Monthly Archives: December 2006

2006 Kayaking Season

Date: 17/12/06
River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 42 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2+(3), water clear, cold and swift.
Weather Conditions: A bit of everything, sun, rain, wind, cold but mainly overcast.
Number on Trip: Over 30 kayakers plus 4 rafts with over 30 people on them.
Time on River: 4 hours, 30 minutes.
Comments: The Hurunui Big Day Out. The weather wasn’t looking too flash as we left the Belfast Tavern car park and as we headed up the motorway it got steadily worst. However, once passed through Weka Pass it began to get clearer and by the time we reached the Maori Gully take out, it was merely overcast. Chaos was the order of the day, as gear was sorted out, people got changed and the dry gear was stowed in the vehicles what would be left at the get out. All the rafters dry gear was loaded into two vehicles that were to be driven down to the rafting get out via a farm track. This would mean that all the rafters would be able to quickly get changed into dry cloths and wouldn’t be left standing around in the cold, the rafts would then be packed up and loaded on to the trailer and everyone would then be driven back up to the awaiting barbecue…Now back to reality… Once everyone was sorted out, we made our way up to the Jollie Brook put in.

More confusion as kayakers milled about and rafters were issued with paddles and gear and given instructions on how to paddle a raft. As one of the the rafts wasn’t up to scratch, all the rafters were divided into three groups instead of the previously organised four. Eventually kayakers took to the water (without any real groups, taking of names/numbers or assigning tasks/position) and began milling around before straggling off down stream. The rafts were launched and did some on the water practice exercises before they headed off. I planned to paddle along with the raft that Lauri was on but it powered on down stream and disappear from view. Shortly after the other two rafts went by, a beginner tipped out and let his boat float down stream while he struggled to shore. Duncan wasn’t having much success clipping a tow line to the boat but eventually we managed to push it into an eddy where it was reunited with its owner. By the time, we got under way again, Duncan, Tom, Per and I were at the back of the field (or so we thought) and remained there until John R and Glen’s group caught us up near South Branch and then we carried on together the rest of the way.


Me in my kayak and Lauri in a raft, a decision I was going to regret about 4 hours later. Photo by Per.

It was pretty neat to be back on the Hurunui again as this was my first trip on the regularly run section of the river, this season. It was also interesting to note the various changes that the previous high flows had wrought. The chute below the South Branch confluence is no longer really a rapid as most of the flow comes in through a channel that used to be the eddy above it. This new channel has formed it own new rapid on the corner where the river runs into a rocky outcrop on the left bank. There are a few other changes in the channels further down but the most noticeable change, was in the rapid above the Dozy Stream put in. After breaking out of the eddy behind the rock, I was somewhat surprised to note that the rapid had got considerably bigger with more of the flow taking the right channel and some scouring out has occurred. There were some fairly big waves and holes and it made for quite an exciting ride.

Finally we made it to Seawards and the less experienced paddlers got out. Tom also took the opportunity to swap the clubs Lettmann (which seemed to have been leaking) for Per’s creek boat. After a while, we headed off again, pausing for some to have a play at the Magic Roundabout and then on past Simon’s hole, with only Glen pausing to have a play here. Down through the various rapids and drops, I took some not so good lines and ended up rolling on two of the drops. Eventually the take out appeared in the distance and I thought I could make out Lauri in her red jacket, I waved out but as I got nearer I realised I was mistaken. Then out of the boats and off up the hill (the climb out hadn’t got any easier).

When I arrived at the top there was still no sign of Lauri, in fact there was no sign of any of the rafters. I asked around and it appeared that there had been a mix up and no one really knew where the rafters were (or seemed to actually care) and the vehicles with the dry gear hadn’t been able to get to the take out due to a locked gate and a misplaced key (apparently this was known to be a problem before the rafters got on the river but no one deemed it important enough to sort it out). So somewhere out there was a group of cold, wet rafters, mainly women and children, some of whom didn’t have adequate clothing/footwear/food with no dry clothing and no idea where they actually were, but that was ok because the barbecue was all under control. Eventually the rafters located the vehicles with the dry clothes and managed to lug the heavy rafts up the hill, so when I picked up a rather worse for wear Lauri, we headed straight for home. Needless to say, some people weren’t very pleased and it wasn’t a pleasant drive home. Apparently the rafting was fun (though rather tame as Ed had to play it safe because of the children on the raft) and most people seemed to enjoy it but the experience at the get out really soured the whole thing.

Date: 10/12/06
River: Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 35 to 30 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water brown and swift. Grade 2/3.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm, some high cloud.
Number on Trip: 14 on top section, 10 on bottom section.
Time on River: 2.25 hours on top section, 2.25 hours on bottom section.
Comments: This was the WWCC mystery trip and it turned out we were heading down the Ashley again, excellent! There was some confusion over the meeting time with the trip list stating 8:30am and a later email giving the time as 9am (perhaps that was the mystery), still everyone seemed to get there and we were under way by 9:08am. We had a large group with quite a diverse range of skill levels, from new paddlers, fresh off the beginners courses, to expert paddlers like George, Bob, Matt, Bruce, Retro, Brendon and Kayo. We headed for the Lees Valley put in and as we had a professional shuttle driver (imported all the way from Italy) and the beginners would be getting out at the middle bridge, there would be no waiting around at the end while the shuttle got run. John, the trip organiser, also decided to add “mystery” to his selection of paddling gear, ending up grabbing two left bootees and Nikki’s poly pro and paddle jacket. He also brought two kayaks but decided against paddling his Fly for fear of the mystery moves he would have ended up pulling. John is slightly over the recommended 80Kg weight limit of the Fly and thus it tends to “float” slightly below the surface and thus he encounters some of the problems that a fatter version of me had when I first started paddling a Fly.

Things got off to a fairly shaky start (I was feeling a bit wobbly myself and didn’t really feel like paddling the grade three section), with some of the beginners being more comfortable out of their boats than in them. They also didn’t seem to have “grasped” the idea that it is good to hang on to your gear if you bail out. This forced me to call out on occasion “Quick, save the boat, it belongs to the club! Better rescue the paddler too, I suppose”. The frequency of swims meant that there were some long periods of waiting causing the odd irate comment from at least one old hand. At least one new kayaker got stuck in the eddy that Per ended up in last trip, after a swim and then had another swim while trying to get out of the eddy. We also ended up with a spare paddle in the eddy after it drifted from the grasp of another swimmer. I towed it down stream so it could be reunited with its careless paddler, while Bruce dealt with extracting the beginner from the eddy. Eventually everyone was back in their boats and we were under way again.

The group gradually got more and more strung out but we seemed to finish with the same amount as we started with when we finally arrived at the Middle Bridge. We had a brief break here to eat some food, to get the shuttle drivers short and to generally decide who wanted to paddle the next section. John and Graeme (who had chosen to paddle his Fluid Flirt playboat) were a little unsure and decided against it before changing their minds and deciding to give it a go (no threats or other coercion was involved). So ten paddlers got back into their boats and headed off down stream while the rest drove back up to the put in to pick up the cars and run the shuttle for us.

The first part of the grade three section is pretty cruisy but there was a certain amount of nervous huddling around the more experienced paddlers. Bob was keen to see the eddy that caused Angus grief on the mid winters trip, I had a hard time picking it out but Bruce showed Bob the spot which was lovely and flat at this flow. At the first of the harder rapids, Graeme went through a hole and flipped and was soon out of this boat and spent a bit of time underwater as the current pushed him around a large boulder. Brendon was quickly on hand to get Graeme and his boat to shore, while I was following behind and recovered his paddle. Graeme has soon back in his boat, taking pointers from the experts and we were back under way towards the gorge.


Bob and George lead the way. Photo by Bruce.

In the rapid above the forever eddy I flipped after getting sideways in a large hole near the top of the rapid (this apparently changed Graeme’s mind about following my line) but soon rolled up again and made my way down to the large eddy with its endlessly circling lumps of wood. From here on we moved into the gorge proper and hardest section of the run.

The run the gorge was quite fun, especially as I was starting to remember the various rapids. Graeme did very well, even though he took a less than optimum line through the main drop, instead of boofing on the hard left, he plunged straight through the centre of the hole without too much difficulty. The second to last main rapid, where the river piles into a house sized rock forming buffers before curving round to the left, provided Graeme with his second swim but he was soon back in his boat. The last major rapid caused no problems and didn’t look as bad as it did last time, though no one chose the left hand channel.

The group got quite strung out on the paddle out as we dawdled along surfing waves and having fun. Eventually we arrived at the get out expecting to find all the vehicles waiting for us but unfortunately, someone had locked the keys to Johns 4×4 in it, so it was parked at the Middle Bridge with mine and Johns dry cloths still in it. Fortunately John had a spare key and had gone off in his wet gear to recover it whilst I hung round in my wet paddling gear and waited, bummer! It was a good trip and everyone, especially Graeme, enjoyed themselves very much.

Date: 19/11/06
River: Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 50 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water brown and swift. Grade 2/3.
Weather Conditions: Sunny to heavy rain, some strong wind gusts.
Number on Trip: 4 on top section, 3 on bottom section.
Time on River: 1.5 hours on top section, 2 hours on bottom section.
Comments: With the Hurunui at 380 cumecs down from 650 cumecs earlier in the week, the Waiau at 574 cumecs down from 1127 cumecs, the Waimak at 1135 cumecs down from 2465 cumecs, the Rakaia at 1089 cumecs down from 5070 cumecs and the Rangitata at 453 cumecs down from 1499 cumecs, things were looking pretty high (these were some of highest flows I can remember) and the odds of a weekend paddle were looking increasingly slim. However with the Ashley river at around 120 cumecs on Saturday and falling, there was still a chance of an Ashley run. Things looked pretty promising on Sunday morning and we headed out the Belfast Tavern to see who else was keen for a paddle. I decided to take my dependable Fly and leave my more exciting Blitz at home. The Fly is faster and more stable (plus I can roll it better), it has room for a split paddle and extra safety gear and it is a better boat to assist in rescues with. There were three other keen kayakers waiting in the car park plus Hugh had brought his cataraft along. So after a brief wait, our small party headed off to run the Ashley River.

