Monthly Archives: October 2011

2011 Kayaking Season

Date: 2/10/11
River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, New Zealand.
River Conditions: 40 to 47 cumecs at Mandamus and rising. Water clear above South Branch, discoloured below, cold and swift. Grade 2 (3).
Weather Conditions: Cool, cloudy with occasional sunny periods, strong westerly winds.
Number on Trip: 16 people.
Time on River: 3 Hours.
Comments: This was my first trip down the the Hurunui for over a year and I was a little nervous. I had completely missed the last WWCC kayaking season, what with working in Australia, the trip to Korea and the Christchurch earthquakes. There were a lot of new faces at the Belfast Tavern car park but Bob and Murray were there and I travelled up to the Jollie Brook put in with them. The river flow gauge was reading at a steady 25 cumecs the day before and the trip down to South Branch seem rather tame, which suited me as I was trying to get my kayaking fu back and the water was a bit colder than back in Australia.


Part of the group at Jollie Brook. Still plenty of snow on the mountains.

The water flowing down the South Branch was cloudy with sediment and cold, a result of the rain falling in the mountains. Based on the flow gauge, this boosted the total flow by approximately 20 cumecs and reducing the cruisiness of the trip somewhat. Devil’s Fang Falls was exciting but presented no problems, with those in our brunch, cleanly running the right of centre line. A little further down we had our first drama as Murray ended up swimming after being pushed into a bluff and being rotated a number of times at its’ base whilst being battered against the rocks. I took my first roll of the trip here after a bit of kayak on kayak interaction. Bob ended upside down on the “Eddy of Doom” bluff, but this was just a brief interlude and he was probably only doing it to cool down.

By Seawards I has a bit tired and sore, but after a bite to eat and a brief walk (to restore movement to my right leg), I crammed myself back in the boat and we all headed down stream into Maori Gully. The Magic Round-About was good though the water level on the rocks tended to indicate that there was more than 25 to 30 cumecs in the river now. The wind was pretty strong and blew me off the round-about circuit and off down the river. I took a roll on the first set of rapids after dropping into a hole at the end of the sequence. Dodged everything on the next rapids and then pulled in to the eddy above Cheese Grater to wait for the rest of the group. Murray went down first, pulling into Grand Stand Eddy on the left, one of the next paddlers tipped above the rapid (something not to do, I thought) but rolled up with plenty of time before going over the drop. I broke out, hit the current and promptly tipped over too, my first roll was rushed and didn’t work, the edge got nearer. Fortunately the next roll worked and I was upright as I positioned myself above the drop, the water kicked hard left towards a slightly undercut rock but I managed to avoid that and get into the eddy without much drama.


Exiting Cheese Grater.


Why it is called Cheese Grater.

One of our group had ended up looking a bit battered after some geological interaction but was still smiling and able to carry on. A few pop ups at the Pop Up Spot and then to the long climb up the the cars and dry clothes. A good day out and great to be back out on the Hurunui again with a good bunch of people.

Date: 8/9/11
Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia.
Water Conditions:
Warm with a 2m swell..
Weather Conditions:
Sunny and warm, moderate winds.
Number on Trip:
11 people.
Time on Water:
3 Hours.
Tim at Planula Bed & Breakfast helpfully sorted out this trip for us with Cape Byron Kayaks. After sorting out our gear and wetsuits, we had a brief safety and “how to paddle” session and then dragged the kayaks down to the beach. The sand was clean and white and squeaked when you walked on it, the ocean warm (ish) and blue. Most of the kayaks managed to get out through the waves without much drama but when we came to do it, we had a series of large waves break over us, washing Lauri back down the kayak (a large plastic sit on top) until the third and largest wave swept both of us off. On our next try, things worked out a lot better. The swell was bigger than expected and this added an exciting dimension to the trip. On the way out towards Julian Rock we had a dolphin appear briefly but the best part was watching the hump back whales leap out of the water or slap their tails on the surface, a mother with calf even approached our group, getting within almost 20m of our kayaks which was pretty amazing.


Lauri and I on our kayak about a kilometre or two off shore.


A whale’s tail with us in the green kayak on the left.


Watching the whale, we are in the green kayak.

Surfing down the swell on our way back to shore was cool and we were both a little tired by the time surfed (and wiped out) through the breakers and land back on the beach again. Then it was time for a well earned cup of tea and a Tim Tam before a group photo.


Our intrepid whale watching group of kayakers.

Date: 19/3/11
Location: Penrith White Water Course, NSW, Australia.
River Conditions: Swift and warm, very pushy.
Weather Conditions: Cool with periodic heavy rain.
Number on Trip: Lots.
Time on Water: 3 hours.
Comments: Another road trip to Penrith with a stop for lunch and a chat at Dave Thurston’s Roadhouse Stop. Arrive a bit later than intended due to a late start but was quickly changed and on the water. A bit of warm up and then off round the course. I’m getting a bit more used to the course but it still handed out plenty of spankings. Clean runs catching eddies alternated with swims, batterings and even one complete garage sale as I let go of my boat and paddle to avoid going over the last drop, having already swam most of the bottom third of the course. Rolling can get exciting as some of the rapids are closely spaced and you can get bashed around a lot while upside down and the sprayed on concrete can be pretty hard on skin and gear.

