on the water as you glide by in your kayak. The ones pictured above seemed to be in some kind of feeding frenzy, apparently they hadn’t been told that bread isn’t good for them. Eventually we got back to where we started, having spent a somewhat longer time than intended on the river. We got out via the new boat ramp as it is easier than trying to scramble up the bank, whilst trying not to fall in the river. This extends the walk slightly but isn’t really much of a hassle, still we were glad to get home for a shower and a late lunch.

28th May 2017: Avon River

Date:    28/05/17
River:   
Avon River, Christchurch, NZ
River Conditions:  
1.66 cumecs at Gloucester Street bridge. Water mostly clear. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:  
Sunny but cool, nor-easterly wind.
Number on Trip:   
2 people.
Time on River:  
45 minutes.
Comments:  With Autumn coming to a close, you have to make the most of sunny days while the trees still have such a range of spectacular colours, before the bleakness of winter. It was also another chance to give Lauri’s new kayak trolley a test. We put in on our side of the river, where Evelyn Cousins Ave meets River Road, an easy spot to access the river now that all the construction work there has been completed. I got Lauri into her boat and then went back home to put the cat inside so we didn’t have to worry about her. I seal launched into the river and hope my old deck didn’t leak as my kayaks nose slid below the waters’ surface.

We paddled upstream this time, so as to make the journey home a little easier. The river looked particularly beautiful in the sunlight, resplendent in its Autumn colours. There were plenty of ducks and Canada geese, plus the odd pairs of black swans. Once we reached the Fitzgerald Street bridge, Lauri asked if I had brought my wallet with me so we could pop in to Pomeroy’s for an ale and some pork crackling, but sadly I hadn’t. Next time I’ll try to remember to bring it, plus a lock and cable to secure the boats.

Kayaking the Avon at the end of Autumn.

The journey home was nice and easy, going with the current and we were soon back at the Swans Road bridge. We took out at the boat ramp on the opposite bank of the river as it is a bit easier to get out here (it would be great if there was one on our side, hint, hint), loaded Lauri’s kayak on to her trolley and wandered home for Korean coffee and chocolate biscuits.

25th April 2017: Hurunui River

Date:    25/04/17
River:    Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:   28 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2 – 3, water clear.
Weather Conditions:  Warm and sunny with light north easterly winds.
Number on Trip:    8 kayakers, with 4 doing Maori Gully
Time on River:  4 hours.
Comments:  A bonus ANZAC day trip meant the opportunity for an extra, and unexpected, day on the river. The weather forecast and the flow looked good, permissions were asked and granted, so it was off to the hills. The 9:30am meeting made for a leisurely start, maybe too leisurely, with French toast in bed and then a rush to be at the Belfast Tavern in time.

We made our way up to Seawards, got changed and then headed up to Jollie Brook, leaving one vehicle at the take out. We stopped briefly at Devil’s Fang Falls to check the lines and what we saw wasn’t very encouraging. Much of the flow is going down the left side of the river, making the normal line very bony and definitely full of teeth, at this point most of the group decided they liked their own teeth just where they were, and decided to portage the rapid. The day was perfect, sunny and warm with scarcely a breath of wind, rare indeed as fine days are often plagued by gusty nor-westers.

The Jollie Brook put in, looking towards the mountains.

We had a good warm up at Jollie Brook, as we had a number of newer paddlers and I always need to take the opportunity to remember how to paddle.

Warming up at Jollie Brook.

Moves were made and rolls tried out before letting the flow take us down stream.

Fighting for the same “wave”.

I always enjoy the section just down from Jollie Brook, there aren’t really any specific rapids, just plenty of rocks making an easy boulder garden that can either be drifted through or can make a good practice course as you work your way down the river from eddy to eddy or wave to wave, and surfing where you can. Nothing is particularly hard but it does pay to stay upright as some bits can be a little shallow, causing the potential for some helmet vs geology interactions.

An almost perfect day on the Hurunui.

The sun blazed down, turning the water to glittering silver, and it made it seem like the height of summer rather than the middle of Autumn.

Paul runs a rapid.

