Who am I?
I was born in London, England in 1968 and when I was five, my parents decided to immigrate to New Zealand. Growing up in New Zealand meant we were able enjoy all that the great outdoors had to offer, such as tramping, rafting, horse riding and canoeing.
I attended Victoria University in Wellington and graduated with a BSc in Geology and Geochemistry in 1989 and then gained Honours in Geology in 1990. The following year I moved down to Christchurch to do a Masters degree at Canterbury University, studying a set of volcaniclastic rocks on Banks Peninsula (check out my thesis), and I have been here ever since. I graduated in 1993 but decided to stay on in Christchurch because it is such a great place to live. I have been working as a geologist in the coalfields of Australia, but with the downturn in the mining industry, I’m now looking for new challenges.
I went on Outward Bound in 1993 and was part of Cook 346 Watch and this inspired me to do more kayaking. I joined the WWCC in 2000 and now feel reasonably comfortable on grade 3+ rapids. I have paddled most of the major rivers around Canterbury as well as a number of the runs on the West Coast and around Murchison. I really enjoy helping out with multi-sport races, safety boating and helping others safely enjoy white water kayaking.
Why do I kayak?
The other day someone asked me what got me interested in kayaking so here are some of my thoughts….
It is exciting and a lot of fun.
It gets me out in the Great Outdoors.
Exercise is fun rather than tedious.
I get to go places and see a lot of really great scenery, often stuff that can only be seen from the river.
I love being around water, to see the light on the water, to look into the water and watch the rocks slide by beneath my boat, to taste the cool clear water and really feel alive and part of this world.
Why do I keep this log of my kayaking trips?
My primary reason for keeping a record is to provide supporting evidence of river use for resource consent submissions. It also allows me to go back to get information on specific rivers and flows, as well as track my own personal progress as a kayaker. It is definitely worthwhile for all kayakers to keep a logbook, it doesn’t need to be particularly detailed but the more information you record, the more useful your logbook is.
Why I enjoy kayaking more than tramping…
Rivers always run down hill whilst tracks tend to go up hills.
Tramping tends to be hot and thirsty work but while kayaking you are generally surrounded by nice cool clear water.
You have to carry a heavy pack while tramping but while kayaking the river carries all your gear (except when walking in or out, but that is really just tramping whilst carrying a kayak).
If you stop walking while tramping you don’t go anywhere, stop paddling whilst kayaking and you keep moving.
Everyone in a group walks the same track when tramping but when kayaking, individuals generally decide how much effort or excitement they want to extract from a river or rapid.
You can’t get lost on a river (you can miss the get out and then kayaking turns in to tramping).
Crossing rivers while tramping can be uncomfortable, difficult and dangerous, but in a kayak it becomes fun. Generally more trampers drown each year than kayakers.
I don’t really consider myself a photographer, just someone who takes snapshots. Both my parents always had cameras and photographs, albums and family slideshows were an important part of our family life. I bought my own point & shoot 35mm camera when I started university and that accompanied me regularly and documented the events of my life. Later I got to experiment the Lauri’s old 35mm SLR, which I enjoyed but never really understood the more complicated aspects of it. As digital cameras became more widely available I moved through as series of cheap & nasty cameras, which though convenient, could not compare with the picture quality of 35mm film.
As part of this online log, I like to include photos to bring the words to life. Photos capture the moment and allow you to revisit it, remembering the time, the place, the people, the event and how you felt, or to share the experience with others, to show that paddling the Ashley Gorge isn’t quite the same as splashing about in the Ashley River at State Highway One.
My early cameras were not waterproof, so the photos I took with them were taken from the bank as they never accompanied me on the river, so I’d rely on other people’s photos to illustrate my log. I would often buy waterproof disposable 35mm cameras to take on trips just so I could get photos on the river. Generally as these cameras had a poor quality lens and no zoom capability, the resulting pictures weren’t very good unless you could get in close to the action and often my kayaking skills weren’t up to that. Eventually Lauri got a good compact digital camera that was also waterproof & shock resistant and a little later I got my own waterproof digital camera (not so good but much cheaper) and this greatly increased my on river photography. I wasn’t altogether impressed with the quality of the images my camera took and its slow speed tended to miss much of the action.
When Lauri’s camera disappeared on a train in Korea, it’s replacement was a Panasonic Lumix FT-3 which was recommended by the always helpful folk at Photo & Video International in Merivale. As she particularly wanted a red one, and the only colours available in most stores were blue, orange & silver, I was lead on a merry hunt before finally finding a red one in Mackay, Queensland. I was so impressed by the speed and image quality, that I bought a FT-4 which included the GPS function, on special at the duty free store in Brisbane sometime later, and this is the camera I’m currently using.
