Category Archives: River

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.

24th February 2018: Ashley River

Date:    24/02/18
Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  
16 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water discoloured and cool. Grade 3.
Weather Conditions:  
Warm & sunny, little wind.
Number on Trip: 
 9 people doing the lower section.
Time on River: 
4 hours.
Comments:  The remnants of Cyclone Gita crossed New Zealand on Tuesday night, dumping a lot of water, closing roads, causing flooding and slips. On the up side, the flow gauge on the Ashley River shot up to almost 250 cumecs and over the following days, various trips were organised depending on individuals personal bravery and ability to take time off work. Since the weather wasn’t that great and I find the higher flows slightly less enjoyable (scary), I ended up tagging on to Bruce’s Saturday morning trip at 16 cumecs.

At The Peg, a second trip was being organised for those that thought that 16 cumecs was too low and that the Hurunui at around 80 cumecs would be more fun. Everything was sorted out very quickly and we were soon heading to the campground with Ian at the wheel.

We met up with Bruce, Ross and Mark at the campground, got changed and consolidated vehicles before driving up to the put in at the middle bridge. At the put in, the blackberry bushes were dotted with ripe berries and this provided some pre-paddle sustenance. The water was still quite discoloured and was flowing fairly swiftly.

Ross looks for the line.

Although I was feeling pretty tired from too many late nights and early mornings, I was soon in to the rhythm of the river. It was a beautiful day, with a good bunch of people, there was no rush and the flow provided plenty of interest without the push of higher flow levels.

Ian digs in deep.

There was plenty of features to play on and play we did, taking our time to surf some of the waves to the max.

Sergi makes a splash.

The boulder garden rapids were quite interesting as their character changes significantly with different flow levels. Boulders that need to be dodged at low flows either disappear or become holes to avoid at higher flows. Often rocks hid below the surface, obscured by the brownish water, ready to surprise with a solid thump or to throw off your line when you failed to realise the wave you were going to paddle through was hiding a boulder.

Looking up stream.

Initially there were 7 of us in the group but at the Forever Eddy above the entrance to the gorge proper, we were joined by 2 others.

Making a splash.

The rapids within the gorge are regularly spaced, generally with reasonable recovery spaces in between, not that they were really required with our group, upside down time usually ended with a roll, not a swim.

One of a number of beautiful waterfalls along the way.

The gorge is a beautiful place, especially on a sunny day (though the contrast of light and shadow makes getting good photos a little tricky). The hillsides are covered with thick, green vegetation, occasionally broken up with sheer rock faces and cascading waterfalls. The rocks can be sharp and jagged, tearing chucks of plastic from your hull or worn in to smooth curves by the flow of the river over the age, or sometimes in layers, folded or stacked vertical by the forces that formed the hills that the river cuts through. Sometimes they are smooth and grey, or mottled with patches of green, moss carpet. The sun sparkles off the rapids and the waters surface, or glistens on the wet rocks and trickling stream-lets that feed the flow.

Running the main drop.

At the main drop, I choose to be one of the first to go over so I could get some photos of the others. I’d watched Mark do the drop and had a fair idea what my line would be. However at the top of the drop things went a little pear shaped, a small hole messed up my line and a large rock ruined my corrective paddle stroke and almost before I knew it, I was upside down and possibly even went over the drop backwards and upside down. Fortunately I flushed out and rolled upright (I wasn’t the only one to mess up the drop on the day though). I fought my way upstream so I could get in to position but only managed to get a few photos.

Mark tries to fit Sergi’s now slightly shorter paddle into his boat.

Sergi came down the drop, he tipped at the bottom and when he rolled up again, he had slightly less paddle than before. Sergi paddled to the side with his half paddle as Ian recovered the other blade. Fortunately someone had packed a split paddle (it pays to be prepared), so he was able to continue on with that, while Bruce sawed off the other blade so the bits would fit in the back of a kayak.

