Monthly Archives: December 2007

2007 Kayaking Season

Date: 30/12/07
River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 34 cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2+(3), water clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm.
Number on Trip: 6 people with 3 running Maori Gully.
Time on River: 3.5 hours.
Comments: My last trip of the year and it was a really good one, running the Hurunui from the Top Gorge and down through Maori Gully. Graeme called up the usual suspects and managed to put together a nice sized group for a paddle down the Hurunui. I had a hard time getting out of bed and after hanging the laundry out was running late. Everyone was waiting for me by the time I arrived at Belfast and it was all hands on deck to get my gear transferred over to Graeme’s car for the trip up to the take out at Seawards. At Seawards we got changed, leaving our dry clothes in Hugh’s car, all six kayaks were strapped on top of Graeme’s car and we piled in for the drive up to Sisters Stream, the get for the Top Gorge. We stopped briefly at Dozy Stream to check out the new rapid and see if we could spot a good line through it. It looked pretty rocky and there were a number of holes around the approaches to the drop, which made choosing a good line more difficult. In the end it was decided that running it from the right hand side and moving left would probably be ok, this was the theory that we would test later on.

The 500m walk from the road down to the river was hot work, especially for those foolish enough to put their dry jackets and gear on first. However it was nice and cool on the river, so after a brief warm up it was off down the gorge. We had quite a range of kayaks on this trip, I was in my Blitz and Shane D had his Inazone, Graeme was playing it safe with his Lil’ Joe, Hugh had his Remix (a modern retro boat) and Retro and his Aussie mate, Ian were using Retro’s Reflex and Corsica S respectively. Indeed with such a varied fleet, Shane and I spent a lot of time struggling to keep up as our more play focused kayaks were constantly getting caught in holes and on waves, being forced to surf endlessly before being able to break free of the rivers hold.

The Top Gorge was good but not too challenging, this was the third time I’ve run it and the feeling was certainly a lot different from the first time I paddled it about 4 years ago. Caught eddies and played our way down to Jollie Brook, I took a roll after surfing the main feature of the Jollie Brook took an unexpected turn (upside-down)! Carried on down the river, trying to get the most out of it with out getting left too far behind.

Things were going well and we had a quick regroup above Dozy Stream to discuss what we were going to do. Graeme decided to walk the new rapid and so headed off first to get in position with his camera. Once he was in position, everyone headed down one at a time and disappearing from view.

There were a number of people on the bank in various places, who stopped to watch us go by and in some cases to take photos. There were several groups around the rapids above Dozy Stream and hopefully they got some good photos. Not really sure how the others went, as Retro and I were the last. We both ducked into the old eddy to reminisce and I broke out first to run the new rapid. The old wave train is completely gone with just the big, nasty drop in the middle. I approached it from the right hand side, a number of holes above the drop made this a little tricky but I managed to run the drop cleanly and avoided the rocky outcrops on the way down. Ian was soon down without a problem and then I spent a bit of time riding the boils near the base of the drop, whilst staying out of the big hole. I ended up getting flipped rather rapidly after one close encounter and Graeme managed to capture that on his digital camera.

We had a brief stop at the Dozy Stream put in to eat some food, stretch our legs and for Hugh to empty his boat out (he had apparently done a practice wet exit to get out of his boat). From here down the pace picked up and I found myself frequently getting left behind. A quick visit to the Eddy of Doom before trying to surf out of it across the river with out being swept towards the bluff, failed but no problems though. Eventually we got to Seawards where the trip was planned to end, but Ian, Shane and me were keen to continue on (it would have been rude not too). I had a brief play at the Magic Roundabout, the slighter higher flow meant that it wasn’t so cruisy and I ended up rolling after failing to pull off one move and being swept into one of the rocks. We had a fairly quick run down the rest of the gully but did spot for a nice play at the Pop Up Spot and after a few pointers I managed to do a few good ones and had a heap of fun doing it, quite exhilarating really! Then down to the take and a brief wait for the shuttle to arrive and it was off to the Nor’Wester for some well earned drinks before heading home.


Pulling a pop up in the Blitz at the Pop Up Spot in Maori Gully. Photo by Shane Davidson.

Date: 15/12/07
River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 25 cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2+(3), water clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm.
Number on Trip: 19 people, 7 doing multiple runs on Maori Gully while the rest of the group ran from Jollie Brook down to Seawards and 8 of that group running Maori Gully.
Time on River: 0.5 hours first run, 1.25 second run.
Comments: A real summer day, nice and hot with a cool, clear river to paddle. We had some discussion at the Belfast as to what to do, I was keen to do the run from Jollie Brook down and another group wanted to do multiple runs of Maori Gully. It was decided that we’d meet at Seawards to get changed and then go from there. At Seawards, we split in to two groups and with 12 people and 3 cars heading for Jollie Brook, there was no room for me so I joined the Gully run group.

It seemed a little odd starting at Seawards as there is no warm up before getting into the Gully but today that wasn’t a problem. We had an excellent play session at the Magic Roundabout and it provided all the warm up we needed. There was a nice surf wave on the left-hand side and it was great to break in and out of the eddies and ride the swirling currents. On down past Simon’s Hole, feeling bravish and took the left-hand channel, just kissing the edge of the hole. Went through the next rapid catching eddies and playing where possible, it was just great to be on the river on such a lovely day.

I took a spill on the next set of rapids after trying a not so good line, tried a few unsuccessful rolls as I floated upside-down through hole after hole and resisted the temptation to pull the deck before getting upright towards the end of the rapid. A bit annoying, as that section was good for catching eddies, however by doing multiple runs, you get a second chance. On down the remaining rapids, catching eddies and surfing where possible, the last major rapid has a sweet surf wave but if you get washed off it, you end up down stream and it is pretty hard to get back on. I surfed the wave across the river before being spat out and swept on down the river. We stopped for a play at the pop up spot before carrying on down to the get out.

After catching our breath after the climb up from the get out, we got the boats back on the roof racks and drove back to Seawards. Had some lunch (well a muesli bar anyway) and lay in the sun while the shuttle was run. Another short break while a second shuttle was run to retrieve some essentials that had been left in the back of one of the cars and then it was back on the river for run number two.

The second run was similar to the first one but with rolls in different places and not so much play as fatigue started to kick in. By the end of the second run, I was feeling pretty hot and tired and was looking forward to a nice swim at the get out. Most of the group was keen for a third run so we shuttled the vehicles, spotting the other group halfway down Maori Gully and by the time I was wandering down to the Maori Gully take out for a swim, they were getting off the river. The water was just the right temperature and I had a lot of fun jumping off the rocks and splashing about in the water. When I was feeling suitably refreshed I wandered back up the hill (it was so much easier without a kayak on your shoulder) to hang about and catch up on the gossip.