The newer kayakers were generally keen to try new things and push their boundaries, all seemed to have reasonable combat rolls as well as a good range of general skills. Obviously the quality of training methods and paddler development has improved greatly since I did a beginners course with the club in 2000. Eddies were caught, waves were surfed and whoopees were attempted. It was also good to see that most were paddling more play orientated river runners rather than the big creekers of a few years back.

We stopped for a break at South Branch before carrying on down the river towards Dozy Stream. As we neared Devil’s Fang Falls, I checked if anyone was going to run it and the consensus was that they would portage down the left hand channel.

Devil”s Fang Falls from another angle.

I briefly considered running it before taking the left channel with the intention of portaging. As the river got increasingly shallow, I decided to have a look at the left hand side of the rapid, with the possibility of getting a photo. As I moved into position, I noticed that there seemed to be enough water flowing down the rapid and it looked like it would be possible to bounce down the channel pictured above without too much drama, so this is what I did, avoiding the need to get out of my boat.

The bluff below Dozy Stream claims another victim.

Below Dozy Stream, the bluff rapid claimed another paddler, after he broke out of the small eddy just above the bluff and got swept into the bluff and failed to roll up again. Paddler and gear were soon reunited on the bank before breaking out and styling the rapid like a pro.

Surf’s up.

The hole at the top of the rapid was looking reasonably big today and their weren’t many takers, but those who did made it look easy.

Styling a rapid.

The rest of the way down to Seawards pasted without incident. I was happy to get out there as it was getting later in the day and I’d had a good day out already, but we had a few who were keen to run the Gully so I could hardly say no, especially as Paul wanted to do it for the first time. So half the group got out to run the shuttle while we ran the gully.

Playing on the Magic Roundabout.

The Magic Roundabout was fairly boisterous with some interesting currents and we didn’t spend long there. From there we left the sunshine behind us and as the daylight faded, the air  got cooler as we entered a somewhat gloomy Maori Gully. As this was Paul’s first time through, Nick & Heidi gave him plenty of advice and we took fairly straight forward lines through the rapids. No problems at Bum Rock or the Elevator but Cheese Grater had us all feeling a little bit nervous. We talked through the line and what you needed to do to avoid the kick to the left and the spanking that often followed. Mike showed how it was done and took up position at the bottom, Heidi went next then Paul. Everyone seemed to go fine, and though Paul did a slight tail stand and ended up tipping over, he soon rolled up right with no drama. I went last, feeling a little worried as I ran through the list of things I needed to do I kept my nose pointing to the right and as I reached the lip, just right of centre, I clearly saw the line I needed to take, put in some good strokes and powered down the green tongue and over the wave and out, probably the cleanest run I’ve done on this drop.

The rest of the run went smoothly, though I’m not sure I took the best line through the corner rapid as I think I ended up punching through the odd hole.  From here it was on to the Pop Up Spot, where Nick demonstrated some moves to Paul. I had a brief go but wished to stay dry so didn’t push it too hard. I had a brief drama as I ended up going left at the big rock in the last rapid before the take out and had to make some quick moves to avoid what might have been an uncomfortable situation. I had been that way before but might check it out next time but maybe with a little more care. Paul was very pleased with his first trip down the gully and he did very well, especially considering this was his first kayaking season, having only done the club’s beginners course at the start of the season.

The climb out wasn’t much fun (as usual) but the new steps and work on the track has improved the walk quite a bit. We had a short wait for the shuttle vehicles to arrive and then it was back to town as the sun sank behind the hills. On the way back to Belfast, we spotted a bright object in the sky and since the sun hadn’t fully set, we assumed it must be a plane. It didn’t seem to move much so I thought it might be a planet but when we got bank to the Belfast Tavern there was nothing in the right location on my Star Chart app. When I got home Facebook informed us it was actually the NASA super pressure research balloon, that had been launched from Wanaka earlier in the day.