Sergi runs a rapid.

We continued on after a short break as food was eaten, boats drained, paddles cut and stored. There were plenty more rapids to run and plenty of good spots for surfing at this flow.

Ian lets go of his paddle to hand surf… without telling anyone.

At one particularly good spot, Ian became so in tune with the river whilst surfing a wave, that he released his paddle and let it float away while he continued paddling with his hands. Unfortunately he neglected to let anyone else know and his paddle was rapidly disappearing from sight before anyone noticed. Luckily someone gave chase and caught it before the river claimed it for it’s own.


We spent so much time at this spot, taking turns at riding the various options, that Mark and Ross disappeared down stream and we didn’t see them again until we got back to the cars.

Surging through the last grade 3 rapid.

The river carried on and we made the most of the days offerings. By the time we reached the river flow guage, I was pretty tired, having spent slightly over 4 hours in my boat. The last leg was a bit of a grind but soon the bridge appeared. The shuttle was run, while the rest of us enjoyed the warmth and sunshine that tends to be rare at the end of an Ashley trip. Usually the rain that has pushed the river level up, lingers and the campground is further chilled by the lengthening shadows, but not today. Today we were truly blessed.


13th January 2018: Ashley River

Date:    13/01/18
Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  
32 to 26 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water discoloured and cool. Grade 3.
Weather Conditions:  
Warm & overcast, sunny at times.
Number on Trip: 
 22 people doing upper section, with 14 of those also doing the lower section (plus a lot of others just doing the lower section).
Time on River: 
5.15 hours.
Comments:  First kayaking trip of the year and with all the recent unseasonable rain, it was to be a trip down the Ashley with a reasonable flow (a rare occurrence in January), not just a 5 cumec bottom scratching run (still fun though).

There was quite a group gathered at The Peg when I got there, running slightly late due to a slow start. I found a space in a car, loaded my boat and then we were off shortly afterwards.

At the camp group, there were plenty of boaters keen to take advantage of flow. Some only planned to run the lower section, while the rest were keen to run the entire gorge from the Lees Valley. After we got changed and sorted out vehicles and dry gear, ensuring that everything was going to be in the correct place at the end of the trip (something that isn’t easy when there are multiple trips from the same place), we drove up to the put in.

There were 22 kayakers plus Hugh with his cataraft, plus Ross & Brian, who were running their own private trip. After the usual sorting out of boats and gear, we wandered down the river and floated off with the current. We split in to two groups and I took the tail end Charlie position. It had been a while since I had paddled this section at a similar flow and it was a bit pushier and I had to keep on my toes to avoid any awkward upside down time (lack of sleep and general fatigue didn’t help either). The discoloured water tended to disguise the rocks and there was the occasional thump when the wave you had just ploughed through contained slightly more geology than expected. The main rapids on the upper section provided a reasonable amount of entertainment, with plenty of rocks to dodge and eddies to catch. There was the odd swim but no one seemed to have much difficulty.

It was great to be on the river but I felt pretty out of shape, still by the time we reached the middle bridge I was feeling a bit more relaxed and confident in my paddling skills. Some of our group left to run the shuttle, and the rest of us formed up into two groups of seven before carrying on into the gorge. We had several people who had only been through this section a few times before, but Bruce and Ian were on hand to give plenty of helpful advice and guidance.


It was a beautiful day on the Ashley.

I was surprised at the speed at which we progressed, the higher flow pushing us along. Rapids flashed by and before I knew it, we were running down the boulder garden rapid above the forever eddy that marks the entrance to the gorge proper. I always enjoy this boulder garden, it is quite long with plenty of options and changes depending on the flow as rocks submerge forming new features, while the low flow features wash out.

Punching through.