The other groups trip went well without too much drama, the “haystack” above Dozy Stream caused a bit of excitement, with even some experienced paddlers ending up inverted, a few of the beginners wisely walked it. Eventually the rest of my group appeared, having had a few dramas of their own. Per flipped after trying to catch a small eddy part way down one of the major drops and got his kayaks nose pinned against a bluff. He bailed out just before his kayak freed itself and then the group rescued him and his kayak after chasing them down several rapids. All ended well and everyone had a good day out with some nice summer paddling.

Date: 25/11/07
River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 23 cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2+(3), water clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny but with strong winds.
Number on Trip: 19 with a similar number doing Maori Gully due to some pick ups at the get in.
Time on River: 4.5 hours.
Comments: Didymo!!!!!! I hadn’t seen any didymo in the “flesh” before but now the Hurunui is full of the nasty stuff. It was first noted earlier in the year above the top gorge (i.e. above the areas paddled by kayakers) but now is all over the place, so be sure to Check, Clean or Dry your boat and gear before moving on to paddle other rivers.

It is always good to be back on the Hurunui (even with didymo) and even the strong wind gusts did little to spoil this. After a lazy start, lying in the sun while the shuttle was run we paddled down the first stretch on mass, with only the odd collision before the group became more strung out and the chaos lessened. I ended up near the back with Murray and a couple of others keen to take their time and really enjoy the rapids.

It was nice to get reacquainted with the river again, having not paddled the Hurunui since September at the start of the season. Things were all looking nice and familiar (well, since the changes that took place in the floods of last season) until we got to the rapid above the Dozy Stream put in. The old left hand chicken route (an old favourite with me) seemed almost empty with most of the water now flowing straight down the main rapid. It was quite a surprise to watch Murray paddle around the left side of the rock at the top of the rapid and then disappear. It was even more of a surprise when he broke out from behind the rock into the right hand eddy. Normally this would require you to paddle up a drop of at least half a metre (no problem for a salmon but a little hard in a play boat). I followed him down and broke into the eddy in the normal way with some difficulty due to a few rocks being in the way, which I just put that down to the lower flow. Once inside the eddy I realised with horror that the rapid that had so terrified me before had been eroded out and now presented little challenge and it was with some sadness that I broke into the flow again.

I was in for another surprise as I headed down the river, the old wave train had evolved after the last year floods into more of series of pour overs and holes. The main feature, about half way down the rapid looked a bit different to last time I ran it but I was feeling confidant and so headed straight for the guts of it. Apparently the floods early this season had changed things and I was a little taken back when I found myself heading over a metre high drop, studded with rocks, into a large hole. I flipped but soon rolled upright, slightly stunned. Wow, that was cool. Being right at the back of the group I’m not sure how the rest of the group coped with this rapid (which is definitely grade 3 now) as we had a couple of beginners with us but I didn’t hear any carnage stories so it must have been all good.

We carried on down to Seawards and met up with a few other kayakers who were also planning to run Maori Gully and we set off as one large group down the river. Chaos ensued and the Magic Roundabout looked more like the Riccarton Road roundabout at rush hour, boats collided and there were kayakers everywhere, good fun though. Had heaps of fun surfing waves and catching eddies, didn’t quite pull off a ferry glide across the top of Bum Rock and went over the rock sideways in to the hole below, spent a little upside-down time there before getting free and rolling upright again. Below the Elevator (I think) John R got out to rerun the rapid and I noticed the water was pouring out of his boat through it’s open bung hole. I called out to him but just assumed he had undone it deliberately to empty his boat. Later on he asked what I had said about his bung and then when I told him he pulled over to the side to empty his boat out and actually screwed his bung in this time.

More fun at the final big rapid where a nice river wide surf wave had formed, after waiting patiently for my turn, I missed getting on it and was swept downstream. Had a play at the pop up spot and then headed on home. The get out appeared and an attempt to circle the rock above the get out resulted in another roll after being swept up on the buffer wave in front of the rock. Another fun trip and I even managed to make it back into town in time to shower before going out for dinner.

Date: 16/11/07
River: Tekapo River, South Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 85 cumecs at Flow Gates and falling fast! Grade 2. Water clear and very cold.
Weather Conditions: Sunny.
Number on Trip: 1.
Time on River: 1 hour.
Comments: We drove over the bridge in to Tekapo and looked down at the river, it was running bank to bank with a good flow. All excited, I headed to where we were staying and got changed into my kayaking gear, arranged a shuttle and headed for the put in. As we crossed the bridge again, I looked down and to my horror realised the river was now empty! The rotten buggers had turn the river off! So that was the end of plan A, time for plan B. I dismissed my shuttle and just drove myself down to the white water course, hoping there’d still be some water down there. Fortunately there was (just not much and falling fast), so I walked up stream a bit and then played my way down the river to where the slalom course rejoins the river. Not exactly challenging but the river was crystal clear and it was nice just to be on the river. After I got off the river, I crossed the white water course and had a bit of a play on the bottom drop, the sprayed on concrete surface putting some deep scratches in the nose of the Blitz. I then carried my boat to middle pool and paddled down the lower section, which still had a paddleable flow. Not exactly extreme but then I probably wouldn’t have done more being on my own. A nice paddle but a little disappointing to have missed the 85 cumec flow.

Date: 22/10/07
River: Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 16 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Grade 2/3. Water clear and cold.
Weather Conditions: Sunny but cold.
Number on Trip: 16 on top section, 12 on lower section.
Time on River: 2 hours on top section, 3 hours on lower section.
Comments: With a club trip off to Murchison for the long weekend, Graeme organised a trip to the Ashley for those left behind. With the Ashley running at 16 cumecs, the trip promised to be more beginner friendly than some of the previous flows. We had a good turn out, with plenty of experience, the sun was shining, the river was flowing so what could be better than a day out on the Ashley.

The upper section was just magic, with plenty of rocks to dodge and eddies to catch. It was a fairly slow trip down, but in a good way, making the most of the sunny day and playing as much as possible. This section is probably best at this flow, with plenty of challenges and not too many consequences. However you do want to be pretty careful about being upside-down otherwise geologic interaction will result (i.e. you bash your head, hands etc on a rock) and the rocks of the Ashley tend to be pretty sharp and jagged.


With the lower flow, there were plenty of eddies to catch and rocks to dodge. Photo thanks to Hugh.


…and in some cases, some very big rocks to dodge. Photo thanks to Hugh.

Some sections got pretty boney and a lot of rocks were exposed, but most of the rapids were reasonably straight forward, though I did get tripped up a couple of times by unexpected rocks just below the surface and I felt the odd one sweep by as I was upside-down.


Graeme runs the Main drop…


… and emerges unscathed from the hole at the bottom.

The highlight of the trip was probably the main drop (pictured above), where we all had multiple runs at it, with a complete lack of carnage. Numerous photos were taken, some to be proudly displayed to friends, family and colleagues to show what we really get up to on the weekend and that there is more to the Ashley River than the picnic area.