The weather looked increasingly grey as we headed towards the hills and we had to drive through the clouds as we made our way along the gravel road high above the Ashley Gorge. We had glimpses of the rapids far below and the river was certainly pumping along. We left Hugh’s car and raft at the Middle Bridge (he planned to assemble the cataraft while we paddled the grade 2 upper section) and drove to the put in. As we neared the Lees Valley, the sun broke through and we got changed into our paddling gear in the bright sunshine. Hugh drove Graeme’s car back to the Middle Bridge while our small group paddled off down the swollen river, running at two or three times the volume of the previous trip. I paused briefly to remove my Hothead and wondered if I was over dressed for the day (2 pairs of thermals and 2 fuzzy rubber tops).

We made pretty good time, generally just running straight through the rapids with Matt in the lead and me chasing up the rear. Graeme discovered a pour over hole in one of the earlier rapids, flipped and quickly rolled upright. Per, following just behind, also flipped in the hole and after an attempted roll, popped up beside his boat, his paddle floating separately. Matt soon had his paddle and attempted to guide Per and his boat towards the shore. Unfortunately suitable eddies were few and far between on the swiftly flowing river and we floated through several rapids. Eventually Matt ditched Per’s paddle so he could more effectively push the large creek boat and its hanger on towards the side. The river piled straight in to a rocky outcrop forming a large swirling eddy on the left hand side and Matt managed to get Per and his kayak in to this eddy and enabled him to get out on to the bank. Meanwhile, I had paddled wildly through the rapid clutching two paddles, one of which was round the wrong way, worried that if I tipped I wouldn’t be able to roll. I managed to get through the rapid and pull into the eddy below the rapid on the opposite side of the river.

Once Per’s boat was emptied, Matt assessed the situation and decided he wouldn’t be able to raft up and get Per out of the eddy and round the bluff, so there was a brief period of pondering. Eventually I decided that I could probably ferry glide across the river into a small eddy below the rocky out crop and climb round until I could pass the paddle to Per and that is what we did (this time I towed the paddle using a sling looped over my arm instead of trying to paddle with two paddles). Soon everyone was back on the water, putting in at the top of the rapid and ferrying across to avoid the bluff, and we were on our way again. I stuck close to Per after that but there were no further problems. Per did flip on one of the harder rapids but he rolled straight up almost without breaking his stride (if “stride” is the correct word when he was actually paddling a kayak). This looked pretty impressive and avoided a long and not very pleasant swim. Eventually the bridge rolled into view, signalling the end of this section and start of the harder grade 3 section, the part of the run that had been causing a knot in my stomach for most of the trip.

We pulled over to the side to have a bite to eat and check on Hugh progress at assembling the raft. It had taken him most of the time to get the cataraft put together and the two pontoons inflated but he was ready to go. I decided to ignore the butterflies in my stomach and carry on down with him and Matt while Graeme and Per moved the vehicles down to the domain. Hugh told us that Brendon and another group had put on twenty minutes ahead of us (apparently they had thought the meeting time at Belfast was at 9am) and we wondered if we would catch them up.

The first section flew by, with us only pausing only to let Hugh catch up. I followed Matt fairly closely, watching his lines and improved slightly were I could (hmm, that looked sticky, I think I’ll avoid that). We had rocked by Angus’s eddy with a wary glance but no problems and had a brief break while Hugh put some extra air in the pontoons (the cold water means the air inside contracts). Before we knew it we were at the first big rapid above the forever eddy that announced the entry to the gorge proper. We crashed through the dirty brown waves, avoiding the numerous rocks and holes before joining the endless circling debris in the forever eddy and waited for Hugh. He duly appeared and headed off again, Matt in the lead and me following closely on his heels and listening carefully to his pointers before running each of the major rapids. This was quite different from my first couple of runs through this section, where I just bombed through the rapids with my head down, makes me wonder how I got through some of them.

After the next rapid, Hugh appeared while we were waiting in the eddy below the rapid, he was spinning round and round with one oar jammed in the frame of his raft as the result of a collision with a bluff. Matt went to his aid and we followed him down the next rapid as he tried to free the stuck oar whilst trying to navigate the flow with only one usable oar. Eventually Matt managed to shunt the cataraft so that it crashed into a rock and stopped, Hugh was then able, with the correct application of some brute force, to free the oar and carry on down the river. There were some big waves and it was not uncommon to the crash through them with the water breaking over your head. The speed of the water generally pushed me through most of the rapids though I took care to avoid the holes, weaving my way through the rapids. The main drop wasn’t too demanding but was still big but the higher flow pushes you through without too much grab, at lower flows it forms more of a drop that can be boofed into the eddy on the left hand side.

Gradually the rapids eased off and my hair and feet were still dry and just two of the major rapids to go. The next one has a large (house sized) rock on the right with the flow running into it forming a big buffer. It looks intimidating from the top and I have had swims and rolls there before, but this time was sweet, just went with the flow and rode up on the pillow and round the corner with no worries. I think in the past most of my problems here had resulted from trying to avoid the buffer wave.

The last major rapid involved a ferry glide from left to right before dropping down a chute on the right side of a large rock on the right side of the river. This rapid caused a bit of grief to Robert on the previous trip when his water logged RPM was push against the rock and tipped. I watched Matt from the eddy as he took the correct line and disappeared from sight. I broke out of the eddy in a slightly casual manner and rather than ferry glide across the current, attempted to work my way across to the other side.

I soon realised that this was a flawed strategy as I wasn’t as far across as I needed to be and was going to get swept against the left hand side of the rock (the increased flow meant that more water than usual was going down the left side of the rock forming a navigable but not very pleasant looking chute into a mean looking hole). This would probably be followed up, if I was lucky, with a backwards trip down the nasty looking left channel and plenty of spanking in the foam below. Decision time! I turned the nose of my Fly towards the left channel, sticking close to the rock to avoid the V shaped drop and its associated hydraulic. I then rode up on the buffer wave before sliding over the drop and it to the hole below. I hit the bottom and felt the tail grab and the nose begin to rise so I leaned forward and dug the paddle in and I was free. I pulled into the eddy beside Matt, he has impressed with my line and I was somewhat surprised I hadn’t got caned!

Hugh appeared and we carried on down the river, there was still a long way to go but the major rapids were out of the way. We adopted a fairly leisurely pace and took the time to enjoy the scenery, still no sign of the group ahead of us though. As we neared the get out, Matt commented that we hadn’t surfed anything so we spent a little time surfing some small holes before heading out. The drizzle had changed to rain but Graham and Per were waiting with the vehicles at the get out, which was great. It was nice to get into some warm cloths and a dry car (certainly those in Brendon’s group thought so as they waited in our cars while their shuttle go run). It was a good day out with something for everyone, a easy trip, some rescue practice plus a bit of a challenge on the second half and I kept my feet and hair dry! Excellent! The best part though was arriving home to the smell of freshly baked scones and a delicious home cooked meal, thanks Lauri.

Date: 22/10/06
River: Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 15 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water brown and swift. Grade 2.
Weather Conditions: Cold, southerly winds and some drizzle.
Number on Trip: 11
Time on River: 3 hours.
Comments: All the other rivers were very high so we ran this upper section of the Ashley Gorge. 11 paddlers was quite a large group but with a shortage of more experienced people, I was more comfortable keeping everyone together. It was a cold day and the arrival of the Whales meant that it was likely that some one would be swimming. Most of the group hadn’t paddled the river or at least this section before and we even had one paddler on his first ever river trip. We set off from the Lees Valley put and bounced down the boney first stage and through the early rapids with out a problem. I led the way with my little ducklings behind and Ernst followed up to prevent stragglers. I tried to catch eddies and do some surfing but this often meant being run down by a flotilla of ducklings or being trapped in an eddy as the group charged past.

The Whales did quite well and only very occasionally got in to trouble (two swims each plus one for Cynric after he got stuck on a rock), despite bouncing down some reasonably challenging rapids, often with me shouting at them to keep paddling (only grade 2 but some manoeuvring is required to avoid rocks). David’s first swim was in a flat eddy with the nose of his kayak almost touching the gravel bank, he was very cross about that but rescued himself and was soon back in his boat. It was quite neat to watch the ducklings charging down the rapids and flying over the top of some of the rocks (“you’re supposed to avoid the rocks!”). Some of the braver ones would catch eddies and could be encouraged to try ferry gliding and surfing, so we did get to do a bit of playing.

Everyone managed to get through the harder rapids and I think there were only one or two swims that were caused by running the rapids. I really only had to do one piece of rescue work and that was emptying out a kayak and towing it across the river to it’s waiting owner, which wasn’t very demanding, even in the Blitz. This section of the Ashley is good for beginners as it offers plenty of challenges but isn’t too pushy, however the river can be pretty shallow and the rocks are sharp so tipping over is best avoided. I was quite glad to get out of the Blitz as my right foot had gone numb (I must remember to remove some of the foam around my feet), the comfort is one of the things I miss about the Fly. We had a good day out but it was nice to get into some warm, dry cloths, as it was a pretty cold and miserable day.

Date: 7/10/06
River: Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 14 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water brown and swift. Grade 2.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm, Nor Westerly wind.
Number on Trip: 4
Time on River: 2 hours.
Comments: Graeme organised a great little, low key run down the upper section of the Ashley on Saturday, just the four of us running it at a relatively low volume. This was a nice, easy going trip with no drama. It was good to be on a small trip with a good group of people. We got to move along at a good pace but still had time to catch eddies and play. I think everyone rolled at some stage, but no swimmers. I tipped over near the start whilst playing on a hole, I clipped a rock with my helmet (the Ashley is very rocky and often shallow so it isn’t a good place to be upside down) but rolled up with out much difficulty (still need that pool session though), the water was pretty cold. The rapids were quite good (tighter and more technical than other local grade 2 runs), even with the lower flow, and it was definitely worth the trip. It was a good day out, thanks Graeme.