23rd April 2017: Avon River

Date:    23/04/17
River:   
Avon River, Christchurch, NZ
River Conditions:  
1.25 cumecs at Gloucester Street bridge. Water mostly clear. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:  
Sunny & warm, no wind.
Number on Trip:   
2 people.
Time on River:  
1.5 hours.
Comments:  This was the first time we had been out for a paddle on the Avon since before the earthquakes. We put in at the new boat ramp near the site of the old WWCC gear shed, now long since demolished and the site cleared. We paddled from Swanns Road bridge down to the Gayhurst Road bridge and back again. This section of the Avon flows through the Red Zone so now has a very rural feel, where once the banks were lined with houses. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the autumn colours were lovely. It was really nice to be out on the river with Lauri again.

Heading off down the Avon in to the Red Zone.

Near where we put in Lauri spotted a largish flounder that was startled by her kayak. As we made our way down the river, we encountered plenty of Canada geese, ducks, paradise ducks, black swans and the occasional shag. Near the Gayhurst Road bridge, I spotted a bicycle in the river and spent a little time fishing it out and leaving it on the bank. Mountain bikes get kind of heavy when their frames fill up with water.

Paddling through the new “rural” landscape of the Avon River as it winds it’s way through the middle of the city.

On the way back, working our way against the current, a voice called out from behind and Murray cruised up beside us in his race boat. We chatted as we paddled along beside his significantly faster kayak, struggling to keep up even though he had slowed his pace considerably. When he slowed down too much, his boat got awfully tippy until he picked up speed again, and this increased pace left both Lauri and I feeling a little tired by the end. Fortunately since the put in was very close to home, we were soon able to have a rest and some left over pizza for lunch.

9th April 2017: Ashley River

Date:    09/04/17
River:   
Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  
17 to 14 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water slightly discoloured, swift and cold. Grade 2 to 3.
Weather Conditions:  
Sunny & warm, no wind.
Number on Trip:   
20 people.
Time on River: 
5.5 hours.
Comments:  This was planned to be a trip to the Hurunui, but heavy rain over the week pushed the Ashley up to over 200 cumecs, a little too challenging for me at that flow. Fortunately by the weekend the flow had dropped to much more manageable levels and I had the choice of both a Saturday or Sunday trip. The weather looked better on the Sunday plus there was the added bonus of running the upper gorge (grade 2) as well.

There was quite a group at the Belfast Tavern and we consolidated vehicles for the trip up to the camp ground, where we were meeting up with even more paddlers. Hugh was along and was planning to paddle his pack raft, a recent addition to his fleet, and there was also another pack rafter along for the trip. These seem like a great idea, as they are light and easily transported but are still more than capable of running a wide range of white water, including some that would be very hard to access carrying a kayak.

The drive in to the Lees Valley is fairly long and winding, but seemed to have stood up to the recent storms reasonably well. Some of the rapids can be glimpsed from the road but the major grade 3 rapids flow through a section quite distant from the road. After leaving the middle bridge, we climbed into the low cloud which blanketed the Lees Valley and obscured the sun.

Leaving the Lees Valley, overhung with fog.

Nineteen of us put in by the Lees Valley bridge under a heavy blanket of fog, with Doug and another driver planning to meet us at the middle bridge. As usually it was good to be back on the river and I soon found I hadn’t completely forgotten how to paddle. We started off as one big group but soon split in to two smaller groups, with the front runners disappearing off down the river and Bruce and me acting as tail end Charlies to keep the stragglers in line.

Upper gorge rapid, the last wisps of fog disappearing.

We soon left the fog behind and paddled out into the sunshine on an almost perfect Canterbury day with plenty of sun and little wind. We had a good strong group, with even the newer paddlers having a good solid roll and plenty of skills to keep them out of trouble.

Running a rapid in the upper gorge.

Everyone had plenty of fun, pushing personal boundaries and playing along the way. The grade two section is a great little run with enough challenges to keep even experienced paddlers amused.  It took us a bit over two hours to reach the middle bridge and we stopped for a wee break to stretch our legs. Doug joined us here and Hugh and another kayaker got off o shuttle the vehicles back down to the campground.