It often can often be quite tricky to take good photos from a kayak, you need to get reasonably close as the zoom in most waterproof cameras is fairly limited. You also need to find a position where you can get the shot and not get washed out of the eddy, turned around or swept downstream. Usually this means getting close to the bank or a rock that you can hang on to and then taking the photo with your free hand. Great shots can be obtained by getting out of your boat, finding the perfect position and getting set up ahead of the group, but generally there isn’t the opportunity to do this without interfering with the main purpose of the trip, which is to go kayaking. I generally use the “sport” setting with the camera in burst mode, this gives a pretty quick response and gives you a selection of photos to choose from, so you can pick the best out of the series and not be stuck with bad expression or obscured face. It feels good to capture those moments when people are in their element, especially if they have a smile on their face.
I try to get photos of as many people as I can on a trip and not just focus on the top paddlers. I still treasure the photos of myself from when I was learning and I hope to share that experience with others, allowing them to share their kayaking memories with their friends and families and to show them what they actually do out on the river.
Definitions of Terms & a Title Defined
After revising my online log I decided it needed a new title, I chose “Turbulence, Suspended Load & Fluvial Processes” as it seemed to fit and provided a geological / hydrological slant to the site. Below are some definitions for those unfamiliar with the terms.
Turbulence: In fluid dynamics, turbulence or turbulent flow is a flow regime characterized by chaotic property changes, this is the excitement we get when we paddle white water.
Suspended Load: Is the portion of the sediment that is carried by a fluid flow which settles slowly enough such that it almost never touches the bed. It is maintained in suspension by the turbulence in the flowing water and consists of particles generally of the fine sand, silt and clay size. While it is a stretch, our kayaks can almost be considered as sediment carried down stream by the currents.
Fluvial Processes: The physical interaction of flowing water and the natural channels of rivers and streams. These are the processes that form the basis for the environment that we enjoy.
Adventure: Hazard, risk; an enterprise in which hazard or risk is incurred; any novel or unexpected event.
Kayaks I have owned…
Current Craft Dura: This was my first kayak, a proper kayak shaped kayak, not funny shaped like a Dancer (well that was what I thought at the time anyway). I brought it out of the Buy, Sell and Exchange for $200 in 1995 and brought it home bungied to my specially purchased new roof rack. It came with a lovely PVC spray deck and a paddle that has been described as “a toothpick with two teaspoons attached”, it had a very narrow aluminium shaft and ratty fibreglass blades and was pretty horrible to use. I regularly paddled the Avon in my Dura and once paddled it from the university down to our place near the Fire Station, taking a swim in the first weir after slipping whilst trying to get out to do a portage. I spent the rest of the day soaking wet but had a great day out, seeing the sights of the city from a different angle. I also took the Dura out in the surf at New Brighton a few times with limited success. Basically I’d end up side surfing until I tipped over (often near the end of the Pier) then bail out (no rolling then) and swim to shore holding my paddle and towing a rather long boat, completely full of water (no air bags then). Maybe this is why I am quite good at self-rescue. The towing of the water filled boat led me to briefly experiment with a wave ski, which I used about twice and then sold it, I just got washed off in the surf. I still had the Dura when I joined the WWCC but sold it shortly after I brought the Super Sport (see below).
Prijon Fly (Blue): Length: 267cm, Width: 60cm, Weight: 15kg, Volume: 205L.
We brought this second hand shortly after completing the WWCC beginners. We scanned heaps of catalogues and web sites to pick the “perfect” boat for Lauri and myself. We ended up choosing between the Prijon Fly and the Eskimo Kendo Evolution. It was the line “It’s a lot less tippy” used to describe the improvement made to the Kendo in the Evolution model that probably sold us on the Fly. Having now paddled both versions of the Kendo, I’d have to agree and certainly wouldn’t choose to paddle the earlier version as it seemed to be pretty tippy. The Fly is described in the Prijon catalogue as “a very successful all round play boat, an exhilarating and versatile white water performer. As a rodeo boat the Fly is perfect for the most spectacular stunts. As a play boat the Fly can nimbly navigate the most challenging white water. The Fly is noteworthy for it’s considerable speed and driving performance in such a small boat. Slalom style paddling is rewarded and classic river running blossoms with speed and creativity”. Sure by today’s standards it isn’t really a play boat but it is still fast, nimble and a great boat to paddle, comfortable too. I did find that it tended to sub out initially but I put this down to the fact that my weight was 85kg which was more than the recommended 80kg upper weight limit. Now I am about 70kg and better at paddling, the problem seems to have disappeared.
Perception Super Sport: Length: 302cm, Width: 58cm, Weight: 18kg, Volume: 227L.
I brought this boat to replace the Dura as a secondary boat when Lauri was using the Fly. It was cheap and came with a paddle and a ratty deck. The Super Sport was sort of the Perception version of the popular RPM but nowhere near as successful. I used it on a couple of local trips as well as up in Murchison. The “slicey”, low volume tail combined with my inexperience tended to make tail stands a common feature of crossing eddy lines. I sold it on when I started using the Reflex on white water trips. I hung on to the purple paddle that came with it, which I used if Lauri was paddling, until I sold it to an Ashburton paddler.
Perception Reflex: Length: 358cm, Width: 61cm, Weight: 17kg, Volume: 210L.