Date: 1/10/06
River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 45 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2+(3), water clear, cold and swift.
Weather Conditions: A bit of everything, sun, rain, wind, cold but mainly overcast.
Number on Trip: 21
Time on River: 4 hours, 30 minutes.
Comments: My first Hurunui trip of the season, saw Lauri and me heading off to run the Hawarden Gap in the Topo Duo. As always with trips in the Duo, I get a bit nervous, worrying that we may have lost our “Topo Fu” and will end up with the fishes! Lauri had hardly any sleep the night before and just wanted to take it easy at first and I was happy to oblige. The first section we took fairly easily, taking the safer lines and not playing or eddying out in tricky spots. The higher flow made this easier, (on previous trips where the flow has been as low as 16 cumecs, you tended to get channelled through some of the harder bits), however the higher flow did mean that the rapids tended to be bigger and this increased the overall enjoyment of the run. By lunch time, we felt that we had our “Fu” back, actually it happen a little earlier when Lauri was keen to try surfing a neat play hole that everyone else was having a great time on, however, sensing an imminent swim, I decided not to.

After lunch the pace and the rapids picked, we were feeling pretty good by the time the hills finally closed in and we reached “The Gap”. We all pulled in to the side and got out for the obligatory inspection of the rapid (it looked scary) and then watched as the braver, more experienced members ran it. We tried to pick up pointers and work out the right line, but all we seemed to get was, “head for the centre, lean forward and paddle hard”. At the base of the drop on the left hand side was a nasty area of funny water, it boiled and heaved, sometimes forming a sucking whirl pool, at other times a surging mass of white water, we decided it would be best to avoid this spot. It was there that a good number of people got tipped up though most managed to roll. Glen pulled a great move, tail standing his Whippit in the boiling mass below the drop, apparently he didn’t plan on that. Finally after sufficient procrastination and establishing that Lauri was happy running the drop, we wandered back to the Duo. I was pretty nervous but Lauri was keen, so I had no excuse for piking out and after all the worst that was likely to happen was that we would get wet. So we put our heads down and paddled hard through the middle of the rapid and for a moment it seemed as if we would make it….. then we hit the boiling mass at the bottom and the Duo flipped. I briefly considered trying to roll but I felt Lauri bail out so I ditched too. I started swimming to the eddy on the right bank, holding my paddle and towing the upside down Topo Duo. Lauri latched on the other end and Glen helped tow the lot of us into the safe eddy below the rapid. That was some serious fun! Apparently we should have headed right, to cancel out the cross current that pushed us in to the mess on the left hand side, apparently the Duo flipping looked pretty cool (it was certainly cool where I was sitting, cold even).


Running the Harwarden Gap with Lauri in the Topo Duo. Photo by John Hunter.

After we emptied out the boat (a full Topo Duo holds almost half a ton of water) and retrieved Lauri’s paddle (forgetting she wasn’t playing canoe polo, she let go of it when we tipped up), we placed the Duo high up the bank and set off to look at the second and possibly harder rapid (it runs into a bluff and then doglegs to the right). With the higher flow, it didn’t look too bad, plenty of room on the right to avoid the pillows at the base of the bluff, we’ll be fine! As we were wandering back to the boat, I heard a sudden cry and turned to see that the Topo Duo had slid down the bank and was going to try to do the rapid without us. I dived across some rocks (bruising myself slightly and possibly injuring my toe) and managed to catch the tail of the Duo before it completely entered the main current. After that we got ourselves in to the boat and ready to run the second rapid. At some stage during this process, Hugh’s boat floated past and continued on down the second rapid without him, so Hugh had a good excuse for portaging this rapid.

We broke out in to the main currently feeling pretty good, the worst had happen and we were ok (wet but ok). We made it down the second rapid and round the corner without a problem and then spun out in the eddy on the right. The current pushed us hard against the towering rock bank and we almost tipped again (I was pretty sure we were going over and so were most of the spectators) but some timely bracing kept us upright. Eventually we got everything sorted, broke out and ferry glided in to a nice safe eddy on the opposite side of the river. The rest of the gorge went well and there was no further drama. As the rapids became easier, we took the opportunity to have the occasional surf (we even got some applause!) and generally fool about. Glen and Ben decided that the Topo Duo looked fun so they clipped their kayaks together and tried to emulate us, this went well until things got a bit messy in one of the rapids, it is apparently not so easy to control to play boats clipped together with tow lines and Glen (I think) ended up with grazed knuckles after a collision with a bluff.

Most of us were pretty tired by the time we made it out on to the plains and we were very glad when the take out came in to view (look out for the twin tanks on the cliff top to the right, after the house). The farmers were there to greet up and help us over the fence, they were very friendly and it is good of them to allow us access across their land. Rain began to fall as we got in to our dry gear, so we all stood under the trees to stay dry. A small group, who had run Maori Gully at the start of the trip, had left all their dry gear in the car at Seawards and so were very cold and had to huddle in Bruce’s Bothy Bag still in their wet paddling gear. This provided a certain amount of amusement but we were quite impressed by the amount of warmth coming out of the air vent and it definitely seemed like a useful piece of safety equipment. Finally the cars arrived and we loaded up and went home with the sun still visible, probably a first as far as Hawarden Gap trips as it is usually dark before the shuttle is done.

Date: 17/9/06
River: Rangitata River, South Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 50 cumecs at Klondyke, water cold, clear and swift. Grade 2+
Weather Conditions: Fine but cool, slightly overcast.
Number on Trip: 8 on grade 2 section, 6 on the grade 4 section.
Time on River: 3 hours
Comments: Another run down the Rangitata, from Klondyke to Lynn Stream, this time in the Blitz. I was planning to try out a few more things on the easier river and was looking forward to some “play boater” action! We got off to a slow start and only managed to get on the river at 1pm, from a 9am start in Christchurch. John and Hugh ran the shuttle for the gorge paddlers and Hugh arrived back at the Rangitata Rafts HQ after a while, saying that John was a wee way behind him. So we waited for a while for him to appear and eventually Hugh set off back up the road to see where he had got to. After awhile Hugh reappear but still no John, so after another brief waited we headed down to the get in. and there he was.

We quickly changed and got on the river and had a brief paddle around before dropping over the weir. Half the group went down the harder middle line, whilst the less confident took the right hand “chicken” route. Everyone made it down fine, but David decided that a swim would be nice when he reached the bottom. The water was higher and swifter than expected due to the irrigation out take being closed for maintenance, so we actually got the full 50 cumecs. We carried on down the river at a fairly fast pace, not leaving much time to play and generally only pausing to rescue any Whales that went swimming by. The water was freezing cold but they always seemed to be smiling as they got back in their boats. It was pretty hard to keep up at times, especial as I tried to stay near the rear to make sure no one got left behind.

I ended up upside down after trying to surf some largish waves backwards on one of the bigger rapids. I tried to roll upstream but couldn’t quite pull it off and after two further half hearted attempts, during which I was very conscious of the rocks whizzing past my head underwater, I decided to bail out. It was a bit of a struggle to get out of the Blitz as it is a pretty tight fit and has a central pillar, unlike my Prijon boats. Eventually I was free and floated down the rest of the rapid and Hugh helpfully towed me to shore. This was the first time I had swum in a while and boy was the water cold! I empty the water out and paddled down to where everyone was waiting, Kabita also swam but was soon back in her boat. The pace picked up again and I was struggling to keep up whilst trying to surf waves and keep an eye on stragglers. John took a swim out of the Topo Duo when they capsized after hitting an eddy line where two channels combined. No real problems and John was able to man handle the water logged kayak to shore. I lent my spare poly pro top to Johns?f girlfriend so she didn’t get too cold while John emptied out the water. In the meantime, the rest of the group disappeared out of sight down the river and were no where to be seen by the time we got under way again. It was pretty hard keeping up with the Topo Duo in the Blitz but eventually we caught up with the others and carried on as a group once more.

I tried to keep near the front, as most of the people weren’t familiar with the take out. I also did some more surfing and took a couple more rolls without much drama. By this stage I was really regretting not having put my poogees on when we stopped earlier, as my hands were quite numb. I was also regretting not eating anything since breakfast, as I was starting to feel quite cold, hungry and tired. I managed to find a nice little play hole and was having a good surf until most of the group decided to paddle straight at me. While trying to avoid a collision I ended upside down again, I tried to roll but just didn’t have the energy and so just bailed out and towed the boat to shore. So that was swim number two.

Eventually we arrived at the usual take out, John waited expectantly for everyone and looked just a little disappointed when he found out we were actually getting out at Lynn Stream, 2km down the river. Kabita took advantage of the swirling eddy line and took another swim, losing a bootee in the process. She also managed to lose the drain plug from her Kendo whilst emptying out the water, so Hugh ordered her off the river. We watched until she had made it safely up the bank and then carried on down the river. We over took the others as we didn’t want anyone just cruising past the get out because Arundel Bridge is about 14km further down stream (there are other get outs but they are not particularly obvious). Finally we reached Lynn Stream and it was quite a relief to get up to the vehicles and into some warm dry clothes. I was quite cold and it took some time to actually warm up, the fire and food at the Mayfield Pub certainly helped.

Some lessons were learned and I will probably keep the Blitz for trips with more playing and less paddling (it won’t be coming down the Hawarden Gap). I will also have to do a bit of rolling practice in the pool and the surf to get more up to speed with the new boat. The other thing I need to keep an eye on is making sure that I eat enough food on trips. Normally I have a big breakfast and then supplement my food intake with muesli bars, so I may have to rethink this strategy or at least actually eat the muesli bars.

Date: 10/9/06
River: Waimakariri River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 130 cumecs at Old Highway Bridge. Water discoloured.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm.
Number on Trip: 13
Time on River: 3 hours.
Comments: We had a beautiful sunny day for our paddle down the Waimak to have a look at the section of river that would be most effected by the Central Plains Water Scheme. We had a good flow to push our boats along so didn’t have to paddle too hard. The braided nature of this section meant that we had to keep an eye on everyone to make sure no one got lost. Every so often someone would disappear down an alternative channel, turning up again where the channels converged. Not too much drama, only one swimmer and Lauri tipped over briefly but was righted by another paddler whilst I was off helping a beached Whale in another channel. The highlight of the trip was the small rapid just above the Gorge Bridge. A couple of nice surf waves had formed with the higher flow and we had some fun playing on them. The less experienced paddlers also got to finish on a high note, crashing through pressure waves with no problems. It was a pleasant day out, everyone enjoyed themselves and we finished off with a bit of a barbecue, thanks to Graeme.