Once we left the bridge behind, the level of challenge gradually increases. Our groups had changed slightly with our rear group gaining a few extra paddlers. At this flow, most of the bigger rapids are not quite so pushy and you have a bit more time to pick lines and catch eddies, the downside is that more of the rocks are exposed and this can catch out the unwary. Everyone seemed to rise to the challenge and I didn’t see any out of boat experiences, with all the upside down paddlers I saw, quickly righting themselves. Rolling training has certainly come a long way since my beginners course.

Bruce runs the boulder garden rapid.

The boulder garden rapid above the main gorge was particularly fun today. It is long and with this flow has plenty of rocks to dodge and eddies to catch, great fun. After a brief rest in the forever eddy to regroup, we entered the gorge proper. Here the walls move in and the rapids are more closely spaced but still with plenty of recovery space between each major one.

A jet boat in the Ashley Gorge!

One of the surprises of the day was encountering a jet boat in the gorge. A cry of “jet boat” went up and we all pulled over to the side as the tiny one person boat sped by. Bruce had encountered the boat the day before and he seemed to be on the look out for kayakers. The cry “jet boat” went up again as he returned down the river just after we had negotiated a fairly tight rapid. He pulled over for a chat below the rapid and we were all quite impressed that he had managed to navigate such a tight and rocky river at such a flow without mishap.

Looking back up one of the grade 3 rapids in the lower gorge.

The gorge is really beautiful and it is a real pleasure to be there on such a perfect day, especially with such a great bunch of people.

A clean run down John H’s nemesis.

There are some nice rapids in the gorge and no one seemed to have any dramas. The main drop was good and I didn’t do too badly, avoiding the upside down experience from last time. There was the odd roll but everyone managed it well, even those doing the grade 3 section for the first time.

Everyone enjoyed surfing this wave.

There are some great surf spots with the one pictured above, being enjoyed by everyone. It was wide and smooth with very nice open ends. It was easy to get on and if you got it right, you could ride it forever (or at least until you felt bad about being a wave hog and let someone else have a turn).

The large rock with the buffer wave wasn’t too challenging today and several of the braver paddlers went into the eddy on the right hand side above the rock. I choose the option that avoided this, the vision of breaking out and then being swept upside down against the face of the rock seemed an all too real possibility.

Last grade 3 rapid, Start left, move right and straight through the gap.

The last major rapid always looks impressive, with its narrow gap to run but didn’t present any dramas. From this point I always feel a bit more able to relax and really enjoy what the river has to offer. This resulted in my only roll of the day as surfing a hole didn’t quite go as planned. Still I popped up quickly and just a little wet, so no harm was done.

After a long but enjoyable paddle out (there is still plenty of smaller rapids after last grade 3 rapid), we finally reached the get out, feeling tired and sore. Drivers quickly got changed and Doug drove them back to Lees Valley to complete the shuttle. It was a long wait, broken only by conversation and a brief game of ninja warriors (a standing tag type game), and by the time the vehicles returned, it was getting rather chilly and the sky was darkening. The drive back to town was quiet as we were all tired after spending over 5 hours in our boats, sleep was well earned that night.

15th January 2017: Hurunui River

Date:    15/01/17
River:    Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:   42 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2, water clear.
Weather Conditions:  Hot with strong gusty nor-westerly winds.
Number on Trip:    Initially 16 kayakers but only 7 paddling this section.
Time on River:  2 hours.
Comments:  This was planned as a beginner friendly trip to the Waiau but with the Met Service predicting heavy rain around the main divide (which didn’t seem to eventuate) and strong nor-westerly winds (which certainly did eventuate), Graeme decided that the Hurunui would be more sheltered and was a better option. So Sunday morning saw 16 gallant paddlers headed to out to the Hurunui. The forecast was sunny, warm with strong nor-westers. After checking on Devil’s Fang Falls we all headed up to the Jollie Brook put in to decide what to do as it was pretty windy. From there some of the group decided to go somewhere less windy, Ian took his group down to Seawards to paddle Maori Gully and those left with Graeme decided to paddle down to South Branch and get out there, thinking this section should be more sheltered.

Decisions at Jollie Brook. To paddle or not to paddle, that is the question?

