22nd December 2019: Ashley River

Date:   22/12/19
Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  
12 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water slightly discoloured and cool. Grade 3.
Weather Conditions:  
Overcast, clearing to sunny & warm.
Number on Trip: 
Time on River: 
4.25 hours.
Comments:  With the Ashley running at around 12 cumecs,and fine weather forecast, Ian decide it would be a great day for a paddle. Unfortunately someone decided to park a fishing boat on Waimairi Beach, so Ian had to bail as duty called. There was a little delay as a result, but once we were all assembled at the camp ground, we soon had the shuttle sorted out and were off to the put in at the middle bridge..

John R shoots the gap.

We had a number of paddlers that hadn’t paddled this section before and the flow at only 12 cumecs provide a nice easy introduction while still offering plenty of fun.

A perfect play spot for making some moves.

The were plenty of good play spots and most of the team were keen to demonstrate their skills, make some moves, have some fun or just push their own personal boundaries.

AJ punches through.

There were very few dramas and it was great to be out on the river enjoying the sun and warm conditions. The rapids weren’t too pushy, but with enough water flowing through them to cover the rocks and provide some good lines with plenty of time to make decisions.

Making the moves.

The main drop in the gorge had a bit of a hole formed above it and it was interesting to see the various lines that people chose.

Matt runs the main drop in the Ashley Gorge.

Most avoided the hole and then ran the drop cleanly down the tongue or boofed off to the left.

Anna styling the main drop.

The line taken in the photo above was one of the more impressive, as Anna ran the drop almost sideways to flick around at the bottom to have a surf and catch the eddy. Some styling moves alright.

A splash of colour in the green of the Ashley Gorge.

The gorge was quite beautiful and it was great to be away from the city and all the pressures of life, especially with the lead up to Christmas, you could almost feel the stress melt away with the warm sunshine.

More moves from Anna at the play spot.

We took our time and really enjoyed all the neat play spots the river had on offer.

Nicole enjoys a good surf.

It is a real pleasure to be on the river and to see everyone having fun and enjoying themselves. It was also good to see people learning and trying new things. I had some nice surfs on some of the waves but I’m not really keen to try out any play moves, as I prefer to stay upright. Still it is a very satisfying feeling when you manage to get the perfect balance on a wave and are able to hold yourself suspended seemingly forever above a hole, as the water rushes beneath your kayak.

Nicole making some moves at one of the play spots.

The last major rapid of the gorge always provides some great photographs as people shoot through the narrow gap between the rocks, it looks dramatic with the white water and looming rocks. Nearly everyone had gone through, when an upside down boat floated past, I put away the camera and set off in pursuit. The paddler bailed out and was soon being helped to shore by the others in the the group. While he was getting back in to his boat, I thought I’d try out something new as a bit of a challenge.

Anna running the gap on one of the last grade 3 rapids.

Paddling upstream on the opposite side of the rock pictured above, into the position where John R is pictured sitting in the background of the above photo. From here the move involves surfing down a hole above the picture rock in order to avoid being swept into it. You then break out and continue down the line in the foreground. Simple. I almost chicken out as I looked at the water being swept into the large rock and the unfriendly hole I needed to surf across.

I broke out and dropped into the hole, working my way across the river and was almost across when I tipped over. Fortunately I was past the rock, but now found myself upside down, being swept backwards down the main channel. I rolled, failed to get upright properly and was still going down the rapid but was now pushed against the back deck and short on breath, so I decided to pull the deck and go for my first swim of the season. Holding my paddle and towing my kayak, I swam to shore and self rescued. The water was warm and swimming was pleasant, but I needed a few moments before I got my breath back and could empty out my kayak and get back on the water. Funnily enough, part of me misses going for regular swims down rapids, the connection with the river seems so much more “intimate” when you are actually in the water.

From here it was a fun paddle to the get out, with some beautiful scenery, nice rapids and the occasional play spot. Feeling tired and a little sore by the time we reached the camp ground, then into some dry clothes before clambering into the back of the van for the ride back to the vehicles. We completed the shuttle, loaded up the boats and headed back into town. Such a excellent way to kick off the holidays.