The rest of the trip was excellent with plenty of fun and white water. I goofed a little on the second to last major drop, where the main flow runs into the big rock, and pulled a few mystery moves whilst trying to maintain my dignity. The last major drop provided a bit of a surprise, as at this flow the right hand channel behind the rock was very narrow and sheer sided and the rapid looked almost unrecognisable from previous trips.

Towards the end the river got quite flat and slow moving and it was a relief to get to the get out as my hands were getting pretty sore (my wedding ring forms blisters but I’m not prepared to take it off for any reason) and I was really exhausted. This was probably the best trip of the season and it is really great to have such good photos, so a big thank you to everyone involved.

Date: 14/10/07
River: Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 27 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Grade 2/3. Water discoloured and cold.
Weather Conditions: Cold, southerly winds, rain and some hail.
Number on Trip: 16 on top section, 9 on lower section.
Time on River: 1.5 hours on top section, 2.5 hours on lower section.
Comments: Graeme had scheduled a trip to run the Boyle, so when Sunday dawned, it was off to run the Ashley again. The weather forecast looked pretty bad, with cold southerlies and snow down to 600 metres and the rivers off the main divide were still high. So once again Graeme was foiled in his attempt to paddle the Boyle. The flow had dropped from earlier in the week and the Ashley was down to a more sedate 27 cumecs. We had some time to kill at the Lees Valley put in while the shuttle to the middle bridge was run, so I had a snooze lying on top of my kayak in the warm sunshine. We got under way once everyone got back, moving off in a largish group, jockeying for positions on the waves and in the eddies, kayakers running into each other all over the show. Things eased off a bit once the group became more strung out. There was apparently the odd swimmer amongst the beginners but I never saw anyone out of their boat from my position near the front of the group.

As we neared the bridge, one of the kayakers had somehow managed to pick up a passenger, a rather bedraggled rat (or possibly a large mouse), which rode down the rapids sitting on his spray deck (not sure what happened to it latter, apparently it didn’t survive the cold). At the bridge we met up with Bob, Murray and Dennis, who planned to run the lower section. We sorted out who was doing what, one group planned to run the upper section again, another group was to run the lower section and the rest would run the shuttle (or go home). As we were setting off, John ran up to say that he was heading home and had shifted my gear to Graeme’s car, little did I realise that this meant that I’d spend half an hour standing around in my wet paddling gear at the end of the trip.

The run down the lower section was definitely cruisier than the last couple of runs but the cold kept playing to a minimum. The poor, young German kayaker paddling with us, with only a rain jacket to keep out the water, was shivering at every stop (his dry clothes took awhile to arrive too). It was nice to be able to feel confident running the rapids in this section but it was also nice when the end came in to view as it had been a fairly tiring paddle and it was pretty cold. Unfortunately relief was still some way off as our dry gear had arrived yet. Bob, Dennis, Murray and some of the others got changed while the rest of us jumped up and down and played on the swings to keep warm. Eventually Graeme’s team arrived after some problems with their shuttle and it was good to get in to some warm clothes, just as the rain started to bucket down. Another good run down the Ashley at slightly less scary volume.

Date: 11/10/07
River: Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 86 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Grade 2. Water very dirty, some debris and very swift.
Weather Conditions: Cold and drizzly.
Number on Trip: 5
Time on River: 1.5 hours.
Comments: Thursday is a work day, so no paddling, just sitting at my desk wishing I was at home or paddling or something. Obviously Graeme has had similar thoughts as he had decided to bunk off work early and paddle the Ashley, which was still up. Being a sharing guy he invited a number of similarly minded individuals along for the trip. So after seeking permission from management (both work and home), I arrived at work at 7:30am with my kayaking gear and my Blitz strapped to the roof of my work car. 3 o’clock eventually rolled round and I was off like a shot, meeting up with the rest of the team at Belfast. It was 5:45pm by the time we got on the river and the Ashley was even higher than it had been at the weekend and this had some people feeling nervous. John even pretended to have forgotten his spray deck in an attempt to get out of paddling! We paddled under the bridge, carefully avoiding the barbed wire strung below it (a nasty trap of the unobservant).

It was good to have Bob along on the trip, in case anyone got in to trouble. We had chosen to just run the upper section, as we didn’t have the time or the skills to run the lower section at its current flow. Floated through the early rapids, not catching any eddies in case someone followed me in and got stuck. At one of the first corners, Graeme took a line to close to the inside bank and got caught on a rock in the shallows and the swift current left him with no alternative but to get out and pull his boat to shore. This unfortunately knocked his confidence and part of the way down the “crux” rapid he decided to call it quits and walk out along the track up to the road. We carried on down the rapid with out any problems, though if John had got any closer to the bank, he would have needed wheels on the bottom of his kayak. After this rapid, things eased off, though everyone was careful to avoid the bluffs and anything that looked even slightly like a hole. One of the last rapids caused a bit of interest as at the end of it the water ran into a bluff and formed a body of “funny” water as it flow around the corner. I had discovered this on Sunday when I decided to just slide down the tongue and found myself being sucked down. This time I made sure I avoided it, Bob paddled through it and was quite surprised when it sucked the tail of his kayak down. Hugh and John (by fighting his way through the trees in his kayak) avoided it after seeing that. We made good time and were at the get out around 7pm. Graeme appeared not long after we got there, having been delayed by a flat tire on the way to the get out. We all enjoyed ourselves, though it was kind of funny running a river after having spent most of the day at work.

Date: 7/10/07
River: Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 80 cumecs dropping to 68 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Grade 2/3. Water very dirty, some debris and very swift.
Weather Conditions: Sunny, warm nor-wester, strong wind gusts.
Number on Trip: 20 on top section, 11 on lower section.
Time on River: 2.5 hours on top section, 1.5 hours on lower section.
Comments: I was looking forward to this trip and was suffering from white water withdrawal leading up to it. The Ashley came up during the week then dropped again, then the other rivers shot up, and it looked like it would be the Ashley or a pretty high run down the Hurunui (where the trip was scheduled to go). The meeting time was moved to 10am to accommodate those wishing to watch the rugby, which meant for a leisurely start to the day with the prospect of a late return and an unhappy home team. There was a big crowd (around 30 at guess) waiting in the car park with plenty of new faces, amongst them a number of the beginners, off for their first club trip. Murray, Retro and Steel plus a good number of experienced paddlers were on hand. Dave arrived late and after much fluffing about we final left the Belfast car park at almost 11am. We were making for the Ashley, which was running at 20 cumecs according to the ECAN website, which should have been a nice easy flow for the beginners on the upper section while still offering a reasonable paddle on the harder lower section. The Hurunui at around 210 cumecs, and the Waiau was even higher so we decided against then, anyway it is almost a sin to not paddle the Ashley when it is running.

More dilly dallying in Oxford and then up the Lees Valley Road to the put in, looking down into the gorge the river looked brown and much bigger than expected. When we reached the put in, it was clear the river level was much higher than expected. The water was brown, swift and boiling; chunks of wood and debris drifted past. At this point many of the newer paddlers wisely decided against paddling, rescuing multiple swimmers and gear in flood flows is definitely no fun and the Ashley offers few opportunities to get out if things go wrong. From the remaining paddlers, group leaders were appointed and three groups were organised. Murray took the first group, Dave A with Steel and Retro took the least experienced group and I attached myself to a small group of competent paddlers to follow up behind and so after more waiting around, we were on the water at 1pm.