Date: 3/9/06
River: Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 22 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water brown and swift.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm, no wind.
Number on Trip: 6
Time on River: 3 hours.
Comments: This was the first trip of the season and we were meant to be heading for the Hurunui. I turned up at the Belfast Tavern before the meeting time of 8:30am to find an empty car park and was a little bit worried that I’d made a mistake with the time. Fortunately Brendon and Kayo turned up in their van, with Robert from Dublin. We tossed my gear in the van and headed to the Ashley Gorge domain to meet up with Angus. I thought I’d get to test my new Blitz out on the grade two section of the Hurunui, so the though of getting a thrashing in the grade three section of the Ashley had me a little worried. At the domain we met up with Angus and a friend of his, before getting changed and piling into the van for the drive up to the middle bridge. The water at the put in was well below the level of our previous trip by a good metre and the bank that Steel had launched from was well away from the river.

Once on the river, the Blitz performed very well and I was very pleased with my new boat. Robert took a little getting used to being back in a kayak and took a swim while attempting a practice roll. Getting the boat to shore was not so easy in the lower volume play boat! When we reached the spot where Angus had swum on the previous trip, there was scarcely a ripple to mark the spot where the fearsome eddy had been. We stopped off at the forever eddy to have a look for Angus’s throw rope, lost on another trip, but didn’t find a trace of it. It was nice to stretch my legs as my feet were getting pretty cramped even though I only have size 8.5 feet. Brendon provided some helpful hints on how to paddle a planar hulled kayak, though probably his most useful tip was to keep my paddle further forward (so as not too paddle like a girl!) and to maintain the “box” no matter where one placed the blades.

Things picked up as we moved on to the grade three rapids, I took a dodgy line through the first rock garden, bouncing over the odd rock, with the lower flow, good lines were hard too find. The rest of the rapids went fine, though we did stop to look at the big drop on one of the    later major rapids. With the low flow, it formed a metre high drop with a good sized hole at the base. Brendon suggested boofing into the left hand eddy and then ably demonstrated the required technique, my line wasn’t as good but I managed to stay out of the hole and get into the eddy. Kayo was going to have a play in the hole but decided not too as she got close to it (just as Brendon predicted). The second to last major rapid was probably the trickiest, as it required a move from left to right, while avoiding getting washed into a large rock before heading down the narrow channel on the far side. Robert, whose RPM had been filling up with water through a yet to be discovered crack, didn’t quite make it. His sluggish water-filled kayak was swept against the rock and when he leaned backwards, the water rushed to the rear making the boat tail stand and he ended up upside-down in not a very nice place. As he disappeared from my upstream view, he baled out and was rescued by Brendon and co.

From then on the trip was nice and cruisy, it was a real pleasure to be out on the water on such a great day (completely different from the first trip of last season, where it almost snowed!). I took a roll while messing about on an eddy line, but came up without a problem. All in all, a very successful trip, the new Bliss-Stick Blitz worked well and it was great to get another trip down the Ashley in, especially with such great weather.

Date: 8/8/06
River: Avon River, Christchurch, NZ
River Conditions: Water level high, brown and swift.
Weather Conditions: Cold and raining.
Number on Trip: 1
Time on River: 45 minutes.
Comments: Driving home after work on Tuesday after a couple of days of heavy rain, I decided to check out the weir at the Antigua Boat Sheds. Last time I had a look during a high flow it was almost completely washed out, little more than a ripple on the surface. This time it was forming a not bad looking hole that seemed to have some potential, so I shot home, got changed into my paddling gear and headed out again with my new Blitz on the roof rack. I seal launched into the river and had a quick paddle around to get a feeling for the Blitz before running the almost foot high weir! Extreme! Not too much drama running the drop (!!!!) and I was rewarded with quite a nice little play hole about 3 metres wide, just (river) right of centre with good feeder eddies on either side. I carved back and forth having fun until it got a bit too dark and then got out and headed for home. At some stage in the future this weir is going to be removed and replaced with a riffle (see here for details) which is unlikely to have any potential for kayakers, so the quest for the ultimate city play wave will have to look elsewhere!

20060808 BoatShedWeir

Antigua Boat Shed weir at normal flow, check it out after the next heavy rain for surfing in the CBD!

Date: 17/6/06
River: Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 60 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water brown and swift.
Weather Conditions: Sunny but cold.
Number on Trip: 6
Time on River: 3 hours.
Comments: What a perfect day! Come Friday night, Robins’ mid winter trip to the Ashley was starting to look distinctly marginal as melting snow had pushed the flow level up from 50 to 125 cumecs (according to Graham Charles book making the run a grade 4). With this in mind I loaded my gear into the car on Friday but didn’t bother to get my boat out. Waking early, I checked the flow on the website, back down to a more manageable 68 cumecs, a glance out the window had the weather looking good and it was all on, my first (grade 3) Ashley trip in almost three years. Steel and I had butterflies in our stomachs as our small group drove to the put in at the middle bridge, neither of us had paddled this stretch in a while and never at this flow. There were still patches of snow around and the river flats at the put in had about four inches of snow on the ground, pretty cold on the feet, especially with bootees on. Warm gear and poogees were a must, it was really nice to have the right gear and be warm and dry. I slid down the hill whilst sitting on my kayak but Robin and Steel decided to launch their kayaks into the river by sliding down the snow and off the top of the four foot high bank. This worked reasonably well, though Steel landed a bit hard and flat and was a little sore afterwards.

The river was brown and swift but didn’t look quite as scary as it did on previous trips, however once on the river I was reminded not to take it too lightly on the first couple of “nothing” rapids, with the water pushing into the bank being more boily than expected. Angus in his very small C1 provided plenty of excitement by turning upside-down at every opportunity and rolling back up again just as quickly. Unfortunately shortly into the trip, he ended up upside-down at the base of a bluff with a very rapidly recirculating eddy. He tried to roll repeatedly but the current wouldn’t let, so he bailed out and disappeared from view, causing some concern amongst those watching. Fortunately he was swept around the bluff and made it to shore with the rest of the group in support, leaving Bruce and myself to watch his boat and gear spin round and round, disappearing occasionally beneath the surface. Eventually his paddle must have been swept around the corner to be picked up by the group with Angus. Bruce was able to get the C1 to shore when it floated out of the eddy it was trapped in. This left only two sliver air-bags and a first aid kit circling forlornly the spot where Angus’s brand new thermos flask found its’ watery grave. I thought briefly about trying to get them, but decided against that. Bruce had an unsuccessful attempt, making me feel glad I hadn’t tried. Angus’s boat was emptied out and towed around the bluff and everyone was reunited and soon back on the water.

As we carried on down the river with the sun shining brightly, my confidence increased and I took the opportunity for surf some of the features with the others. I also made a point of not following Steel too closely as he had a habit of paddling straight into holes behind pour overs that weren’t particularly obvious in the dirty brown water. The rapids continued to get harder as we approached the gorge proper, where the river narrows and steepens as the water flows through the five closely spaced grade 3 rapids that form the crux section of the run. Running this part of the river was quite different from the previous times I had run it, those times I just leaned forward and paddled like stink, I vaguely heard but didn’t understand any instructions or signals from other paddlers. Despite that I still managed to make it through most of the rapids without too many problems. This time Bruce was on hand and able to provide plenty of information to get us through the harder rapids without much drama. The rapids are a step up from Maori Gully and were definitely more intimidating, especially when filled with swirling brown water. I took a roll part way down one rapid and Steel did a couple more, but no one was keen to swim after Angus’s little adventure.

Gradually the pace eased off and we made our way down to the domain. Once off the water, Robin fired up his brazier with a little wood, paper and petrol and we were soon warming ourselves around its’ rosy glow. The resulting mayhem of half naked kayakers did drive off the group of picnickers, but as more kayakers arrived they soon joined the cosy huddle around the fire. It was a very popular day on the Ashley, with probably about 20 kayakers in total taking advantage of the ideal conditions. Ben also turned up with the silver wine casks from Angus’s boat, that he had recovered from the nasty little eddy, others had tried without success. The other lost items were no where to be seen.

Footnote: Bruce and Ian ran the Ashley the next day in less perfect conditions and managed to find Angus’s dry bag and thermos flask circling around with all the timber in the “Forever” eddy before the crux section. Quite a lucky find and they were duly returned to a grateful Angus.

Date: 9/6/06
River: Waimakariri River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 65 cumecs at Old Highway Bridge. Water clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm, NW winds.
Number on Trip: 2
Time on River: 2 hours.
Comments: Graeme organised a nice afternoon paddle down the Brass Monkey course on the Waimak and given the perfect weather and the desire to scope out the river before the race series begins, I couldn’t say no. Murphy must have been watching from the bushes near the put in because no sooner had I got my dry top on, the call out phone rang with a reasonably urgent job. This was followed by another beep to indicate a voice mail from when I was on the first call. Calls were made and problems sorted out as we made our way down the first stretch of the river (it really was too nice a day to have aborted the trip). Eventually we made it to the get out at the State Highway One bridge just as the sun was setting and it was almost dark by the time we were back at the get in, both feeling a bit tired but happy to have had a very pleasant trip. The first quarter of the course was pretty scratchy with lots of smaller channels and not much water, though once the halfway mark was reached things became much easier. Not too much in the way of hazards, only a short stretch near the halfway point where the main current flows close to some willows on the right bank. It will be interesting to see what the river is like for races, as the following Monday a good southerly storm rolled through, dumping plenty of rain and snow and the Waimak peaking at over 1700 cumecs. I crossed the river on the Monday and it was flowing very swiftly, filling the channel, bank to bank, with brown swirling water and plenty of debris. It was quite a different river from our trip on Saturday.

Date: 28/5/06
River: Waiau River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 68 Cumecs at Marble Point. Grade 2, water slightly discoloured and cold.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm (but cold and fog shrouded in Christchurch).
Number on Trip: 4 safety boaters (29 competitors).
Time on River: 2 hours.
Comments: Safety boating for the Mighty Waiau River Race. This was a great day out as the river and weather was just about perfect (especially when compared to the dull grey day fog shrouded Christchurch was having). Andrew and I had to paddle pretty hard to get into position at “The Forks” (probably the largest rapid on this section of the Waiau) before the first competitors arrived.


