Category Archives: Kayaking

11th June 2017: Avon River

Date:    11/06/17
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.


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
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
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
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.


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.


6th November 2016: Rangitata River

Date: 6/11/16
River: Rangitata River, South Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 56 cumecs at Klondyke, water cold and slightly discoloured. Grade 2.
Weather Conditions: Sunny, warm with strong nor westerly winds.
Number on Trip: 14
Time on River: 3 hours
Comments: I was running a bit late by the time I pulled into the car park at Caltex Hornby as I had been a bit slow getting out of the house. The loading of vehicles was well underway but I managed to find a space in Doug’s car. While I was filling in the trip sign in sheet, my phone rang, a pretty unusual occurrence for early on a Sunday morning.

It was Lauri, apparently Peridot (our cat) had leapt in through the bedroom window with a sparrow in her mouth, which she then proceeded to chase around the room until Lauri managed to shut Peri out of the room, at which point Lauri decided to ring me. Luckily for Mr Jack Sparrow, he was unharmed except for a few missing feathers and after a rest and some cat food (instead of being cat food), he escaped from the cat cage he had been placed in and flew around the garage until Lauri got him to fly outside.

After getting off the phone and completing the loading, we were off, heading south. We got changed at the put in and as we didn’t have a group running the grade 4 section, we needed to run a shuttle.

Discussing lines above the put in at the Klondike weir.

Discussing lines above the put in at the Klondike weir.

Once the shuttle was run, we wandered down to the put in, with many of the group deciding to put in below the weir, missing out on bigger rapids (though it can look a little daunting to start off with, it is pretty straight forward and rarely results in swims).

Most of the group chose to portage the weir and put in below it.

Most of the group chose to portage the weir and put in below it.

Below the weir, their are plenty of little boulder gardens to play around in and this is one of the fun things about this trip, catching eddies, surfing holes, working your way through the rapids and making the most of what they have to offer.

Sarah runs a rapid.

Sarah runs a rapid.

There were plenty of rapids to play on and it was nice to be out on the river.

Ernest carving it up.

Ernest carving it up.

It was good to catch up with Ernest, who I hadn’t seen for a while. He had a good day out and seemed to feature in a lot of my photos from the trip.

Our trip leader, Doug, having a surf.

Our trip leader, Doug, having a surf.

We stopped to play a number of features, with the waves around the man made groins being particularly popular.

Some group play on the river.

Some group play on the river.

There was the occasional swim by some of the newer paddlers and Ross managed to get slightly stuck whilst playing on a small feature and ended up having to exit his boat after failing to roll, which was a little embarrassing.

The last boulder garden rapid was a lot of fun and a great way to end the trip, with some great, bouncy wave trains, plenty of rocks and holes to surf. We had a raft catch up with us near the end of this rapid and they gave us a bit of a wave before paddling on.

Shuttle was run and then back to town, after a enjoyable day on the river with a good bunch of people.

11th September 2016: Ashley River

Date:    11/09/16
Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  
11 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water slightly discoloured, swift and cold. Grade 3.
Weather Conditions:  
Sunny & warm, no wind.
Number on Trip:   
9 people.
Time on River: 
3.75 hours.
Comments:  This weeks club trip was to Murchison and as we had a big Anti-TPPA march on Saturday, this wasn’t an option. The weather looked great over the weekend and it was with some joy that I spied on the WWCC Facebook page that Ian F was planning on paddling the lower Ashley Gorge on Sunday meeting at the relaxing time of 9am in Belfast.

Paddling permission was sought and granted, gear was loaded and Sunday morning found me with a group of like-minded individuals at the Belfast Tavern car park. We sorted out vehicles and I opted to take mine as the shuttle vehicle and together with Em, I headed for the Ashley Gorge Domain, pausing briefly in Oxford to get some fuel.

Really an area of natural beauty only about 1 hour from Christchurch.

Really an area of natural beauty only about 1 hour from Christchurch.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day and the mountains looked quite spectacular with their fresh dusting of snow from earlier in the week.  We got changed and squeezed into two vehicles to drive up to the put in. One of the guys had a longish chat to the camp ground manager about the condition of the road and succinctly summed up the conversation with “give it a try”. When we arrived at the gate to the Lees Valley Road, it was half closed with a sign announcing “Road Closed Ahead”. We pushed on and found the road was pretty good, just the odd snowy/wet patches in shaded areas. Beyond the middle bridge it looked a bit more snowy and difficult but another group of kayakers managed to get through.

Still snow on the hills as we leave the put in behind.

Still snow on the hills as we leave the put in behind.

There were small patches of snow around the put in but the air was warm and the sun bright, and we were soon on the water and heading downstream at a relaxed pace. This was the lowest flow I had paddled this section at and I was interested to see what it was like, as previously no one generally paddled the Ashley below 15 cumecs, but it the last few years, groups have run it at as low as 5 cumecs.

Patches of snow on the bank as Em makes a move.

Patches of snow on the bank as Em makes a move.

The sunlight sparkled off the water and we leisurely paddled between rapids, catching eddies and surfing holes. The flow was good, with good paddleable channels and lines through rapids. With more rocks exposed, some of the rapids became more interesting, but there were no real dramas and the low flow made the river a lot less pushy. The boulder garden above the Forever Eddy and the entrance to the gorge section, was particularly fun with the opportunity to pick your way through multiple different routes, making it as challenging as you desired.