So seven of us put in at Jollie Brook, while the rest headed off, taking our vehicles down to South Branch so we didn’t have to run a shuttle. We were accompanied by the clubs new double kayak, a Jackson Dynamic Duo, it was a good looking boat and certainly an improvement on the old Topo Duo which had gotten well past its safe use by date. The couple paddling it decided to try a roll before we got underway and asked if I could rescue them if it didn’t work. The first part went well but they couldn’t quite get it upright and when I tried to help pull it up, I couldn’t reach far enough over to get a grip without dislocating my rib again and a swim resulted.

Once we got underway, the wind, while strong and gusty, wasn’t too bad and we had an enjoyable paddle down the initial boulder garden section. I tried to surf and catch eddies but most of the others were just happy to get down the river so I had to make sure I didn’t get left too far behind.

The Dynamic Duo line up on an early rapid, heading towards the first play spot.

At the first usual play spot, there weren’t any takers on the eddies or the surf wave so I demonstrated the accidental nose stand and pirouette as my nose caught while surfing and I narrowly avoided the bluff. It was an impressive move for me but the look on my face conveyed that it wasn’t deliberate. As we carried on down, people got a bit bolder and were happy to practice rolls and breaking out of eddies.

A beautiful sunny day to be on the river.

In the gorges, we were fairly protected from the wind but it still made its presence felt at times and paddling upstream to catch waves etc, got very hard.

At South Branch, some of the group got out to move the vehicles to Dozy Stream while the rest continued on down. From South Branch, the valley opens out considerably and the river gets very exposed. In one flat section, the wind started to really hammer us, I was leaning into it to try and stay upright when an extra strong gust hit us and blew myself and the paddler next to me completely over. We both rolled up again so quickly that it seemed to the kayaker behind us, that this was a deliberately coordinated move. After that, I kept my paddle low and concentrated on bucking the wind and staying upright, the other guys weren’t so lucky and were blown over again. This section definitely wasn’t much fun and we kept moving at brisk pace.

The Dynamic Duo runs a rapid.

We halted well before Devil’s Fang Falls and discussed what we intended to do. The Dynamic Duo was happy to lead and Lukasz decided to get out above the rapid. The other solo kayaker and myself eddied out midway down the lead in and waited for the wind to abate. At that point the wind strength had increased considerably and the blown spray stung your face and eyes. After huddling in the eddy for what seemed like quite a while, I decided to go in a “slightly” calmer patch and broke out. I think I took the same line as the pre-Christmas run, sliding down the tongue with a good brace on the right hand side and then pulled into the eddy below the falls to provide additional safety to the next kayaker (and try and capture the moment amidst all the wind blown spray). He had no problems, despite disappearing almost completely in the form and then bursting forth in spectacular style. He pulled in beside me and then we both broke out and paddled down to the get out, no one was keen to play.

Wind blown spray obscures a kayaker as he re-emerges from the bottom of Devil’s Fang Falls.

After that, we were all glad to get changed, load up the boats and head back to town. We didn’t see any sign of the others at Maori Gully, so we guess they didn’t hang around either. It was a fun day out and nice to be on the river and see Graeme out again, but it was pretty darn windy.

18th December 2016: Hurunui River

Date:    18/12/16
River:    Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:   51 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2-3, water clear.
Weather Conditions:  Cool and overcast, with gusty nor-westerly winds and occasional rainy spells.
Number on Trip:    14 kayakers with 7 paddling Maori Gully.
Time on River:  3.15 hours.
Comments:   I hadn’t been able to get out on the river for a while as work, ill health, weather and the trip schedule conspired to keep me home, so I was pretty keen to go for a paddle. The day before was beautiful, hot and sunny, almost perfect but Sunday dawned with a less promising forecast. Still, I wasn’t going to pass up the chance of a paddle before Christmas so it was off to the Belfast Tavern.

I managed to get a ride up with Andre and there was some lively conversation on the way up with “Honest John” the serial kayak trader. We got changed at Seawards before heading up to the put in at Jollie Brook, pausing for the obligatory checking out of lines at Devil’s Fang Falls. With the increased flow there was a lot more options on the right hand side, with a particularly nice green tongue running through to the right of centre.