The river was swift and we drifted past the beginners on the bank, smiling for Loraine?fs ( camera before leaving them behind to run the shuttle and make sure we had dry gear at the end. All the waiting around had made me feel too warm and sleepy, none of the features looked inviting, often with bits of tree sticking up from the water, so I just concentrated on getting down the river. We caught up with the second group at the eddy we had rescued Per from on a previous trip, one of the women was having breaking out of the eddy to ferry across to avoid the bluff. Eventually she decided to try a portage over the bluff and try to get down to the river on the other side. Bill went with her and we waited down stream in an eddy for them both to reappear. After a while Dave decided they weren’t able to get back down and would probably have had to walk out (fortunately they were by the four wheel drive track) and some one should let the others know so a vehicle could be sent to pick them up.

Three of us set off down stream to carry the important message, it was good to be on the move again and we cruised down some of the harder rapids of this section without a problem, things were starting to feel good. We dropped down another rapid and caught up with the other half of the second group, with one paddler standing on the bank clutching his paddle but lacking a boat. Eventually he managed to make his way down the rocky bank to where his boat had been rescued. It was decided that he should be rafted up with two other kayakers to help him down the river. At this point most people came up with reasons why they weren’t able to raft up or tried to not to get noticed (I did the latter), however two volunteers were found and we were able be continue on down stream. All was going well, the river widens out and the rapids eased off, so the raft broke up and he was once again separated from his boat. We had another long wait while he picked his way along the bank before getting a tow down the river to his boat. From then on he was rafted all the way down to the bridge except for a portage down the side of one willow-draped rapid, too hazardous to do an uncontrolled float down.

We reached the middle bridge around 3:30pm and were kindly dragged from the swift waters by waiting members of the first group. Debbie slipped getting out of her boat but was hauled bodily out of the current before she floated too far and I managed to drag her boat to shore getting a bit wet in the process. Once we were all out of our boats, we had to figure out what to do next. Dave wasn’t keen to carry on, but Murray was waiting in an eddy down stream all ready to go, so it was back in to our boats and off down the river. We were now down to 11 paddlers, all with sufficient skills to cope with this section and we made good time down the river and were soon at the first grade 3 rapids.

I flipped near the start on the rapid but rolled up again quickly, feeling the rocks whiz by just below me whilst I was under water. I flipped in more or less the same place at a similar flow so there must be something I’m missing here (probably a submerged rock forming a bit of a pour over possibly) as there wasn’t anything particular hard or obvious visible. Lots of smiles at the bottom of this rapid as the frustration of the previous leg was replaced with exhilaration. The rapid above Forever Eddy and the entrance to the gorge proper was big and bouncy and you had to pick your lines carefully to avoid the numerous holes, one caught Bill briefly but he was soon free of its grasp. The gorge itself was about 1km of continuous grade 3 rapids with plenty of brown, boiling water pushing into the bluffs and surging over rocks. Murray led the way with Steel close behind and I tried to keep them in sight as I drifted along, trying to only to use paddle stokes to keep my boat pointing in the right direction or avoid features. They got further and further ahead, before disappearing around a bend, I turned to find no one behind me and so pulled into eddy. Before long Retro appeared, picking his way down the rapid in the club Kendo he had borrowed off a non-paddling beginner. Apparently Retro had left the spray deck for his Reflex at home and modern spray decks don’t fit the smaller old school cockpits (I hope you remember to pay your hire fees for the Kendo).

I took off after him, following his basic lines, as it is always nice to have a probe in front. We regrouped when the gorge opened out again. Just two more major rapids to go and everyone (except Bill who was feeling a bit off form) was feeling good. No problems at the Big Rock dogleg rapid, I rode up on to the pillow and round the corner. The last main rapid caused the most problems as we all stopped above it in the eddy on the left-hand side and the good channel is on the right-hand side. Normally it isn’t too hard to ferry across and drop down to the right of the big rock but with the current pumping along, this was easier said than done. Murray went first, made the channel and disappeared from view, the nose of his kayak appeared briefly above the horizon line as it shot straight up into the air. Steel following closely behind, witnessed this but was already committed, his RPM kept him safe and he ran the drop without a problem (one of the few to do it on this trip). The next kayaker swept against the rock but made the channel, it didn’t look good so I went next. I paddled hard to get as far as I could across the river, but not quite far enough and I rode buffer wave on the rock before sliding down the channel. I flipped as I hit the bottom and rolled up again but before I could clear my eyes and get my bearings I was over again as the three converging current flipped the Blitz. Not sure exactly what happened next, I think I failed another roll and then waited until the turbulence died down. After a while of hanging around upside-down, I remember that I really should breath at some stage and I tried to think what I was supposed to do. It didn’t occur to me to try another roll so I pull my deck and stood in the calm water of the eddy I was in and caught my breath. I thanked Steel for his unneeded offer of a tow and pushed my boat up on the rocks and emptied it out. While I was sorting myself out, Ian and most of the remainder of the group clambered over the rocks to avoid the rapid, put off by the sight of everyone else getting trashed.

Back on the river and on to the take out is always good, knowing the hard stuff is behind you, and you can take the opportunity to have a play and try a few things. With the high flow, it was a relatively fast trip to the take out and I was pretty exhausted by the time I got there. It was nice to get in to some dry clothes and then to be chauffeured back the Belfast Tavern, thanks Steel. Picked up a pizza and was home a little after 7pm in time to watch Dr Who on Prime.

Date: 16/9/07
River: Tekapo River, South Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 40 cumecs at Flow Gates. Grade 2. Water clear and very cold.
Weather Conditions: Sunny.
Number on Trip: 1.
Time on River: 1 hour.
Comments: A nice run down the Tekapo River that was unexpectedly running when we went to visit the Mt. John Observatory. Noticed the river was running on the Saturday but didn’t have time to fit a run in or work out how to do the shuttle. On Sunday we headed down to the slalom course with the idea of walking up stream. Fortunately while we were waiting a couple who were also on the Alumni trip can down for a look (the husband was a kayaker) and they gave me a lift up to the road with my kayak. I had a nice play on the way down from the bridge, which was nice though I did miss my Blitz, I’ve obviously been paddling it to much as the Fly now feels a bit strange and tippy without the planar hull.