Me waiting for the competitors to arrive. Photo by PhotoChick.

Due to the massed start, they came down thick and fast and we just watched them go past, keeping a careful eye on those “choosing” to swim to make sure they made it safely to shore with all their gear. It was kind of funny not rushing to rescue swimmers but with up to five people in the water at one time plus other competitors still going past, it was the best thing to do, especially as it would have been hard to get back in position if we chased anyone. After the last competitor went by, Andrew and I paddled down to Marble Point where Andrew and Lorraine (who was taking photos from the safety jet boat) got out and headed back to Culverden to set up for the prize giving. I continued on down stream with Ian and Linda, who had been covering Marble Point, enjoying a nice cruisy paddle and an excellent day out.


Another competitor goes safely by. Photo by PhotoChick.

Date: 21/5/06
River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 24 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2+(3), water clear and cold.
Weather Conditions: Overcast and cold, light drizzle and strong NE wind gusts.
Number on Trip: 6
Time on River: 3 hours, 30 minutes.
Comments: Well this was actually my last paddle on the Hurunui for the season, I transferred the call out phone to a work mate and snuck out of town for one last paddling trip. The weather wasn’t too flash but there wasn’t much rain and the wind gusts held off until we were well down the run. We put in above the gorge before the South Branch confluence and paddled down at a fairly leisurely pace to Seawards before Ian, Bruce and myself ran Maori Gully and the rest ran the shuttle. Natalie and Graeme were considering doing the gully but decided not to when we got to Seawards. This was an excellent trip, putting reasonably high up so as too get a decent run in, plus with the smaller numbers there were more opportunities to play, however Maori Gully seemed very empty and lonely with just the three of us. Highlights included sliding out the back of a small eddy and down a bit of a drop (pictured below thanks to Raewyn), successfully getting out of the eddy above the Dozy Stream put in, ferrying out of Steels’ Eddy of Doom below the Dozy stream put in plus playing on the Magic Roundabout at the entrance to Maori Gully.


An unintentional gnarly move. Photo by Raewyn.

Date: 14/5/06
River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 28 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2+(3), water clear and cold.
Weather Conditions: Overcast and cold, light drizzle clearing before a Southerly change.
Number on Trip: 7
Time on River: 2 hours.
Comments: Probably my last paddle on the Hurunui before the end of the season. Just a small group of hardy paddlers braving an oncoming southerly front bringing snow down to 500m in places. The rain cleared before we got on the river and we were rewarded by blue skies and sunshine, though these disappeared as the weather closed in. We put in at Dozy Stream and made a quick trip down to Seawards and then on through the Gully. Glen showed off his skills by playing on everything, including Simon? Hole, quite impressive. I showed off my skills by taking a roll on the Magic Roundabout and another on one of the main drops in Maori Gully. I felt pretty exhausted by the end of the trip and nearly expired while climbing up from the get out (time to get rid of all that heavy safety gear and just put nice light air bags in the back of my boat, NOT!). I was impressed by how dry my boat was inside, the dry top and new deck kept all the water out, even after two rolls and a lot of surfing, I was nice and warm and dry too which was a real bonus. A good trip but I was a bit disappointed not to have run the Ashley the previous day (it was a beautiful sunny day AND the Ashley was up), next time I will be there!

Date: 7/5/06
River: Taipo River, West Coast, NZ
River Conditions: Low flow. Grade 2+, water clear and cold.
Weather Conditions: Sunny but cool.
Number on Trip: 7
Time on River: 1 hour.
Comments: There was some debate as to weather or not we had enough time to run the Taipo but eventually we decided to give it a go. The track in is definitely four wheel drive only (real 4WDs not just cars with 4WD) and was pretty rough but apparently not as bad as it used to be. After some drama with John roof rack (you would think that a “quality” Thule roof rack wouldn’t just fall to bits under normal usage, but there seems to be a number of people who have had similar problems with them) we made it to the put in by 4pm with just enough daylight for a quick run down the bottom gorge to the highway bridge. Whilst carrying his boat to the river, John slipped and went down like a tonne of bricks and started swearing away like a trooper. Fortunately he didn’t break anything, just missing some rocks and sharp wooden spikes. Adding this to his earlier bee sting (“John there is a bee on your helmet”, John places hand on bee, bee stings Johns hand, “so there is”, says John), John obviously kept his luck for on the river.

The Taipo had a particularly cool opening rapid that was about 500m of continuous white water in a steep sided gorge, nice big waves and no rocks, so we just bombed straight down it, like a big wet roller coaster. Apparently there used to be a large hole at the start of the gorge, which later evolved in a bit of a dam followed by a drop, which appears to have disappeared too as there was no sign of either feature despite being on the look out for them. There were a number of other good grade 2+ rapids but nothing too demanding and no one decided to take a swim. We finished the run down the Taipo just as the sun dropped behind the hills, so it was a pretty long day but well worth it despite the drama with roof rack failures and one vehicle almost running out of fuel on the way home (a overseas visitor who hadn’t realised that it is almost impossible to get fuel outside of the main centres after dark). Fortunately, after some begging, the cafe in Arthur’s Pass turned on their petrol pump and saved the day. We all had some very tasty and well deserved food at the Wobbly Kea Café and headed back to Christchurch.

Date: 7/5/06
River: Crooked River, West Coast, NZ
River Conditions: Low flow. Grade 2+, water clear and cold.
Weather Conditions: Sunny but cool.
Number on Trip: 8
Time on River: 2 hours.
Comments: This was a one day trip to the West Coast organised by Graeme and John to see if it was possible to paddle the Crooked and Taipo Rivers on the same day and still make it home. We left Christchurch before 8am and were on the river at around 11am. It was a beautiful sunny day and the rivers were crystal clear and a lovely blue colour. The take out of the Crooked had over 20 large trout in formation in the large pool below the bridge, it was quite impressive to see (they were obviously aware that the fishing season ended last Sunday). The scenery was still really great and the rapids good (but not too hard) so we all had fun and I was able to keep nice and dry (hence warm, the water was very cold). There were a few rolls and the odd swim but no major problems. We paid the $20 to the farmer for the use of the road in and had no problems with access.


Heading down the Crooked (Thanks to Ian from Paddlerzone).

Date: 9/4/06
River: Hope / Waiau Rivers, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: Hope 200 Cumecs at Glynn Wye, Waiau 400 Cumecs at Marble Point. Grade 2, swift, cold and brown with some debris.
Weather Conditions: Cold, rain clearing to a nice sunny day. Strong nor-westerly winds
Number on Trip: 10
Time on River: 3 hours from the Hope Bridge to below Handyside Creek.
Comments: This was planned to be a run down the Boyle and earlier in the week, it looked like it would be a pretty boney affair with some of the lowest flows recorded for the season. However the weather is never predictable and by Friday river levels were climbing rapidly and by Sunday morning, the Hope was at 244 cumecs, the Waiau was at 404 cumecs and the Hurunui was at 126 cumecs. Things were not looking good for a Boyle run (apparently the lower gorge gets pretty nasty at high flows) and when we met at the Belfast Tavern, Hugh and Ian decided to run the Hope and Waiau from the Hope Bridge down to Handyside Creek. The weather got progressively worst as we headed into the hills and was raining solidly when we stopped at the get out to look at the river. All the rivers we had crossed so far had been brown and swift and very high, water was thundering through Sharks Tooth with most of the rapid washed out, water flowing solidly on both sides of the rock. As we looked at the Waiau, all brown and swirling with large waves, a number of the party decided not to paddle, so we had three shuttle drivers.

At the put in the water rushed by with some good sized waves, everyone got into their gear and gingerly climbed into their kayaks in the one suitable launching spot before ferrying across the river to an eddy on the far side. Ian from Paddlerzone decided to use a faster method of getting in to the river by seal launching from the bank and ended up upside-down and floating towards the trees before rolling upright after a couple of attempts. After everyone was on the water, we all headed off down stream in a long line. We made good time as the river was moving pretty quickly (you could even hear the cracks and pops as stones were moved along the river bed by the current), though the large waves and boils and cross currents took a bit of getting used to. We also had to keep an eye out for large holes that formed behind rocks covered by the high flow, these often appeared as slight swells on the upstream side or sometimes just appearing as ordinary waves. There were some exciting wave trains and some big holes, but no real problems as most features could be easily avoided and there was plenty of room to manoeuvre, even the bluffs weren’t too pushy. The sky cleared shortly after setting out, exposing the fresh snow on the surrounding mountains and this really improved the trip no end (though putting on some sunscreen didn’t seem so stupid after all).

Graeme ended up in a large hole and after a couple of roll attempts was still in the hole and decided to swim, fortunately it was at the end of a rapid and he hung on to his paddle and was soon on the shore reunited with his boat with no problems    A couple of others took rolls in holes, myself included, but it was all good. I ran into a large hole near the get out, it look like a large wave until I went over the edge and realised it was actually breaking on to itself and then it was too late. I tipped on my offside and didn’t tip over properly, apparently only my head ended up in the water with my boat still upright. I tipped myself over properly and rolled up after a botched attempt (my second roll for the year). Lofty was pretty disappointed, he thought I was going to swim and he would get to rescue me and I’d then owe him a beer, well I foiled that (still I am going to have to practice offside rolls in the pool at some stage). This was a good trip with the high flow making for an exciting time. My new deck and Bomber dry top kept the water out and I was still warm and dry at the end of the trip, which was a nice change. My new set of Kathmandu Altica Thermaplus long john’s and tops are also keeping me nice and warm. The smoother fabric feels much nicer too, without the rash and constant itching I was getting with my polypros. Stopped off at the Hurunui Pub for a beer and a game pie, which was a tasty way to fill quite a large hole in my stomach.

