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11th April 2021: Avon River (Ōtākaro)

Date:    11/04/2021
Avon River, Christchurch, NZ
River Conditions:   
1.804 cumecs at Gloucester Street bridge. Water clear. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:   
Sunny and warm, NW winds.
Number on Trip:    
1 person.
Time on River:  
1.25 hours.
Comments:  We’d spent part of the afternoon visiting the Avebury House Vintage Market and since it was such a lovely, warm, sunny autumn day, I thought it would be nice for a paddle on the Avon. So after taking care of a few chores around home, I got changed, chucked the Blitz on my shoulder and headed down to the river. Things were still being packed up from the Christchurch Marathon, which had cut the eastern side of the city in half for much of the day. Two black swans came over and watched me intently as I secured my spray deck, only moving away when I slid off the bank and into the water. I decided to paddle upstream for a change, part of the idea being that the current would carry me home when I got tired, instead of having to “battle” against the current to get home.

Reflecting on a beautiful autumn day.

The water was clear and the sun was warm, making being out on the river a real pleasure. It was nice powering along, though my arms were feeling the lack of recent exercise. The sun glinted off the water and the trees, in their autumn colours, were reflected in its’ mirrored surface. At the boat ramp near Pomeroy’s, a group in sea kayaks were getting out and I found a new Lime scooter helmet floating in the reeds a little further up. Passing the through the cemetery, I encountered a group of stand up paddle boarders on boards hired from Airborn Paddling, a company that offers a range of SUP paddling experiences around Christchurch. They seemed to be enjoying the outing and not having much difficulty keeping their balance.

Stand Up Paddle boarding past the Barbadoes Street cemetery.

Under the Barbadoes Street bridge to our old put in off Peterborough Street was as far as I could go, the fire station “rapids” block any further progress without a portage. From here I turned around and powered back downstream, appreciating the currents’ aid.

Black swans & Canada geese near Pomeroy’s landing.

I was soon paddling under the Swanns Road bridge before floating to the recently enhanced landing near the community garden. I hauled myself out and appreciated the newly built steps up the bank. From there I strolled home with my kayak on my shoulder, ready for a shower and a rest.

Heading for home and the Stanmore Road bridge.

14th March 2021: Avon River (Ōtākaro)

Date:    14/03/2021
Avon River, Christchurch, NZ
River Conditions:   
1.656 cumecs at Gloucester Street bridge. Water clear. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:   
Sunny and warm, NE winds.
Number on Trip:    
1 person.
Time on River:  
1.5 hours.
Comments:  It had been a rough couple of weeks, with a lot going on and Lauri’s energy levels taking a massive hit after the massive peach bottling session the previous weekend. Still having completed all my household chores, laundry done, floors vacuumed, garden taken care of and Lauri resting in front of “Suits” on Netflix, the sun and outdoors beckoned. After afternoon tea was consumed, I changed into my paddling gear, shouldered my Blitz and wandered down to the river.

Flat water & plenty of greenery. To the right, the sign post reads “Morris Street”, where my brother Paul used to live, many years ago. There are very few traces of the homes now.

It was a beautiful day, the sun glinted on the water and although the wind was strongish, whipping the rivers surface into a small chop, the late afternoon was still warm and pleasant. I slid off the bank and into the river, paddling downstream, I soon felt my worries disappearing in my wake. It was a real pleasure to be on the river, doing something physical in such beautiful surroundings. I watched a Canadian canoe paddle out of view as I stopped to take a few photos, and said “Hi” to a race boater getting some training in on a sunny afternoon, before paddling on downstream.

Geese take flight.

With no clear plan, I just carried on downstream, enjoying actually doing something that didn’t feel like work. As I reached the Gayhurst Street bridge, I still felt good so carried on. There were a still a few ducklings about, swans, plenty of ducks & Canada geese and the occasional pair of paradise shelducks, providing a slightly sad memory of poor, departed Greta.

Some other locals cruising on a sunny afternoon, with the Port Hills in the background.

On reaching Kerrs Reach, I paused briefly, taking in the view, before turning for home. Paddling upstream was a little more strenuous, with the wind and current against me, but it still felt good to be there. I was a little tired by the time I reached the take out, but still carried on up to the Swanns Road bridge and then floated back down to the get out and scrambling up the bank and walking home across the Richmond Community Garden, feeling tired but happy.