Date: 9/9/07
River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 30 cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2+(3). Water clear and very cold.
Weather Conditions: Overcast and cool.
Number on Trip: 9 (6 doing Maori Gully).
Time on River: 3 hours.
Comments: First official local WWCC club trip of the season had Tom leading a smallish group down the Hurunui from Jollie Brook down to Seawards and on through Maori Gully for the brave. Had some brief confusion over the shuttle but it actually worked out pretty good in the end. Most of the group was made up of people I didn’t know, experienced paddlers new to the area or returning to the sport. Ross had his brand new Bandit that he had recently brought from Canoe and Outdoor World (they were just coming on the market when he last went kayaking). It was sold to him as a suitable white water boat and they charged him $700 for it in a pretty dodgy deal. I guess they were happy to be rid of a largely unsaleable kayak for such a good price but in retrospect the customer will probably be disappointed with there purchase in the long run. He certainly had the longest boat on the river.

The run down to the swing bridge has good for getting used to being back on the river, with plenty of eddies to catch and small waves to surf. Ross had his first swim at the Jollie Brook rapid and was very glad he had put his extra warm gear on, as the water was freezing. Once he was back in his boat, everyone was off again. Matt, Dale and myself in our slower play boats found ourselves lagging well behind the rest of the group (mainly due to our boats wanting to play on the rapids instead of just running them as quickly as possible) and often lost sight of them altogether.

Bumped into the other group of WWCC paddlers on the river at the South Branch confluence as they paddled up the main branch. They were doing training as instructors before the beginners courses started later in the month. We managed to catch up with the rest of our group at the Dozy Stream, where Ross and his boat had become separated again after running into the bluff. Fortunately Tom had led the less confidant paddlers down the easier route while the others ran the more challenging right channel. Matt and I dropped in to the eddy behind the boulder (it would have been rude not to), taking Dale with us. The Blitz broke out easily into the flow and then caught the eddy below the rock, where I waited for the others to break out. We ran the rest of the rapid with a brief surf on the waves on the way down and regrouped with the others. Tom reunited Ross with his boat and after a bit of a break, it was off again.

Most of the group decided to avoid the Eddy of Doom, as far as I could tell from 500m upstream but it would have been rude not to drop in, so Matt, Dale and I paid the obligatory visit before breaking out and crossing the face of the bluff without any problems. The current now seems to been flowing at more of an angle to the bluff, making it difficult to get across the bluff face without riding the pillow at its base.

At Seawards the shuttle drivers got out and went to pick up the vehicles and the rest of us stretched our legs before running the Gully. Dale was in two minds weather to get out or not, but with a little encouragement and reassurance, he was keen to do it. We set off together but soon broke into two groups of three. I had a brief play on the Magic Roundabout but had to cut that short as everyone else disappeared round the corner. The first major rapid was good until I went over the top of a pointy rock I thought was a wave and ended up tipping over. A couple of roll attempts later (one apparently against the next rock down), I was upright and at the bottom of the rapid. Boy, the water was cold but very exhilarating! The next couple of drops were sweet, Matt lead the way followed by Dale with me covering the rear. Dale tipped after being pushed into the bank but quickly rolled up right. The last main rapid was great, I surfed across the nice wave half way down but couldn’t get back on it again, so left it to a couple of the others. We played a few more of the rapids on the way down to the get out, taking our time to reduce the time spent waiting for our dry clothes to arrive. Just before the get out I had a go at circumnavigating the rock and took a roll after sliding off the buffer wave on the rock face. As I was now alone on the river, I decided to call a halt to further experimentation and get out.

It was great to be back on the river and it was a good trip, at a good volume, though it would have been nicer if the weather was warmer and we had been able to linger longer on the rapids instead of racing down the river. Dale was certainly glad that he had done the Maori Gully run and had a big smile on his face by the end of it. Still by the end of the day I was pretty tired and may have nodded off during the trip home.

Date: 20/8/07
River: Waiau River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 68 cumecs at Marble Point. Water discoloured.
Weather Conditions: Warm and sunny.
Number on Trip: 5
Time on River: 3 hours.
Comments: Graeme, Hugh, John, Suzie and I took Monday off for a pre-season    paddle down the Waiau. We had a perfect day out, it sure beat working. Hugh took a swim after failing to roll and I did about four rolls while trying things in the Blitz. It was really great to be back in some white water after a long break and it was good to see my skills and confidence hadn’t left me.


Running Sharks Tooth in the Blitz. Photo by Graeme.

Date: 28/6/07
River: Waimakariri River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 42 cumecs at Old Highway Bridge. Water clear.
Weather Conditions: Overcast and cold.
Number on Trip: 3
Time on River: 1 hour, 45 minutes.
Comments: Graeme, Kim and I went for a nice Saturday afternoon paddle down the Brass Monkey course. It was nice to be out in my Blitz again and I managed to surf a few waves (most of the “rapids” are formed by submerged tree stumps and trunks) and had a bit of fun. Looking forward to the kayaking season starting again.

Date: 17/6/07
River: Waimakariri River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 30 cumecs at Old Highway Bridge. Water clear.
Weather Conditions: Overcast and cold.
Number on Trip: 1
Time on River: 30 minutes.
Comments: This was my first trial of the WWCC’s Vision DRR boat and the wing paddle we won in the last Brass Monkey series. I was a little nervous but decided to have a little paddle up Otukaikino Creek (the small creek that flows down from the Groynes and joins the Waimakariri just above the State Highway one bridge) before trying it on the main river. I managed to ease myself into the boat without too much drama (no seal launching from the bank in this boat). The first few minutes were pretty exciting as I flailed about trying to brace with the wing paddle while Lauri laughed from the bank. Eventually I got the boat stabilised, paddled to the shore and Lauri swapped the wing paddle for my trusty white water paddle. After that, things improved somewhat and I had a short paddle up the creek (without the wing paddle) and although the expected swim never eventuated, the dreams of competing in the Brass Monkey series in the C class evaporated. Perhaps if I practice, next year I’ll be able to try and give Murray, Dennis and Colin a run for their money in the hard fought C class veteran men’s division.

Date: 4/6/07
River: Waimakariri River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 112 cumecs at Old Highway Bridge. Water discoloured.
Weather Conditions: Sunny but cold.
Number on Trip: 3
Time on River: 2 hours.
Comments: It was freezing cold (especially bad after the slightly warmer temperatures in Hawaii) when we met up at the Belfast Tavern and that had me wondering why I wasn’t still in bed. However once we were on the river, I soon warmed up and it was really great just to be there. The river was up but the early section of the Brass Monkey course was still a bit grovelly, still once we got in the main flow we were treated to the odd small wave train. It was a lovely sunny morning for a paddle with some great company and no drama, thanks Graeme and Suzie.

Date: 18/3/07
River: Waiau River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 83 cumecs at Marble Point. Grade 2, water discoloured cold and with some debris.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm with strong NW winds.
Number on Trip: 7
Time on River: 3 hours.
Comments: John had planned to do a repeat of Retro’s “Paddle ’til ya Puke” on the Hurunui but with a low number of more experienced paddlers to cover the Gully Run, we decided to do the Waiau, which was up due to recent heavy rains on the Main Divide. We also had a shortage of suitable vehicles for the trip, I had the company car because I was on call for the week, two others had mechanical problems and an another didn’t want to take their car off the tar-seal. As we were pondering this, another kayaker turned up (without suitable vehicle) but left again when he found out were weren’t going to do the Hurunui. However with the change of destination, we were able to get three suitable cars and soon had them loaded up and were on our way to the take out at the Gravel Pit. We got changed and left the shuttle vehicle at the take out and headed up to the put in on the Hanmer River. Boats were paddled or carried down to the Waiau and we were soon under way, on the river before 11am! Lauri’s newsletter article was having results!