Date: 26/3/06
River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 17 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2+(3), water clear and cold.
Weather Conditions: Overcast, cold with NE winds.
Number on Trip: 13
Time on River: 6 hours.
Comments: Autumn was making its presence felt, as it was pretty cold and although we expected the sun to break through the clouds, it only got darker. We clambered down the Maori Gully get out (which is much more fun than the usual hike up) and warmed up paddling around before heading off downstream. The first part is quite open with plenty of rocks to practice eddying out behind but as the hills close in, the river narrows and the banks get rockier and the rapids bigger. Initially we took quite a leisurely pace, playing and practicing moves. Bob provided helpful coaching and got some of the newer paddlers to try pushing their confidence boundaries. Above one rapid, I found the broken stump of an old Taupo paddle which I fished out and placed on my deck until I could offload it to Murray (as he might be able to salvage the blade for repairs). I thought about putting it in my boat but as it was a bit slimy I decided not to. However as I began to descend the rapid, I realised that it would probably wash off and sink so I grabbed it and flailed down the rest of the rapid with my paddle in one hand and the stump in the other. I finally caught up with Murray without any mishaps and he stowed it in the Topo Duo. By the time we stopped for lunch, the pace had picked up as the cold set in. I broke out my poogees and extra polypro top, being wet makes you cold and I wasn’t enjoying it (incidentally this should be my last wet trip as I’ve just brought a Bomber Dry Jacket and I look forward to trying it out). After lunch, we headed off to at a good pace towards “The Gap”, eventually we got there and pulled over to the side to look at the rapid.


The Gap (actually it is the second drop that has a bit of a dog leg). Photo by Raewyn.

I always find rapids look scarier when viewed from the bank, so I was pretty nervous as I pushed off to run the rapid (I swam the first part last time we ran it). The rapid looked quite different from the previous time with the lower flow but it looked like running it down the middle would work. Everything went fine and I found myself down the bottom pointed upstream in a rather turbulent eddy. Once Alex made it down, I broke out and carried on down through the next rapid. Everyone got through without too many problems, Raewyn rolled in the eddy I had been sitting in, which was a pretty good effort. There were a couple of other upside-down experiences but no one took a swim. There were a few more interesting rapids in the gorge include one with big rock and rooster tail in the middle. Despite signals from below, a number of people took the more interesting line over the top of the rock, fortunately without problem. Once these rapids were past, things became more relaxed though we kept moving fairly swiftly as most people were cold and tired and were looking forward to getting in to dry clothes (I certainly was).

I was acting as tail end Charlie and making sure no one got left behind and we were near the end of the gorge section when we noticed Mike caught on a bluff. The rapid itself looked like “nothing”, a series of riffles running in to a bluff with an eddy at the side. Mike ended up tipping over and tried to roll repeatedly before coming out of his boat. I moved closer to try and figure out how to get to him without getting stuck myself. Mike let go of his boat and tried to swim around the bluff, then he just disappeared. It was a horrible feeling to watch the reddish blur almost 3m below the surface and know that there was nothing you could do. Fortunately after about 20 seconds, he resurfaced and after he caught his breath, I towed him to shore while his mostly submerged boat circled in the eddy. Ian ferried into the eddy to rescue the boat but this was pretty hard as the boat was full of water and the eddy was pretty boily. I went across to help with a couple of throw ropes to tow the boat out, it was suggested that I took the end of the rope in my mouth but I was too keen on being upside-down against a bluff tangled in a rope, as it turned out, getting in to the eddy was easy. Once in the eddy, it was pretty hard to keep hold of Mikes’ kayak and it got away again while Ian was out of his boat trying to empty the water out. I had my deck off and my cockpit full of rope so wasn’t happy as I floated into the current trying to grab a boat with just its end showing. Eventually Ian got the boat emptied out and Bob towed it over to the other side. The next mission was to get Georgie out of the eddy. After several attempts at breaking out, she ended up in the water. She managed to get out and Hugh helped her carry her boat upstream so it would be easier to ferry across, this worked and after that drama we carried on out on to the Amuri Plains. Fortunately everything ended well but it does go to show that even “easy” sections shouldn’t be taken lightly. After the irrigation take out the river gets pretty dry and boney so the going is a bit slow and we were all glad when the get out came into view. It was nice get into some dry clothes but we still had an hour wait while the vehicles were shuttled and it was almost dark before we left for home.


Ian holds Georgie’s boat whilst she clambers ashore. Photo by Raewyn.

Date: 19/3/06
River: Crooked River, West Coast, NZ
River Conditions: Very low flow. Grade 2+, water clear and cold.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm.
Number on Trip: 13
Time on River: 2 hours.
Comments: This trip was the highlight of the weekend and we specially saved it until last. I got Hugh to lead and he inspired us all with his ability by taking a swim at the put in, his boat slid out from under him whilst he was trying to get in. That provided a few laughs and I made sure I put my boat a bit higher up (away from the particularly slippery slime) the same sloping rock when I put in so as not to repeat the performance. The scenery and gorge were still quite spectacular and the rapids were fun, but there was a lot less water. The rapid at the start by the old bridge looked unrunnable on the left hand side, mainly all rocks. The first few rapids were pretty boney and there was a lot of bumping over rocks, with just the odd swim. It is important to remember when running these types of rivers, to keep you feet up when swimming. Sure your bottom may get bruised but that is way better than drowning because your foot got trapped behind a boulder, so don’t try to stand up in swift water even if it is relatively shallow.

When we reached the rock garden, everyone got out to check out a route through the boulders as there was a lot of potential for getting pinned. We set up safety and sent John through as a probe. He had no problems and I followed through on a slightly different line, crashing in to and over rocks before pulling into the eddy at the bottom. Everyone else came down, one by one, with no problems, each taking a different line or showing their own personal style. Duncan showed his class by breaking in behind the first rock in a flawless move. He then went and blew it all by shooting straight up on top of a rock, apparently to get a better look down the rapid. The rest of the rapids were relatively straight forward to run but were pretty exciting. The gorge arrived sooner than I remembered (we didn’t play as much on the way down I guess) and was really beautiful with its water sculptured, moss covered cliffs overhanging the river and crystal clear waters. After that there was more rapids and some pretty good play spots, including a really nice but shallow hole near the get out. A great trip and well worth the effort.

Date: 19/3/06
River: Arnold River, West Coast, NZ
River Conditions: High flow (approximately 2.15m at the Lake Brunner), Grade 2, water clear.
Weather Conditions: Mainly sunny with some cloud.
Number on Trip: 19
Time on River: 2 hours.
Comments: There was some dissent over this run, some of the more experienced paddlers wanting to do this after running the Crooked River (translation: you can run it if you want after we head home), however in the interests of fairness to the many beginners, we paddled it first. We swapped the groups around, so people could experience different paddling instruction or could spent some time playing without having to rescue beginners. Johns’ group went first, followed by Chee Chang with me following up behind. It was quicker trip that the previous day with less play and fewer swimmers, some of the less confident paddlers were managing to get down the rapids without swimming and only a little coaching “PADDLE”. We had a little bit of horseplay in our group, having some of the younger kayakers and when we caught up with Chee Chang near the end, he decided to join in the fun, promptly pushing Cynric over “so he could practice his roll”. Unfortunately he didn’t and ended up swimming, he then promptly attached himself to Chee Chang’s kayak and tipped him into the eel infested water, holding him under so Chee Chang had a nice swim too and a good ribbing!

Date: 18/3/06
River: Arnold River, West Coast, NZ
River Conditions: Low flow (approximately 2.22m at the Lake Brunner), Grade 2, water clear.
Weather Conditions: Overcast but warm.
Number on Trip: 18
Time on River: 3 hour 30 minutes.
Comments: This was a deviation from Ian’s’ master plan as no one was particularly keen the run the flat water of Lady Lake River, which looked pretty dry to boot. We decided to run the Arnold as a step up from the previous trip. The river was running a lot lower than last time so we were looking forward to a much more relaxing trip than the previous roller coaster ride in January. We divided up in to three groups and headed off down the river. Lauri and I led the last group in the Topo Duo and had a nice cruisy run, surfing on lots of the waves and holes, some of which were somewhat larger than ones we had previously surfed making it quite exciting. We managed to stay upright but had a couple of close calls when we ended up side surfing some of the larger holes. We both really enjoyed it and we seem to be getting the hang of paddling the purple menace and it is quite surprising what you can do in it. The Arnold is a great little run, with something for everyone, good rapids, warm water, easy access and some great scenery. Currently Trustpower has plans to destroy this run as part of a small scale power generation scheme by channelling the water from the river into a canal and running it through generators and putting the water back into the river below the current take out. If this was to go ahead, it would be a real shame to lose such a recreational asset.


Fun on the Arnold. Photo by Graeme.

Date: 18/3/06
River: Crooked River, West Coast, NZ
River Conditions: Very low flow. Grade 2-, water clear and cold.
Weather Conditions: Overcast but warm.
Number on Trip: 18
Time on River: 2 hours 30 minutes.
Comments: I arrived late just as the rest of the group were considering running the shuttle. Ian had phoned me early that morning, asking if I wanted to run the trip as he had to go up to Auckland. I said sure and with all the hasty organising I had to do, meant I was running late (actually I drive slow so the drive took longer than the expected 2.5 hours). The first run was a nice easy one to get the less confident paddlers adjusted to being back in a kayak. The flow was pretty low and so the early rapids were pretty boney. Lauri got to paddle her Fly and only took one swim near the start. I distracted her by getting stuck on a rock halfway down the second rapid and so she was looking at me, wondering why I was playing silly buggers, and not concentrating on what she was doing. She was quickly back in her boat, glad that her Bomber jacket kept her nice and dry and completed the trip without further mishap. There are some nice easy rapids that can be run straight down plus there are some nice little play spots to keep the more confident paddlers amused.

Date: 12/3/06
River: Rangitata River, South Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 60 cumecs at Klondyke, water cold, clear and swift. Grade 2+
Weather Conditions: Rain clearing, SE winds easing, mainly fine but cool.
Number on Trip: 8 on grade 2 section, 10 on the grade 4 section.
Time on River: 3 hours
Comments: Another run down the Rangitata in the Topo Duo with Lauri. Feeling pretty confident in the Duo after the Waiau trip, we took the harder lines and had heaps of fun surfing anything we could get on. Everyone else did really well and we had no swimmers, even though a number of people took the opportunity to try new things and test their limits, good work. We were also accompany by a guy called Ed, who said he had done some kayaking in the past but hadn’t paddled in 20 years. His boat was an old Olympia (even longer than the Topo Duo) and his gear dated to a similar era, but boy could he really paddle, pulling old school tricks like pirouettes (you don’t see that with today’s short boats). Gradually we learned he was a founding member of the White Water Canoe Club and had done quite a bit of really serious grade 5 paddling in New Zealand and around the world and was even in this years WWCC calendar. It was great to have him along and it was good to see him once again enjoying the sport he loved. We all enjoyed the trip, taking our time and playing everything until the cold started getting to me and I had to hurry things up. I had dropped off my Rasdex jacket to be repaired (the seam sealing around the cuffs had come loose allowing water in) and had to use my old paddle jacket and so got soaking wet. I was quite frozen by the time we made the get out where Barry waited with our vehicles. The rest of the grade 4 paddlers did two runs through the gorge and had a great time too. Thanks Raewyn for the photos.