We had a mixed group on the trip with a number of newer, less experienced paddlers on the trip and this meant the odd swim, but no real dramas. Even the stretch below Jollie Brook saw the occasional out of boat experience as boulders beneath the waters surface tripped up the unwary. I generally paddle at the back of the group as this means I can keep an eye on everyone and ensure that no one gets left behind, it also means that I can play on whatever I like without having to worry about being run down or cut off. Being at the back usually means that others have any rescue or recovery in hand before I arrive and so it has been quite sometime since I had rescue anyone and this made some of the boat recoveries a little interesting. Most of the time we were trying to push the unaccompanied boat into an eddy with varying degrees of success as no one seemed to want to or be able to clip a tow line on to the boat. Several times I tried to get a line attached to a boat, but found it difficult to do with the boat on my left hand side and my tow line attached to my right hand side. Once the tow line was attached, getting the boat into an eddy and keeping it there was relatively easy, then it was just a matter of reuniting paddler, boat and paddle (sometimes easier said than done). It was good practice and something I should try more often.

Running the rapid in one of the early gorges below Jollie Brook.

I took it fairly easy on the early stages as I wasn’t feeling particularly good, a bit run down and tired, but still had fun and it was great to be on the river even if the weather wasn’t the best.

Breaking out from an eddy with a high brace.

There were plenty of opportunities for people to test their skills and try new things as there were plenty of people on hand if things didn’t go quite as planned.

Surfing.

There was also a bit of playing around on the bluff and eddy above the South Branch confluence. The challenge is to get into the raised eddy on the face of the bluff without messing it up. Andre, of course, styled it like a pro and went to pull a number of tail stands around the bluff. A number of others were also up to the challenge, though I declined, choosing instead to take some not very good photos from too far away.

Above Devil’s Fang Falls a number of the group decided to walk the rapid down the left side of the river. I just bombed it so I could take photos of others running the drop. I took a line that was a little too far right and sort of slid on an angle down the seam, almost on the verge of tipping but managed to stay upright.

Devil’s Fang Falls can still deliver some excitement.

No dramas and some good lines with most paddlers disappearing from sight into the white water at the base before reappearing. John H chose to take a few photos from just above the rapid and then portaged the actual drop despite some encouragement from below. Two of the less experienced paddlers chose to get off the river here, while their minder paddled off to get the car.

The next challenge was the rapid and bluff below Dozy Stream, having swam after being swept up against this bluff and seen other better paddlers have similar unpleasant experiences, I generally stay river left and limit my play in the hole above the bluff (which does offer a very nice surf). I also try to stay out of the small eddy on the river right above the bluff as getting in and out of this eddy is usually where the “fun” starts. A number of the more experience paddlers were up to the challenge and having fun. This was all good until it all turned to custard for one not so lucky kayaker, who found himself upside down at the base of the bluff. After a few failed roll attempts (it is a difficult place to roll as there is a shallow ledge below the waters surface and the force of the water is pretty strong), he was out of his boat and then quickly clambered up the bank, whilst his kayak continued to recirculate in the eddy, occasionally disappearing as the current drove it under. Fortunately Andre was able to get the boat to shore and help the paddler back in.

Between the rapids, there are quiet spots where one can appreciate the scenery.

From here on down to Seawards, things went pretty smoothly but I could feel my energy flagging, I also ended up tipping after taking a bad line through some rocks on one rapid and hitting one of them. I took a few hits on the helmet while upside down but managed to roll up on the first attempt. Considering the way I felt, I decided to get out before Maori Gully, something I hadn’t done in a very long time. At Seawards, we also met a group of river bug paddlers, who were enjoying a day out, amongst them some familiar faces. I got changed and then helped with the shuttle, our car and gear arriving where it needed to be, whilst others weren’t so lucky. The remainder of the group paddled Maori Gully without any dramas. It was nice to have got a paddle in before Christmas, but I was certainly glad to be off the river as I was pretty shattered by the end of the trip.