The river was quite different from the last trip down the Hurunui (low flow and super cruisy) and required a little bit more concentration with its boils and currents, but the Blitz had no problems once I remembered how to paddle again. The rain in mountains had raised the river and it was brown and swirly with the odd lump of wood floating along in the current but no one had any problems and it was great to just paddle along without having to worry about fishing anyone out, well done team! Initially John had me leading the way while he acted as tail end Charlie but as he was in his creek boat and I was trying to play on everything, the positions were soon reversed and I often found myself lagging behind. Alton was also keen to strut his stuff in his Flip Stick, surfing almost everything and pulling off a number of tricks I can’t do (which is almost any trick, my main play move is trying not to fall out of my boat). The higher flow had created a number of play holes from rocks and outcrops that are usually well above the water level, but meant that usual spots were flowing a bit swiftly to do much playing on. The rapid at The Fork / Screamer (where I was stationed during the last Waiau River Race 28/5/06) was looking good but after the second time I got swept off the wave without actually getting a surf, I ended up too far downstream to fight my way back. Still as a consolation prize, there was a nice play hole with a good eddy just down stream so we had a play on that instead.

The rapid at Fence Line Corner was particularly good today, this spot in continually evolving as the river eats its way through the farmers paddock on the left bank, and has currently formed a nice weir about 10 to 15m wide out of the soft mudstone. We spend quite a while playing here as it really easy to surf with a nice rest spot below it and almost everyone gave it a go. The only thing to remember is that several hundred metres of fencing wire ended up in the river around here and some of it is still there, we had no problems but it is still something to bear in mind around this spot. The river had also worn a short tunnel through the mudstone and John paddled through it a number of times. The hole above Marble Point almost caused the odd swim as people dropped into the turbulent water down stream of the rock, Alton was sure he was going to swim but managed to get his roll right in the end. We had a brief stop at Marble Point but were soon under way again after the wind almost took off with one kayaker’s boat and gear (he just managed to grab it before it headed off downstream without him). Those of us that remained in our boats had a hard time staying in position with the force of the wind so didn’t stick around too long.

Further downstream was a good little pop up spot and Alton and I almost managed to shoot our boats completely out of the water on our early attempts but subsequently fail to repeat our previous success and carried on downstream. There were some really great wave trains on this stretch of the river, which I didn’t remember from previous trips. The best one had some waves at least a metre high and our boats got almost vertical at times. This rapid was particularly good as it had a large eddy up the right hand side, meaning we could paddle back up to the top without too much difficulty and run it again and again and again… Shark’s Tooth caused a few worries but no problems for the group, with the increased flow driving hard into the rocky tooth. John signalled to go right and we dropped into the eddy on that side and then I surfed across in front of Shark’s Tooth to the other side and Alton followed me successfully with only a brief encounter with the pillow wave at the base of the tooth, sweet.

A few more rapids and we were at the gravel pit where our dry clothes waited. A quick change, a short wait for the shuttle (whilst making sure all our gear didn’t blow away in the gale force winds) and then off to the Nor’wester for a Monteith’s Black and some wedges with sweet chilli sauce and sour cream, YUM! While I was waiting for the shuttle, I phoned Mark to let him know I was back on call and he asked if the weather had hit us yet and I told him it was still sunny and warm. Apparently a big storm with hail, lightning and thunder had rolled through Christchurch causing flooding and other damage but completely missed us. As we neared Weka Pass, the sky ahead was a solid wall of darkness and when we entered it we had a bit of heavy rain but this soon passed at the storm continued northward, largely bypassing our group. A nice paddle with a good group and home before 5pm so everyone was happy, excellent!

Date: 4/3/07
River: Rakaia River, South Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 120 Cumecs at Rakaia Gorge. Grade 2, water swift and clear (blue).
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm with overcast periods. Occasional      wind gusts.
Number on Trip: 25
Time on River: 3.5 hours.
Comments: This trip down the Rakaia River got off to a promptly start, thanks Hugh’s organisation spurred on by Lauri’s recent newsletter article on how to stay out of the dog house. Getting changed at the get out was an equally swift affair and pretty soon we were at the Kowhai Flats put in. It was a bit of a haul across the river bed to get to a suitable channel, the Topo Duo is pretty heavy, but we were on the river by 10:30am (almost unheard of on a club trip). With 25 paddlers on the trip, we divided into three groups though on the river these turned in to some fairly loose associations and tended to get pretty strung out at times. Whilst milling around before heading off downstream, John some how managed tip his Fly over and despite assuring us earlier that he could roll it, was soon slapping on the bottom of his boat to no avail. By the time he had emptied his boat out and got himself sorted out, everyone else was ready and we set off down the river.


The group sets off. Photo by Lauri.

The early section is braided with the rapids generally being gravel chutes with the occasional boulder to dodge (or run over the top of for fun). The water was crystal clear and bluish in colour and sped us along surprisingly quickly, you didn’t seem to be moving much until you noticed the river bed speeding by beneath your boat. There were a lot of jet boats on the river, possibly a big club trip, and it was really nice of the lead jet boat to let us know how many were following behind. All of the drivers were very polite and considerate and we received lots of cheery waves, which was nice. The scenery was superb with towering cliffs of eroded sediment forming the banks in places and excellent views back up the valley of the Southern Alps.

We had a brief stop for lunch before the gorge, however one of the groups had taken another channel and bypassed us and this brought our break to an abrupt end as everyone hurried back into their boats and raced away. We end up being the last boat away and everyone else had disappeared off into the distance and we had to paddle hard to try and catch up. We passed a spectacular cliff made up of eroded conglomerate and just drifted past admiring the scoured out gullies and eroded pinnacles, as well as the sedimentary features formed when the material was deposited. Eventually we caught up with the rest of the group and carried on down the river at a slightly slower pace.


The cliffs tower above the river, red dot in the centre is a kayaker. Photo by Lauri.

Once we entered the gorge, the character of the river changed, confined to a single channel by the towering rock cliffs, the volume of water forming boils and eddies around the corners and bluff. The boils took the odd person by surprise, giving them the opportunity to practice their rolls. One of the hard rapids involved a particularly boily piece of water on a corner the a couple of rocks thrown in for good measure. The channel through it looked pretty tight and after watching one of the kayakers in front of us flip near the big rock, I decided to take the chicken route on the inside of the corner. This turned out to be not such a great idea as there two swiftly recirculating eddies and we had to really paddle hard to get across the boundary between them, something that several of those following us, weren’t able to do. Lauri was a little disappointed that we missed the rapid but I felt my Topo Fu wasn’t really up to the challenge at that time.