The weir below the put in. Photo by Raewyn.


Playing in the Topo Duo. Photo by Raewyn.


Surfing a hole in the Topo Duo. Photo by Raewyn.


The Topo Duo rocks! Photo by Raewyn.




Raewyn surfs in a club RPM.

Date: 5/3/06
River: Waimakariri River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 33 Cumecs at State Highway One Bridge. Grade 2, water clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny with strong NE winds.
Number on Trip: 3
Time on River: 2 hours.
Comments: A nice gentle Sunday afternoon paddle with Lauri, Graeme and myself. This was Lauri’s’ first paddle in her Fly in a while and she really enjoyed it. It is nice to have a gem like this so close to home. The river was pretty busy with plenty of jet boats, 4x4s, motorbikes and yobs throwing rocks at the burnt out car that had been dumped in the river. The river level was very low but we managed to find channels that didn’t involve too much bottom scraping. No real hazards and just a few little rapids and trees forming small holes, which Lauri had a surf on. Nice easy shuttle and no one threw rocks at our car, bonus!

Date: 26/2/06
River: Waimakariri River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 36 Cumecs at State Highway One Bridge. Grade 2, water clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny with light NE winds.
Number on Trip: 4
Time on River: 4 hours, 30 minutes.
Comments: The final kayaking stretch of the Bloody Good Race was held on the Waimakariri River from the Willows down to Stewart? Gully. We were covering a hazard just down from Weedons Ross Road, where the current swept through some trees dumped in the river and bank protection works (I think). It was pretty nasty with lots of trees and wire cables in the main flow and was designated as a compulsory portage (which annoyed some competitors but was safer and fairer to everyone taking part). I was parked down near the hazards while the others directed competitors to the far bank and helped them out of their kayaks for the portage. It was quite nice sitting in the river until the itching started (not to bad as I wasn’t wearing any poly pro and hadn’t the previous day) and by the end of the day I was standing on the bank in just my shorts wishing race would end and I could get into some dry clothes. It was a pretty slow day but it was still good to be out on the river.

Date: 25/2/06
River: Rangitata River, South Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 58 Cumecs at Klondyke. Grade 2, water clear and warm.
Weather Conditions: Fine but with a few clouds.
Number on Trip: 4
Time on River: 6 hours, 30 minutes.
Comments: Day two of the Mt Cook “Bloody Good” Race, includes a kayaking section down the Rangitata River from Klondyke to the Arundel Bridge. This section isn’t too dramatic in plastic white water kayaks but in a long, narrow race boat made of brittle fibreglass, it is a different kettle of fish, with biggish rapids and plenty of rocks to dodge. I was safety boating in more or less the same place as last year, just down from the camp ground on the second rapid, with Andrew. Dave and Tara paddled down from Lyell Creek and were covering the rapid above us. We had a pretty uneventful time, only having to rescue on paddler (twice) and filling in the time between customers by surfing back and forth across the rapid. It was great, the Invader just flew across the river and ended up in the small eddy on the other side in a shower of spray, I had a ball.

However, after a large proportion of the competitors had gone by, Bruce (acting as a mid field safety kayaker) told us that there was another rapid below us that we were supposed to be covering instead of the rapid Dave and Tara were on. This came as a bit of surprise as we had been given GPS co-ordinates for the second rapid we were too cover and they correspond to the one Andrew and I were on. I promptly paddled upstream to get Dave and Tara to cover our rapid whilst Andrew and I paddled about 500m down the river to the next hazard and boy was it a nasty one. The main current dropped down a chute and into the bank forming a bit of a whirl pool and then a little further along it dropped down another chute, flowing through a series of trees in the water along the left bank with the last tree covering about 70% of the channel, not a nice place to be. We quickly set up a sign and had Andrew direct the remaining competitors down another channel (scratchy but navigable, just), whilst I sat in my boat above the nasty stuff to intercept anyone who ignored the other channel.

While I was sitting there, I was quite surprised when a competitor walked up to me from downstream. I asked him if he had a problem and he told me his boat was stuck in the trees and he had lost his paddle. I went do with him to see if I could recover any of his gear but I could see a thing. He pointed to the spot where his bright yellow sea kayak should have been, but it certainly wasn’t there any more and there was no sign of it down the river. I got on the radio and spoke to race control and they got him to walk up the river to our put in and they would send his support crew to meet him. I promised that I would try to find his boat but didn’t hold out much hope of seeing his paddle again and off the ran up the river bed with his bare feet. Hint: remember to also have some form of footwear on when paddling because if you lose your boat with your shoes in it, you generally have to walk out bare footed.

After a while Ian and Shane (the tail end Charles) turned up with Dave and Tara, I sent the off the scratchy channel with Andrew while I set off down the other channel to see if I could find the lost gear. I avoided the trees fairly easily but did wonder how the other paddlers got on in their long race boats (I would have portaged it if I was in a race boat). There was not sign of either boat or paddle, so I continued on down the river. I eventually found the paddle, lying in a shallow rapid with its black blades visible above the water but still no boat. Eventually the channels joined but and I caught up with Ian and Shane but no Andrew! He eventually appeared, having got stuck repeatedly in the boney alternative channel and had to hand walk his kayak (hmm, I wonder what that would do to a fibreglass race boat) and we headed off down the river to catch up with Dave and Tara. We found them further down the river, looking worriedly at the empty sea kayak they had found with no sign of its paddler. They had already contacted race control and were very pleased to find out the competitor was safe. Ian set about salvaging the kayak and I got him to strap the paddle to its deck so I didn’t have to carry it any more. Ian and Shane took turns at towing the sea kayak out whilst the rest of us enjoyed ourselves on the paddle out. There were some quite nice rapids and we all enjoyed ourselves but were glad when we reached the Arundel Bridge and could get out and in to dry clothes for the journey home. It had been a long day and we were all pretty tired.

Some lessons were learnt and will hopefully be applied on future events. They included….
-Someone needs to run the river at some stage and makes notes of hazards, personnel requirements and placement.
-On the day of the race (or the previous day), the safety co-ordinator runs the river, places any “go this way signs” as well as numbered signs marking safety personnel locations and makes any changes to the safety plan. This means that everything is correctly placed by someone who is familiar with all the hazards on the river and knows their locations exactly.
-Safety boaters are then supplied with written notes on the hazard and location, grid reference/location map, a sketch map of the hazard with suggested personnel placement marked on it. This should reduce the confusion of “the second rapid on the right after the tree by the rock” type of verbal explanation (detailed written instructions also look better in court too).

Date: 19/2/06
River: Waiau River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 37 Cumecs at Marble Point. Grade 2, water cloudy.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and hot with light NW winds.
Number on Trip: 21
Time on River: 5 hours, 30 minutes.
Comments: This was a very cruisy trip, the sun was out and the river relatively low, so it was kick back and drift down the river in the Topo Duo with Lauri. Lauri felt that it was quite a different river to the one we paddled on our first trip in the double kayak and she was a little disappointed by the lack of decent wave trains.


The Topo Duo navigates a “rapid”.

I tried to make up for it by attempting to surf some of the river features and by picking slightly more exciting lines (i.e. ones where you just miss the large rock by a smidgen or run straight through the hole). We put in at the Hanmer River confluence, stopped for lunch at Marble Point and took out at the gravel pit (this is about 700m upstream on the right bank from the usual get out and is much easier for beginners). There were plenty of jet boats on the river and this caused a few worries for some of the less experienced paddlers, though no real problems. There were also a few swimmers but the water was warm and the day was hot so a number of people even opted for a completely voluntary swim to cool off.


Playing on the Rapid at Sharks’ Tooth. Photo by Chee Chang.


Rapid at Sharks’ Tooth (low flow and the other channel has reduced the challenge from years gone by). Photo by Chee Chang.

Learnt a few things with on the shuttle, firstly, always stop at stop signs and secondly don’t follow Chee Chang (this often applies on rivers too). The Police were sitting just down from the Hanmer turn off, issuing tickets to those breaking the law. Andrew got a $150 fine for failing to stop and another driver got to have a wee chat with a Police Officer after temporarily losing traction (if he was a bit younger and driving a racier car, he probably would have been fined too). I managed to get stuck after following Chee Chang down to the river (OK so he has a 4×4 and I have lowish saloon), I got down alright but getting out required a bit of a push after I lost traction (and did a proper burnout with smoke and all). A great day out and everyone seemed to have fun, especially some of the beginners who find the Hurunui a bit daunting at times.


Sharks’ Tooth. Photo by Chee Chang.

Date: 12/2/06
River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 31 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2+(3), water cloudy.
Weather Conditions: Overcast, cold with strong NE winds.
Number on Trip: 16
Time on River: 5 hours.
Comments: My first trip back on the Hurunui since November and it was good to be back. It was another great day on the Hurunui. We decided to do the run from Jollie Brook down, putting in at the camp ground instead of below the swing bridge and thus getting to run an extra rapid. We paddled as one large group and I covered the rear for most of the trip, keeping any stragglers moving. The river was higher than I had paddled it for a while and the water was still cloudy from the fresh earlier in the week. Bob provided Tara with some expert instruction, giving her tips and exercises to try and showing her more challenging lines. Tara and her partner Dave were also having a competition to see who would have the most swims. The competition was pretty tight, with Dave probably spending more time upside-down but generally managing to roll upright. However once we entered Maori Gully, Tara pulled ahead due to tiredness and her more challenging lines, she even managed to run Simon’s Hole upside-down!