We had a brief pause in the forever eddy and Ian took the opportunity to adjust the seat of his Axiom, something that was to become a feature of the rest of the trip, as it kept slipping out of position. Once in the gorge, the swift flow kept our pace up and fortunately there were no dramas, everyone handled the challenges well. I tended to bomb through the rapids so I could find a suitable place to take photos from and hopefully catch some good shots.

Christine powers through.

We soon got to the main drop and the first group were still there. I lined up to run the drop but looking down from the top, it looked pretty messy and my line took me straight into the guts of it. I ended up tipping at the bottom and it took two attempts to roll upright as I flushed out. By the time I was in control again, I’d gone a little too far from the drop to find a good place to take any photos, and all the eddies were taken anyway. The rest of the group came down perfectly, with only one other person having to roll, so it was a shame not to get any pictures.

Scenery, waterfalls & white water…what more could you want?

The scenery in the gorge was great, I really love the remote, wilderness feel in the gorge, it is a real treasure to have a gem like this so close to the city. It was nice to run the rapids in the gorge at a higher flow than I have done in a good while.

Riding the foamy pillow.

The corner rapid was a bit more pushy and a few people got a little closer to the big rock that forms the bluff, than they probably would have liked, but there were no real dramas.

Looking back upstream at the scenic wonder and remoteness of the Ashley Gorge.

There were quite a few good surf spots and both Bruce and Ian put them to good use, and I got an occasional turn when I wasn’t taking photos.

Ian surfs up a storm.

I was starting to get pretty tired by the time we reached the last major rapid, I was feeling pretty tired but still enjoying the trip. The gap section looked quite impressive at this flow and I was able to get some reasonable shots of most of the members of our group, the one featuring Bruce even managed the make it into The Press newspaper, along with a couple of my other kayaking photos.

Bruce clears the final grade 3 rapid.

From here on down, the rapids become easier but there is still plenty of fun to be had and at this flow, there were some very nice, bouncy wave trains.

Eventually the flow gauges came in to sight, meaning our trip was almost at an end. Doing both sections of the gorge makes for a long trip but it was definitely rewarding. That said, it was nice when the Domain rolled in to view and I was able to drag myself out of kayak and rest my weary limbs. Our vehicles and gear were waiting for us, and almost everyone had their dry gear in the right place (well at least one persons gear ended up in Oxford, but that all got sorted out once it was located). We got changed, packed up and then headed in to Oxford for a well deserved snack.




5th January 2018: Shotover River

Date:    5/01/18
Shotover River, Queenstown, NZ
River Conditions:  
12 cumecs at Bowens Peak. Water clear and cool. Grade 2.
Weather Conditions:  
Cool & overcast, slight drizzle.
Number on Trip: 
 4 people.
Time on River: 
0.5 hours.
Comments:  One of the things that Lauri’s family wanted to do when they came to New Zealand for the first time, was to visit Queenstown. This opened up the possibility of a wide range of activities, ranging from a peaceful cruise on the Earnslaw to the more full on activities like bungy jumping or white water rafting. While I would have been keen for a spot of white water rafting, the fact that learning to swim isn’t that common in Korea, made that activity a little too extreme. Likewise the were no takers for bungy jumping, though when we did visit the Kawarau bridge site, we got to witness one woman doing the jump naked, which was a little bit of a surprise for our guests to say the least. Since we were keen to do something exciting that involved white water and little actually risk, a jet boat ride seemed like a good option.

Shotover Jet was recommended to us and after a bit of discussion, a booking was made and the next morning we walked down to “The Station” to catch the shuttle out to the site. We were issued with the special red scarves and when the driver arrived, we all trooped down to the bus. It was just a short ride out to the Shotover River and our friendly driver explained all the safety information, which Danbi then translated in to Korean.

A jet boat speeds out of the gorge.

From the bus, we were shepherded down to the river, issued with spray jackets and buoyancy aids and had group photos taken. As we waited we were able to witness the jet boats tearing in and out of the gorge and preforming 360’s, it all looked pretty exciting.