In the Gorge. Photos by Lauri.

As we neared the end of the gorge, we noticed that the third group, which had a frequent swimmer, was lagging far behind. Hugh and John stayed behind to offer some assistance while the rest of us had a leisurely paddle out. Once we passed under the bridge, it was just a short drag up to the cars and our waiting dry clothes, which were of course locked in John’s car and he had the keys. Fortunately I wasn’t very wet and it was a warm day, so there was no real hardship there and I ended up picking up my car still wearing my paddling clothes. After that, it was a quick change, load up the boats and head back into town, arriving back sometime around 4pm, pretty early considering we had paddled around 20km with a group of 25 people, amazing what can be done with just a little bit of organisation and motivation. The trip must have been pretty tiring too, as both Per and Tom nodded off in the back seat and had us wishing that we hadn’t locked the camera in the boot.

Date: 18/2/07
River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 23 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2+(3), water clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny, warm with occasional wind gusts.
Number on Trip: 12 (8 doing Maori Gully).
Time on River: 6 hours.
Comments: The day dawned grey and misty in Christchurch but the forecast looked good so it was off to the Hurunui. I was thankful of the 9 o’clock start, as I had got to bed around three that morning after a really enjoyable evening spent listening to Paul Ubana Jones play at the Old Mill in Waikari. Almost as soon as we left Christchurch, the sky cleared to a brilliant blue, it was going to be a great day. We got in to our paddling gear by the Seawards River confluence, stashed our dry gear in the vehicle we planned to use for the shuttle, stacked the extra boats on the cars, loaded up and drove up the put in above Jollie Brook. The river looked beautiful as we wound up the gravel road, the flow was low and the river looked a bit boney in places but the rapids looked nice and cruisy.

At the get in, everyone got the rest of their paddling gear on, loaded up their kayaks and final we were on the river. Our group was a good mix of abilities, with kayakers on their first season, including one student whose only kayaking was an eight day course in Nepal (he was able to roll consistently on both sides though so that was one up on me). We also had a range of intermediate paddlers plus old hands Murray and Bob to keep an eye on everyone and provide some helpful tips. There were twelve of us and we paddled as a single group, Q asked me to keep an eye on Chris, a new paddler with a reputation for going for the occasional swim. I told him not to follow me as I was in my Blitz and was keen to give it a good run and possibly push a few boundaries. We pushed on towards the swing bridge at a slow pace, catching eddies, surfing holes and dodging any rocks or other kayakers that got in the way, always a great warm up.

We hit the Jollie Brook rapids and had our first swimmer; I took a deep breath before heading off after them. Unfortunately the breath contained a sand fly that went straight down my throat (one of the hazards of using a nose clip and breathing through your mouth) and spent the next few minutes trying to cough it up while the others got the swimmer and gear to shore. We spent a while here, playing around or practicing our moves before moving off downstream. More catching eddies and dodging rocks, Matt got his Flipstick caught on a rock and bailed out in the foot deep water (too shallow to roll back up). I set off after his paddle while Matt hauled his boat to shore by sliding over the rocks on his bottom. Once he was back in his boat, we continued on down to the next rapid, a large boulder with the current running in to it. There are a series of small eddies on the right bank and these were in hot demand by those wishing to practice their ferry glide or to surf the waves next to them.

We carried on downstream at a slow place, playing on everything that came along, it was great to see the newer paddlers trying new things and really testing their skills. Graeme some how managed to take a swim in a silly place (flat water) after failing to roll and I helped tow him to shore across the dead calm water (he did tip whilst playing on the rapid so that makes it alright). The trip down to the South Branch confluence took over 3 hours, which is probably a record, and by the time we reach there, my right leg was almost completely numb (more alterations to the foam around my feet will definitely be required). I had a bit of a play on the new rapid below South Branch and then stretched my legs on the bank and had a bite to eat, while the rest of the group had fun.

For the run down to the Dozy Stream put in, the pace picked up a little bit as people began to tire and didn’t play quite as much. Above the new, improved rapid above the Dozy Stream put in, we discussed the various options for running the rapid. Everyone chose to run the right channel and most of those dropped into the eddy behind the big rock before dropping down into the main current. The rapid is now really good and we spent a bit of time surfing the play hole halfway down the rapid. Most of the group had no problems here, just the odd roll and no swims as far as I can remember. Chris looked good, charging down the centre of the rapid, looking pretty pleased with himself to have got through.

More rapids, more playing and soon we were at the Eddy of Doom, I suggested to Chris that he may want to run the rapid down the right and avoid the Eddy of Doom, unless he wanted to see what it was like. I was therefore somewhat surprised to see him drop in to the eddy behind me. Well that is the easy part, getting out again is the tricky bit. My first couple of attempts to ferry glide across the face of the bluff weren’t particularly successful, burying the nose of my kayak in a wave, losing my sideways momentum and then getting swept back into the strongly recirculating eddy. After a couple more attempts, I found myself in a patch of flat water in front of the bluff but between the two main currents, Chris joined me here and then we were both able to break out and ferry across the face of the bluff. Chris was pleased with his accomplishments; he was having a great day out. At this flow, the river is a lot less pushy and it is a great time to try things and move out of ones usually comfort zone, without too much risk.

The day was getting on and there was even talk of skipping Maori Gully (Sacrilege!!!) as four o’clock passed by and we hadn’t reached Seawards yet. Eventually Seawards rolled into view and we pulled in to the get out. Four of our group got out and set of to run the shuttle while the rest of us ran the Gully. Chris was one of those still in his boat and he looked expectantly at me, so I referred him to Murray and he said it was ok. The plan was that we would divide into two groups, with Murray leading the “GT” group, that would take the less experienced paddlers and basically bomb the run by the easier lines. Bob lead the other group, which initially looked like being just him and Helen, and run the Gully “properly”, catching as many eddies as possible and playing on everything. May from Singapore joined Bob’s group and I started out with Murray’s group until they streaked ahead on the first rapid and I decided Bob’s group would be more fun anyway.

With the low flow, playing around on the Magic Roundabout was easy and a lot of fun, riding up on the buffer at the base of the bluff or surfing between the eddy and the two rocks in the middle of the current. Then on down past Simon’s hole, passing on left hand side for the first time (no one seem keen to play here though). The flat water between the rapids was placid and flowed slowly along at this flow, almost relaxing, normally it swirls and boils, and pulls you along swiftly between drops. The next rapid, was fun as we followed Bob through it, catching as many eddies as we could and surfing some of the waves and holes. Bum Rock appeared ahead and we carried on catching eddies and playing. It was pretty cool following Bob and actually doing moves and catching eddies that I had never dared to try for before. Surfing across holes above nasty looking rocks without fear, it was great.