About half the group dropped into the eddy behind the rock above Dozy stream put in. I dropped in too and sat there for a while wondering why I hadn’t taken the easy route down the left channel. Dave broke out first, showing the line not to take, washing up on the pillow at the base of the bluff and tipping over but managing to roll upright again without any difficulty. The eddy gradually emptied out, with paddlers either paddling straight down the drop or heading for the rock and breaking out from the eddy. Eventually it was my turn and I paddled directly at the rock and soon found myself upright, surfing in the main channel, no problems!

The next challenge was the big eddy and bluff on the next section. It was easy to get in but with a slightly higher flow, getting out across the face of the bluff was a bit harder. Kieron looked good as he played on the pillow at the base of the bluff until I realised that he wasn’t playing but was actually stuck. In an attempt to get unstuck, he clipped his paddle to his tow line (a bad idea) and tried to hand walk along the bluff. This was going fine until his tail caught and he was upside-down with his tow line tangled around his neck. Fortunately he was able to untangle his tow line and roll upright after flushing off the bluff, excitement over, phew. After watch this, I was a little worried however the Fly, with its higher boat speed, kept me away from the bluff without breaking a sweat, much.

Maori Gully was pretty sweet and I felt pretty comfortable, picking lines and playing on some of the features (not the really major drops though), I even had another go on the Magic Roundabout! Lots of fun all round.

Date: 11/2/06
River: Waimakariri River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 148 cumecs at Old Highway Bridge. Water swift and cloudy.
Weather Conditions: Fine with cloudy patches, light drizzle at times, strong NW winds.
Number on Trip: 2
Time on River: 9 hours.
Comments: I finally got to help out with the Coast to Coast, cool! Not much too it, we mainly spent the day sitting in our boats directing people away from a couple of channels that fed directly into some willows. Only one person made it through our cordon, appearing suddenly behind us and completely failing to avoid the willows. He swam out of his boat, which was recovered by the jet boat team and had to helped ashore. We assumed that he had ignored the signs further up the river to get into the closed off channel, hopefully he learned the lesson that the signs are there for a reason and not just to slow people down. The other drama was an English kayaker who tried to paddle towards us despite us shouting at him, eventually we got him to pull over to the over side and we went over to see if we could help. It turned out he had decided to take part in the race the week before and had hired the last suitable kayak that Topsport had, an old fibreglass sea kayak, and wrecked it by running over rocks and down shallow chutes. He drained out the water and we patched up the bottom as best as we could and he continued on.

The day dragged on and my reaction to the polypro I was wearing got worse and worse, I removed my long john’s but was still tormented by the constant itching. Eventually around 7pm we were told we could head out and with a great deal of relief we set off for the gorge bridge with a couple of the last few competitors. We ran a bit of a drop behind a large rock near the end, which was fun, then paused to help a competitor who had decided it wouldn’t be so much fun to run in his race boat. After we had got changed and picked up my car, we noticed the same sea kayak we had patched up earlier, the competitor had just abandoned it on the river bank. Eventually Linda got it back to Topsport and they were quite surprised to see it again as they had though it had disappeared for good. Hopefully they got to charge the guy who hired it heaps for not returning. It was really good to be involved in the race but it was a very long day and I was pretty beat by the time I got home at 10:30pm.

Date: 10/2/06
River: Waimakariri River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 180 cumecs at Old Highway Bridge. Water swift and dirty from the Esk River down.
Weather Conditions: Generally fine but with some clouds.
Number on Trip: 9
Time on River: 4 hours.
Comments: Admittedly this shouldn’t actually be here but it was such a cool trip I really have to write it up. I manage to get a jet boat ride up the Waimak Gorge to check out the course for the Coast to Coast. I had especially bunked work (OK so I’d actually booked a day off weeks in advance, but “bunked” sounds cooler) and was really looking forward to finally getting a look at the Waimak Gorge (plus I was also getting the oft promised jet boat ride that all safety boaters are bribed with). The water flowing under Gorge Bridge was brown with quite a bit of debris in it but judging from the mud on the bank, the river had fallen from earlier in the week. Everyone duly arrived and we boarded the two jet boats and headed up the river, it was fun racing along and I had my hands tightly clenched one the holds and my gear and was quite nervous as the went up the smallish rapids.

At Woodstock we came across one of the large commercial jet boats which had broken down due to sucking debris into the impeller and had to transfer its passengers to another boat whilst on the river. Apparently they shouldn’t have been running the river at that flow and were outside of their operating parameters, a bit embarrassing especially as a MSA Inspector was driving our lead jet boat. Once in the gorge the scenery was spectacular, with great soaring cliffs, waterfalls and interesting rock formations. I wished I had my camera but as I was holding on so tightly to the boat, I probably wouldn’t have taken any pictures. It was quite hard to gauge what the rapids were like as the jet boat appeared to fly over the water (I clocked speeds of almost 80km/hour on the down stream run using the GPS) and you seemed very detached from the river itself. It was quite interesting when the jet boat slowed to an idle and the river came in to focus again. It is the feeling of being in touch with the river that I particularly like about kayaking.

Once we were out of the gorge and above the Esk confluence to water cleared to a glorious blue colour, the flow level dropped and we had to turn back after scraping the boats bottom once too often. On the trip back, the lead jet boat would stop at all the major rapids to put out numbers for the safety jet boaters, so they could be sure they were in the right place. After Woodstock, I clambered out of the jet boat I was in and into the lead boat. We placed a few signs directing people away from the various hazards (mainly willow trees with the current flowing through them) and figured out where I’d be stationed the following day. Whilst placing the last sign, we ended up stuck on a gravel bank and the boat wasn’t moving. I was still in street clothes and didn’t really fancy standing in a muddy river and having wet trousers and shoes for the rest of the day, eventually I had to get out and help push too. The boat still wouldn’t move and eventually we had to resort to driving the other boat at it to create a wave to wash the boat off. I was fortunately back on the boat by this stage and eventually we got off the bank and finished the trip off.

Date: 1/2/06
River: Waimakariri River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 36 cumecs at Old Highway Bridge. Water swift and cloudy.
Weather Conditions: Overcast, cold with strong NE winds.
Number on Trip: 9
Time on River: 2 hours.
Comments: This was a rescue training session for the Coast to Coast with Linda Wensley, just to brush up on the basics before the race. Did various exercises towing and ferrying boats and people, rescuing paddles, throw ropes etc plus a scenario that involved rescuing a paddler and boat trapped in a tree, which was quite useful especially as willows are the major hazard where I’ll be stationed. Had a reasonably fun time with the water being warmer than the wind. Had a bit of a swim after the session, trying to find a lost tow rope, but it seemed to have disappeared off down stream.

Date: 22/1/06
River: Crooked River, West Coast, NZ
River Conditions: Low flow. Grade 2+, water clear and cold.
Weather Conditions: Overcast.
Number on Trip: 15
Time on River: 3 hours.
Comments: This trip was probably the highlight of the weekend, with beautiful scenery and plenty of white water action. The road in (grade 5 with a locked gate) providing its own excitement, removing bits from the underside of Bills’ car. The get in is marked by a wooden cross. A memorial to a British kayaker, Eleanor Rutter, who drowned in the grade 5, upper gorge section further upstream. It was a solemn reminder of the risks that are present whenever one ventures into the Great Outdoors. Ian and Chris braved the “calf” (as in small cow) deep mud and wandered up the track to put further up and thus run a few of the harder rapids.


The rapids at the bridge site near the put in (thanks Graeme for the photos).

The rest put in below the old bridge site after they finished their short run. The river was clear and blue and was surrounded by superb native bush. Klaus managed to break his paddle on one of the early rapids and ran the rest of the river with less than half a blade on his right hand side. He still managed to play most features and roll with ease, even with his abbreviated paddle. As this was the second paddle he has broken recently, it was suggested that he should get a stronger paddle and stop bracing off the bottom.


Boulder garden rapid plus my arm. Photo by Graeme.

There were some pretty cool rapids, especially just before this really neat gorge where the river closed in, with great green moss covered cliffs overhanging the deep green water, quite spectacular and only able to be seen from a kayak. We had some excitement near the start of the gorge when Ernest bailed out after tipping on a large buffer wave and swam to shore. Chris pursued his boat down the next rapid and managed to catch it round the corner. This left Ernest on one side with his boat on the other side with a rapid between them. Ian paddled back up the rapid and ferried across and after several attempts at throwing a line across eventually ferried back with a line. This was attached to Ernest’s boat, which was then hauled back up the rapid and we carried on down stream with no further dramas. Definitely worth a repeat visit.

Date: 21/1/06
River: Crooked River, West Coast, NZ
River Conditions: Low flow. Grade 2-, water clear and cold.
Weather Conditions: Mainly sunny with some cloud.
Number on Trip: 17
Time on River: 2 hours 30 minutes.
Comments: This was a cruisy trip to make up for the mornings excitement and allow some of the less confident paddlers a chance to get out on the water. We paddled from the Crooked River Scenic Reserve (the get out for the lower gorge) down to the Moana-Rotomanu Road bridge. This was an easy grade two trip with not too much in the way of rapids but it was quite relaxing and there were plenty of waves to surf so everyone had some fun.

Date: 21/1/06
River: Arnold River, West Coast, NZ
River Conditions: High flow (approximately 4m at the Lake Brunner), Grade 2+, water clear.
Weather Conditions: Mainly sunny with some cloud.
Number on Trip: 17
Time on River: 1 hour 30 minutes.
Comments: I had been looking forward to paddling this river for a while but hadn’t manage to get over to do it. I had certain expectations but was quite surprised (pleasantly) by want I found. The Arnold was very high and swift and instead of the expected gently flow river with a few easy rapids, it turned out to be a willow lined roller coaster of reasonably large pressure waves with few stops or eddies. We ended up chasing Ernest’s boat for over 300m down one rapid before we could get it to the side. Wasn’t quite the beginners trip it was meant to be but still lots of fun. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I could have as I was a bit nervous in case anyone in my group ran in to difficulty, fortunately none did. Also attempts to surf waves and features, generally resulted in being swept off down stream. Currently this river is under threat of being dammed, which would be a real shame as it is a real gem and is well used by schools and beginners in the area.