After another safety briefing we climbed aboard, I picked an edge seat for maximum thrills and once everyone was in, we were off. The gorge was pretty tight and Nick, our expert driver, was a master at extracting as much excitement as possible, with close passes, high speed turns and 360’s as we skimmed across the waters surface and the rock walls flashed by. Being on the outside edge, I tended to get splashed with a certain amount of spray but generally stayed pretty dry, though I could have done with windscreen wipers on my glasses.

We headed down stream until the gorge opened up and the river widen, becoming shallower. Two dogs chased our boat along the bank before we put them behind us is a cloud of spray. Once we reached the limit of the commercial run, we spun round (several times actually) and headed back up the river, pausing briefly for a chat and to allow the other boats to clear the narrow gorge before we reentered it, all coordinated via radio.

The trip back was exciting and there were plenty more 360’s to be had. Up past the launch point we went, slowing to pass a number of rafts coming off the rafting section. At the upper end of the river that could be accessed by a jet boat, we watched the rafts come down the final big rapid after exiting the old tunnel, built in an attempt to extract gold from the river bed. The white water rafting looked like a lot of fun and I’d certainly be keen to give it a go on another trip.

Back down the river giving the rafters a wide berth, a few more 360’s, a high speed group photo and then we disembarked. Looking at the photo it is pretty clear almost everyone enjoyed themselves (the exception being the elderly Indian couple who definitely seemed to be wondering what their sons had got them in to). In-Sung’s worried expression at the start had changed to a wide smile, though when asked if they wanted to again, our guests replied “yes, but not today”.

A group photo…at speed.

It was a really fun trip, a great mix of excitement, scenery, water, rocks and thrills, in a safe environment, definitely worth doing if you are in Queenstown.

17th December 2017: Hurunui River

Date:    17/12/17
River:    Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:   15 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2 – 3, water clear.
Weather Conditions:  Warm and sunny with light north westerly winds.
Number on Trip:    30 kayakers, with 12 doing Maori Gully
Time on River: 
4 hours.
I had planned to paddle the Hurunui around the end of November but ended up flying to Australia to do an induction for a new job instead. I was definitely looking forward to getting out on the river by the time I got back. The weather looked great, sunny, warm with not too much strength in the nor-wester. There were a lot of people at the meeting point, taking advantage of the beautiful summers day. I soon had my boat loaded up and we were off to the put in at South Branch.

There was possibly a little confusion over the exact put in, with those with 4X4s taking the rougher track to the confluence of the two branches and the others putting in on the South Branch, near the bridge. There was a bit of a wait while shuttles were run etc, and we put this time to good use by paddling upstream to the first rapid and played around on that. Matt, freshly back from the Freestyle World Championships in Argentina, was paddling his old school Wavesport XXX decided that rock splats were the theme for the day and those that could were soon doing them whenever the opportunity presented itself. Eventually it was decided that everyone was on the river (with so many on the river, it was at times difficult to determine exactly what was happening), so loose groupings occurred and we headed on downstream.

The water was cool, clear with a greenish hue, and the sun warm, it was a great day to be out on the river. We were also most fortunate that the nor-westerly winds were relatively light. The river was flowing at a pretty low level, meaning that there was little push in the water, making catching waves and eddies relatively easy, it also meant there were a lot more rocks exposed.

On the way down to Dozy Stream, we discussed Devil’s Fang Falls. the general consensus from those that had stopped to look at it, was that it was too bony to run safely via the normal routes and that most people planned to walk it. I never really like getting out of my kayak, but it certainly seemed like the sensible thing to do.

My usual route down Devil’s Fang Falls, looking particularly toothy at this low flow.