Highlights were meeting up with some members of Sydney’s River Canoe Club, a long surf in one of the larger holes (not entirely intended and followed by a swim whilst trying to get out of the hole and avoid being run down by a raft) and the occasional clean run catching eddies and not getting caned. The downsides were all the bruises and abrasions from the swims and rolls, though the loss of skin from my right hand wasn’t as upsetting as the loss of my wedding ring from my left hand. I had not removed my ring from my finger since Lauri placed it there at our wedding in Hawaii in May 2007. I noticed it missing towards the end of the day and I had no idea when it disappeared. I waited until they turned the water off and had a good luck around the course but didn’t find it and neither did the staff member who looked the next day so it may have dropped off in the bottom pool that doesn’t get drained. Hopefully it turns up as I don’t like being without it.

Date: 26/2/11
Location: Penrith White Water Course, NSW, Australia.
River Conditions: Swift and warm, very pushy.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and hot.
Number on Trip: Lots.
Time on Water: 2 hours.
Comments: This was my second visit to the Olympic white water course at Penrith, I’ve been putting it off partial because it is almost 200km away but mostly because the previous visit resulted in repeated canings and a badly grazed knee. However Lauri was keen to see the course and encouraged me by assuring me that the previous results were probably due to not having my own boat. I also wanted to find out if this was true and so didn’t really require much in the way of convincing. The drive from Singleton to Penrith along Putty Road was quite enjoyable though a bit windy. Much of the road runs through thick forest, along narrow, sandstone lined gullies or atop ridge lines with spectacular views to be glimpsed occasionally through the trees. We stopped briefly at the Roadhouse Stop for a cold drink and a hot dog. Dave Thurston ( runs the place and makes some amazing metal sculptures, emus, wombats, Ned Kelly and even a 5m tall stainless steel man/woman. A beautiful area and a real restful stop with a tasty hot dog and a good chat with Dave, definitely worth stopping if you are passing by.


Interesting sculptures and tasty hot dogs at Dave Thurston’s. Photo by Lauri.

When we arrived at Penrith and got out of the (nicely air conditioned) car, the heat hit us like a wall. We had lunch in the cafe, Lauri went for a vege burger and I had a ham & cheese croissant. When the meals arrived, they were huge, both came with salad, Lauri’s also had a mound of chips (which I had to help her eat). We both had knot’s in our stomachs, Lauri’s due to the windy road, mine due to apprehension at the possible caning to come.


Some kayakers are a little better…


…than others. Photos by Lauri.

I walked around the course to get a feel for the rapids and then got changed into my kayaking gear while Lauri finished her lunch. Properly dressed with my kayak on my shoulder I headed down to the bottom pool for a bit of a warm up. Practiced breaking out and crossing the rapid at the end of the course to get my confidence up. While I was chatting to a couple of young kayakers from Bondi, Lauri appear to find out where I was, she had been out in the blazing sun waiting for me to come down the conveyor belt into the top pool. She gave me a bit of a hurry on, so after a little more warm up I followed the Bondi kayakers up to the top pool.


Catching eddies, just rolled upright or about to swim? Photo by Lauri.

I was pretty nervous on my first run, took fairly conservative lines, catching eddies where I could to get a better look at the rapids. A lot of the drops looked pretty big and scary but no drama and I got round clean. Lauri complained that I hadn’t waited so she could take photos, so on the next run I made more of an effort to be photogenic. On one of the early rapids I tipped over (smiling and not paddling doesn’t help you stay upright), managed to roll but got swept backwards against a set of bollards and over again, not having enough breath, I bailed and swam, with my kayak, in to the eddy formed by the bollards (all captured by Lauri’s camera).


One of the larger drops. Photo by Lauri.


Another of the bigger drops. Photo by Lauri.


Cruising down some of the easier drops. Photo by Lauri.

After that, things went well and I began to enjoy myself, no more swims and just the odd roll, it was nice to have my own boat. The highlights of the course were probably the last drop, which is pretty big and a nice scary finish, and another of the larger drops that has a rooster tail at the bottom of the chute. I avoided the rooster tail on my first couple of runs but after Lauri mentioned that it looked good when others ran it, I gave it a go. It was pretty exciting racing down the chute towards the looming wall of water and then shooting up its’ face, through the spray at the top and then down through the trailing wave train.


Now that’s what I’m talking about! Photo by Lauri.

The course was pretty busy with numerous kayakers of various ages, skill levels and boat types (creek, play, slalom and even the odd inflatable), multiple rafts taking punters out for a white water thrill and even the SES running a swift water rescue course. Despite being busy there was still a lot of scope for doing what you wanted to do and everyone seemed to be having fun. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the neighbourhood, even if you don’t have a boat (hire boats available) or can’t kayak (spectators are welcome or you could do a raft trip).


A happy kayaker enjoying a day out at Penrith. Photo by Lauri.

Date: 13/1/11
River: Hunter River, Singleton, NSW, Australia.
River Conditions: low flow, slow and brown.
Weather Conditions: Sunny, hot and muggy.
Number on Trip: 1 person.
Time on River: 1 hours.
Comments: It was a very hot and muggy and I had meant to explore the Hunter River for a while. I put in at the New England highway bridge and paddled upstream, the water was pretty shallow and dirty and the day was hot but it was still nice to be on a river. I managed to get within sight of the rail bridge but a small, shallow rapid prevented any further travel upstream. I paddled back down and spent about half an hour “playing” on a slight hole formed by a log or something. It was the kind of feature you wouldn’t notice normally but it was the best on offer that day so I enjoyed surfing it until it was time to go home. Not the most exciting trip but still pleasant.