Ian make a splash.

Ian makes a splash.

Once in the gorge section the river tightens up and the rapids get bigger but at this flow they were quite nice and generally manageable by everyone in the group, which included some newer paddlers. The main drop was interesting as it seemed to get a lot messier at the lower flow. I watched most of the group go over without any drama and then I headed over myself. The line I usually take is from right to left, boofing into the eddy on the left, as I reached the top of the drop this time, it looked a lot narrower and distinctly messy, I blundered down something that looked sort of ok, hit the white water at the bottom and almost got through but found myself going over. Things went a little swirly for a short while and my first roll failed, fortunately my next attempt succeeded and I was upright and in the eddy, I reached for my camera to capture the next kayakers going over the drop but was too late and missed the shot. Photographed the drop whilst catching my breath but the angle and sunshine plus the complete lack of kayaks, didn’t really do it justice.

The rest of the gorge was fun without much in the way of dramas, it was just a great way to spend a beautiful spring day. Once out of the gorge section, our pace picked up and we didn’t spend too much time playing around, while still enjoying the frequent smaller rapids.

Ian runs one of the last major rapids in the Ashley Gorge section.

Ian runs one of the last major rapids in the Ashley Gorge section.

I was feeling a bit tired by the time we made it back to the camp ground but I really enjoyed myself and I think the rest of the group did too. We quickly changed into our dry clothes and then I drove the other drivers back to the get in, before returning to the camp ground to pick up Em and our gear. We headed back to the Belfast directly and then off home, feeling tired but happy.

4th September 2016: Hurunui River

Date:    4/09/16
River:    Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:   43 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2-3, water clear.
Weather Conditions:  Cool and overcast, with light winds and rare rainy spells.
Number on Trip:    13 kayakers with 7 paddling Maori Gully.
Time on River:  3.75 hours.
Comments:   This was the first WWCC trip of season and my first time in my kayak since May. I was a little worried that I might be a little rusty and a tad unfit. Kevin, who was joining us after 15 year break from kayaking was also a little nervous about being a little rusty. We put in at the Jollie Brook swing bridge, with a couple walking up to the top of the rapid for the “complete” experience and after a good long reorientation paddle around, headed off down stream.

Still plenty of snow on the mountains but not too cold for a great day on the river.

Still plenty of snow on the mountains but not too cold for a great day on the river.

Johns H chose to swim early on in the Jollie Brook section so no one else had to feel nervous about taking the first swim of the season.

Watch out for the rock.

Watch out for the rock.

We played our way down the river, spending a bit of time at all the usual features. Despite the cool air temperature and the water that might have recently been snow, I was feeling pretty warm. It was nice to be on the Hurunui with little or no wind, as the frequent strong Nor-westers can really mess with your paddling enjoyment. A minor curse meant that due to the lack of wind and the overcast conditions, swarms of sandflies were everywhere, even on the river and it was a real relief when you lost then in a surge of white water.

Happiness is a goal achieved. In this case catching the small elevated eddy on the face of the bluff above the South Branch confluence.

Happiness is a goal achieved. In this case catching the small elevated eddy on the face of the bluff above the South Branch confluence.

Catching the bluff eddy just above the South Branch confluence was a bit of a challenge and certainly brought a smile to the faces of several successful paddlers. As we worked our way down to Devils Fang Falls, most of the group decided to paddle the rapid and using a variety of different lines along the right hand side, all managed to successfully navigate the drop. I tipped over in the run out at the bottom but managed to roll up on my second attempt. I then decided to have a bit of a play around in the foaming mass below the drop and found myself upside down again, this time, after three roll attempts I pulled the deck and had my first swim of the season. Clutching my drink bottle, paddle and kayak, I kicked my way back to shore. After emptying out my kayak, I wasn’t feeling quite so warm and the water was pretty frigid. Still I was dressed warmly, with plenty of layers so it wasn’t too bad, especially when we got moving again.

Breaking out and surfing the wave.

Breaking out and surfing the wave.

More play as we worked out way down to Seawards, where we paused for a time and part of our group got out to run the shuttle, while we ran Maori Gully. We were joined on the river by a group from UCCC before we our groups diverged again.

We had a bit of a play at the Magic Roundabout and then Matt dropped in to Simon’s Hole for a brief “play”, something I had never seen anyone do before. While it wasn’t particularly dramatic, it didn’t look like something I was interested in trying. The next couple of rapids were fun with no dramas but Cheese Grater had everyone feeling at least a little nervous. Fortunately at this flow it was pretty straight forward, with a big drop down then up a large wave, which looked quite daunting from the top.

Running Cheese Grater can be exciting, but no dramas today, just a wet slap in the face.

Running Cheese Grater can be exciting, but no dramas today, just a wet slap in the face.

The next couple of rapids were all good but the corner rapid, the last grade 3 rapid in the Gully, seems to have got a lot more boisterous and the run out was a bit messy, though that might just have been the flow. From then on we kept moving, as cold and fatigue were starting to be felt. We had a brief play at the Pop Up Spot, as some of the newer kayakers tried some moves, and then on to the get out, where the rest of the team, the cars and our dry gear were waiting.

We headed back to town via the Copper Road Cafe for a beer and a “debrief”. It had been a good trip and a great way to start the season.