So instead of heading down the right hand channel, most of us went down the left hand channel (which used to be the old chicken route before it mostly dried up). I hugged the right hand side of the channel, hoping to get a look at the rapid and maybe see if there was an OK line that dropped down below the toothy section. Picking my way between the rocks, I spotted a likely path and pretty soon the current caught me and required my commitment to run it cleanly rather than dither about and end up stuck on a rock or worse (going down backwards, upside or both didn’t seem like desirable options). I took the channel to the left of the big rock in the photo below and made it through cleanly, though I’m not sure if I went as deep as the paddler pictured below.

Going down (way down) the left hand channel on Devil’s Fang Falls.

Matt came down a similar route but got caught up on some rocks and ended up bouncing down the line to the right of the rock pictured above. He had a nice play around in the foam below the rapids while I took photos of the others who chose to come down the way we had.

Matt plays around below Devil’s Fang Falls.

John R took the usual channel and pulled into the eddy just above the drop for a look, then decided to portage, while the rest of the group portaged down the left bank.

Getting some air, just down from the Dozy Stream put in.

The low flow made the rapid below the Dozy Stream put in, a little more forgiving. Many of our group choose to get some air by boofing off the rock at the top of the rapid (pictured above), and the hole (pictured below) provided some excellent rides without the usually risk of getting trashed and then swept into the bluff at the bottom of the rapid.

Surfing on the play wave, just down from the Dozy Stream put in.

On down to Seawards was a pleasant paddle even though the wind picked up a little. We stopped for a while at Seaward’s while people sorted out cars, shuttles, gear & dry clothes (or in some cases, failed to do these things). Eventually someone took the lead and lead us off into Maori Gully.

Rock splat in the Magic Roundabout.

The Magic Roundabout was fun and not quite as pushy as it can be at higher flows. We played around there for a bit, until I noticed most of the group had continued on.

The boulder garden and Bum Rock rapids were fun, with some of the features being a bit more pronounced in the low flow, but without the force. The run out below the Elevator was pretty bouncy with some interesting dynamics, and I found myself upside down. I soon rolled upright, but as the water was still pretty rough and I almost ran into Paul, I went over again. I rolled up easily and this time stayed up, it is always nice to know that I can actually roll, but I definitely prefer it if I can keep my hair dry.

Cheese Grater demonstrating it strong kick to the left.

Cheese Grater always makes me a little nervous, especially at low flow, when the drop becomes steeper and the rocks responsible for the rapid’s name are clearly visible just below the water’s surface. At low flows, the kick to the left is also more noticeable. The first couple of paddlers made it down without any dramas, though the push to the left was definitely a factor. I lined up to the right of centre, but as I neared the lip, I had a not particularly pleasant view of all the teeth, clearly visible through the green and glassy water. I made a few course adjustments to avoid the rocks, and then headed down a green tongue, with my kayaks nose pointing to the right. I got through alright but the current pushed me very close to the rocks on the left hand side. I found a position where I could park up and take photos without being swept back into the flow. Everyone got through without any major problems, but almost everyone got swept into the left bank.

The Corner Rapid was until recently the resting place of a jet boat that had failed to successfully negotiate Maori Gully and sank. Apparently someone had recently salvaged it or it had broken up, so only a few pieces were still visible below the water. At the take out, we caught up with a group of pack rafters, who had paddled down from Jollie Brook. Since it was a hot day and the water looked particularly inviting, I dragged to kayak up on to the bank and proceeded to have a nice, refreshing swim as well as jumping off the cliff a couple of times.

Cliff jumping at the Maori Gully take out. A great way to cool off and wind down.

After that, it was a very sore and tired me that climbed up the steep track back to the cars. Got changed and after a bit of a sit down, (while those who didn’t organise for their vehicles, clothes & lunches to be in the correct place at the end of the trip, got these things sorted out), we headed back in to town.

12th November 2017: Ashley River

Date:    12/11/17
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.

Running a rapid. Photo by Ian F.

Picking my way through a boulder garden. Photo by Ian F.

Some of the routes got narrower with the low flow. Photo by Ian F.

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
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
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 houses 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.