I brought this as a slalom boat for practicing on the Avon and Heathcote but was soon keen to try it out on some white water and I took it along on a Waiau trip. As it turned out the Waiau was in flood so we diverted to doing the grade 2 section of the Ashley Gorge, which was a much tighter river, full of brown swirling water. The Reflex handled this with ease and I was really impressed. I also took the Reflex through Maori Gully and the Hawarden Gap on the Hurunui River, as well as down O’Sullivans on the Buller River. It raced in the Brass Monkey series with excellent results and has also accompanied me on a number of safety boating missions. It rails nicely, is stable, handles well and is fast, it’s major problem is the small cockpit and it is very hard to swim out of. My Reflex was originally won by Barry Boyd’s son in a slalom competition on the Avon and has probably had quite a bit of history before I brought it off Vladi. It got sold early in 2006 and now lives in the North Island.
Prijon Fly (Orange): Length: 267cm, Width: 60cm, Weight: 15kg, Volume: 205L.
We brought the extra Fly so we would both have one and we didn’t have to fight over who got to paddle the Fly. This was my favourite all round boat and I loved it, but as the Blitz became my go to boat, the extra Fly began to languish in the garage and finally got sold to a paddler who was specifically looking to buy a Fly.
Prijon Invader: Length: 375cm, Width: 60cm, Weight: 19kg, Volume: 300L.
Lauri told me if the club ever decided to sell the Invader, we should buy it as it was a nice boat to paddle (she actually said it was the only boat she fitted and didn’t fall out of on the beginners course) and I said sure. When the club decided to get rid of some of the older boats, we brought it (we passed on the Dancer XL or the 44 gallon drum with two road cones as Lauri called it). I promptly hijacked it as my “race boat” as it is very fast for a white water kayak and it was pretty hard to beat in Brass Monkey series. I also use it as my safety boat as it has plenty of speed and volume, it is also comfortable to sit in and has a keyhole cockpit that is easy to get out of in a hurry.
Bliss Stick Blitz: Length: 222cm, Width: 66cm, Weight: 14.5kg, Volume: 185L.
I had been looking for a cheap Blitz Special for a while and had even put a wanted ad on the NZRCA website. However when I was offered a standard red and black Blitz complete with paddle and spray deck at a bargain price, I jumped at it. The Blitz is a river running play boat with a planar hull and nice slicey ends. The Blitz Special is the lower volume version (apparently achieved by squashing a Blitz as soon as it comes out of the mould) and I had previously paddled one out in the surf at Sumner and it was great. I first tried my Blitz out on the gnarly Antigua Boat Shed play wave and it did well on the grade 3 section of the Ashley but I took a couple of swims on the easier Klondyke section of the Rangitata. Now that I have got used to it, I love it and have taken it down the Ashley at 70 to 80 cumecs without any problems. Very pleased with it even if it lacks the leg room of the Invader or the Fly, having a central pillar between my legs is a bit funny after paddling Prijon boats. Great little boat, easy to handle, no surprises and surfs beautifully. I also had an almost identical red & black Blitz in Australia so I didn’t have to swap between different boats.
Further Update: The other day I was wondering how long I had been paddling my Bliss Stick Blitz, it turns out I bought it in August 2006 and have now been paddling it for over 9 years. I’ve had my Australian one since 2010 and really appreciated having a boat that I’m familiar with over there. The Blitz has been in production since 1999 since it was introduced at the 1999 Worlds in New Zealand. I guess this is a long time to own a single boat but I really enjoy the Blitz and it seems to suit my paddling style and I have a hard time imagining paddling anything else.
Note: I sold the Blitz in Australia in December 2015, marking the end of my Australian kayaking adventures.
Dagger GT 7.8: Length: 239cm, Width: 64cm, Weight: 14.5kg, Volume: 257L.
Kayaking in Australia got a whole lot more fun with the acquisition of a kayak. I made contact with some local (within a 200km radius) kayakers and managed to pick up a second hand boat, apparently somewhat of an achievement in this area, and eventually got it down to Moranbah. The Dagger GT was recommended to me by the local Dagger dealer as a good all round boat, reasonable volume for bigger water but still able to surf and play to some extent. It also needed to be not too heinous to paddle on flat water as that tends to be what is mostly available around this region. Initially I just paddled the GT on flat water and it worked nicely, reasonably fast but still very maneuverable.
Later I got to paddle the GT on some white water and was generally pleased with it. It is manoeuvrable, fast and easy to paddle. According to Caleb “it seems to be more stable than his RPM”. It isn’t quite as much fun as the Blitz but it is very stable, resurfaces quickly and doesn’t seem to have problems with getting out of holes. Surfs nicely but probably isn’t going to win any rodeo prizes. A good all round river runner. With the end of my contract at Eagle Downs in June 2009, I sold the GT.
The Future: I’m not sure what the future holds. I don’t have any plans to buy another boat but a creek boat could be useful if I decided to paddle some harder water.