Helen tipped above Bum Rock and tried to roll, got her head up and when she realised that she was about to be swept into the rock, pull her deck. She was swept against Bum Rock and held briefly by the force of the water and her kayak before going down the drop to the right of the rock. Bob set out to rescue her, while I set off in pursuit of her Kendo. I cut in front of the wayward Kendo and followed it down the remainder of the rapid, apprehending it at the large pool at the bottom of the rapid. Holding on to the Kendo, I tried to work myself and it to the shore whilst slowly being drawn towards the next drop. I wasn’t that keen to attach my tow line as I didn’t want to let go of the boat to do it and I didn’t feel like going over any on the drops tied to a water filled kayak. Fortunately May arrived on the scene and together we got the runaway Kendo to the bank by the time Bob and Helen arrived.

The next three drops were fairly straight forward, though the low flow had exposed some rocks in the right chute of the Elevator (the second drop) and I took a roll after hitting one of them when I ran the drop on the hard right. The corner rapid was great, I varied from my usual line and tried a bit of surfing before joining the others at the bottom pool. We carried on and stopped for awhile at the Pop Up spot and had lots of fun trying to pull pop ups without spending too much time underwater. I had never tried this before as I don’t like tipping over much and this tends to be one of the results of pulling a pop up. Still I gave it a go and it worked well in the Blitz and it shot out of the water nicely and I only flipped a few times. After this, we headed for the get out without to much messing about (obviously we had to try and surf as many of the remaining waves as it would have been a shame to waste them) and managed to finally get off the river around 5 o’clock. The cars and dry clothes were waiting at the get out, everyone else was changed. Chris had enjoyed his first trip through Maori Gully without too many problems and was very please with his achievements, he has come a long way since the beginning of the season. It had been an almost perfect day out on the river and definitely one I would be happy to repeat, however arriving home at 8 o’clock caused a few ructions and was the only blight on an otherwise perfect day.

Date: 4/2/07
River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 36 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2+(3), water clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny with a few wind gusts.
Number on Trip: 22 (15 doing Maori Gully).
Time on River: 4 hours, 15 minutes.
Comments: My first river trip of 2007 and I arrived late at the meeting place at the Belfast Tavern, fortunately everyone was still there and I managed to get a place in a vehicle. It was looking like being a beautiful sunny day (something rare this summer, well on weekends at least) and there were 22 paddlers keen to enjoy it paddling the Hurunui. Coming over Jacks Saddle, we came across John 4×4 parked in the road while Murray and Bob retrieved their boats from part way down the hill on the other side of the road. John’s roof rack had suffered another critical failure, fortunately the boats weren’t damaged by their vehicle top seal launch onto the road, no one was injured by flying kayaks and the kayak weren’t too hard to recover. After some adjustments, the roof rack was refitted by Bob, properly this time so it won’t fail again (yeah right!). After a brief discussion at the Maori Gully take out we headed up to the Jollie Brook camp site put in and got changed. Eventually after the traditional standing around chatting we got on the water, though a small group choose to head down to the Jollie Brook swing bridge to get a warm up and some practise rolls in before having to run any rapids.

It was great to be back on the river after over a month of no trips. The Blitz performed well, surfed nicely (the sessions with it out at the beach seemed to have paid off) and it didn’t serve up any major surprises. The run down to the swing bridge provided the opportunity to familiarise myself with the boat while catching eddies and surfing the smallish holes behind rocks. Once we reached the swing bridge, the group played around, practicing rolls, surfing and ferry gliding. There was the odd swim, Per found himself stuck against a bluff upside-down but managed to free himself and get himself and his boat to shore. I retrieved his paddle from the eddy and took it back down to him and that was the closest I got to rescuing anything on the whole trip.

Eventually we set off down stream in a very cruisy manner, stopping to play on rapids or just mill about chatting, it was a lovely day and there was no hurry. As it was such a nice day, it was good to try things out and I took my only roll of the day riding the buffer wave in one of the rapids above the South Branch confluence. I was trying to get into the eddy on the right but was have a hard time ferry gliding across without ending up on the bluff. It took about 2 hours to get to the South Branch confluence and we got to play on the new rapid that had formed below it. Apparently heavy rains had flooded the South Branch and this flow scoured out the riverbed, changing the rivers course and forming the new rapid. There were a few more changes but the coolest is the rapid above the Dozy Stream put in. This rapid seems to have been scoured out by last years floods and now has a couple of decent holes, some good surf waves and being right on the road, it is a great little park and play spot.


WWCC at Dozy Stream put in. Photo thanks to Per.

The run down from Dozy Stream to Seawards went fairly quickly, without much drama. The big eddy of doom, provided some fun, I thought of avoiding it, as I was a little worried about how I would get out of it with my short boat and the 37 cumecs flow. Of course, once you are in it there is only one way out and that’s across the face of the bluff. I watched a few other paddlers break out and make their way across the bluff and down stream before I broke out in to the current. On the first attempt my nose caught and I didn’t get out quite as far as I would have liked and let myself wash back into the eddy. The next go, I kept the angle of my boat up but the Blitz didn’t have the boat speed of the Fly but I still managed to get out far enough and rode the buffer wave around the base of the bluff, safe again!

Eventually we got to Seawards and hung around for a bit before getting up the momentum to carry on down the river. I broke up first and ran the first rapid before pulling into an eddy to let the others catch up. Murray followed, guiding Lindsay on her first kayak trip through Maori Gully, with John behind. I tagged on the end and we basically bombed the run, pausing briefly to check lines or wait for stragglers. Murray picked some sweet lines and we were all happy to follow them, without much in the way of drama. The only drop that really got my nerves going was the big one after “The Elevator”, called by Bob, Grandstand Eddy on account of the eddy on the left side that can be used to survey the drop before running it. The last couple of times I’ve run this drop resulted in me being upside down unintentionally. This time, instead of running the tongue on the left-hand side, we headed to the far right, where the river forms a V into a large hole. It looked scary from the top and I made a point of trying to avoid the turmoil of white water at the tip of the V and instead slid down the left with no worries. John, following behind me, took a slightly more central line and had a few nervous moments as he punched through the hole at the end.

Ran the last major rapid, one of my favourites as it is pretty easy (dodge the big holes and enjoy the waves) and marks the end of the grade three rapids, and head for the get out and the worst part about running Maori Gully, the climb out. As we had been so quick, there was a bit of a wait while Mike (who was nursing a rib injury) and the grade 2 paddlers ran the shuttle. Eventual everyone was back at the take out and it was nice to get into some dry clothes. Graeme arrived looking a little worst for wear and carrying half a paddle. He had followed Bob down the left-hand tongue from Grandstand Eddy. Bob flipped and when Graeme followed him, he flipped too and while upside-down got pushed into Bob and the odd rock. Somewhere in this turmoil and the resulting swim, his kevlar reinforced paddle shaft snapped clean in half. Having no split paddle with the group, Glen took the freshly made C1 paddle and let Graeme use his paddle for the rest of the trip.


Graeme (plus half a paddle) and Matt in Maori Gully. Photo thanks to Per.

It was great to be out on the river again, especially on such a beautiful day. Excellent!