28th February 2021:Hurunui River

Date:   28/02/2021
River:    Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  18 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2 – 3, water swift & clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny & warm, with light nor-easterly winds.
Number on Trip: 7 kayakers (5 kayakers doing Maori Gully).
Time on River: 
4.5 hours
Comments:  As the peaches on our tree weren’t quite as ripe as we hope, the planned weekend of bottling was canned. This meant after spending Saturday applying a second coat of paint to the front balcony and doing some miscellaneous gardening tasks, a trip down the Hurunui was on the cards for Sunday. Alice had picked up the trip when Colin H was unable to lead the trip, and 7 of us found ourselves at The Peg on Sunday morning. We took two vehicles up to the put in at Jollie Brook, stopping at Dozy Stream to inspect Devil’s Fang Falls. With the Hurunui at a low 18 cumecs, the rapid looked especially bony, the usual line down the right hand side, was a narrow channel, leading down to the fang, which was well out of the water. The hole at the start of the line looked a little dodgy, either being retentive or adding a lateral push, potentially screwing up your approach line or flipping you to run the rapid upside down. Lines feeding off the left channel, looked more promising but still pretty bony. No one was keen to test their luck or skills with fang, least they felt its’ bite.

Devil’s Fang Falls, the normal line near the bottom of the photo looking pretty tight & bony today.

The put in at Jollie Brook was crowded, with UCCC have their start of term / post Clubs Day paddle. I joked to a group of trampers also using the parking area that they seemed to have forgotten their kayaks. We got changed in the sunshine, and I took a few experimental photos while Alice & Jim shuttled a vehicle down to Seawards. After a brief warm up at Jollie Brook, we headed off downstream. Having put a polar fleece jacket over my two layers of polypro, I was initially pretty warm, but as the water gradually seeped in, I returned to a more comfortable temperature. The boulder garden section was fairly tame with the lack of water, but there were still some nice little holes for a playful surf, and I still enjoyed working my way backwards down the rapids, working my way from boulder to boulder, catching a surf where I could. The more experienced paddlers provided a bit of coaching to Alice & Liam, and encouraged them to try new things.

Paddling down from the Jollie Brook put in, on the fun warm up section.

It was a beautiful day to be on the river, the water was crystal clear, the sky blue and there was little wind (something that often plagues the Hurunui). With only seven paddlers in the group, we kept up a fairly good place, John R generally taking the lead, with Sergi and myself make sure no one was left behind, whilst try play on anything that looked promising.

Sergi pulling some moves with his “new” Eskimo Zwo.

Sergi was trailing his new boat, an Eskimo Zwo which had recently purchased for a mere $100. The boat surfed nicely and performed whoopees well. Sergi was very keen for me to capture his skill in the camera and repeated his moves while I tried to get the “perfect” shot. I proved a little tricky as I couldn’t really see what I was doing and I kept getting an annoying water drop right in the middle of the lense that I couldn’t get rid of. Must be time to retreat the lense, so the water beads nicely and then runs off.

Liam practicing tail stands.

We had a very brief play at the Mezzanine and then cruised past the South Branch confluence and on down. The low flow made the trip pretty cruisy and it was lovely to just float along with the sun shining down, trailing my hands in the water.

Sergi showing how it is done.

As we neared Dozy Stream, thoughts turned to which line to take on Devil’s Fang Falls, which was looking particularly toothy at the low flow. Most had decided to take the left channel and either portage or drop down one the bouncy, rock strewn lines on the far left hand side. Sergi briefly toyed with the idea of running the usual line but instead chose the left channel. As the water in the left hand channel ebbed away, we worked our way to one of the drops, bouncing over the multitude of rocks, trying to pick a path through. As one of the last in the group, I was heading for the lower channel, as I thought the higher one would drop me in to a foaming mass of white water, that might have been a little exciting and may have involved some underwater time.

Jim in front of our preferred route down Devil’s Fang Falls this day.

Seeing my proposed line, Jim signalled me “rock” and directed me towards the higher route. I hand walked my kayak back over the weed slicked rocks, towards some clear water and then worked at getting the nose of my boat pointing downstream, rather the doing the drop backwards or even worse, sideways. I lined up, pressed the go button and shot into space, dropped, landed and then slid across the foaming surface and across to the eddy, sweet as! Jim described it as that sort of Looney Tunes moment when you are briefly suspended in the air, before gravity kicks in. Apparently I partially disappeared below the foam before shooting out, without even a wobble. Everyone managed the rapid without drama, which was good.

Alice enjoying the popular play spot below the Dozy Stream put in.

Below Dozy Stream, the popular play spot provided plenty of fun, especially as the wave upstream from the usual one, was easily accessible and offer a very smooth ride. We all took turns at carving back & forth across the glassy surface, even the newer kayakers took the opportunity to try new things and hone their skills. It was good to see that the newer kayakers had good rolls and this gave them greater confidence to push their comfort levels.

John R surfing up a storm.

One down to Seawards, more rapids and fun, though my recent lack of paddling & sleep had me feeling a little fatigued. At Seawards, Alice & Liam got out to shuttle the vehicles, while the rest of the group ran Maori Gully. The entrance wave train was fun and we had a bit of a play on the Magic Roundabout before carrying on.

The rock that forms Simon’s Hole near the start of Maori Gully, not much happening today.

Simon’s Hole wasn’t doing anything at this flow, with only a small amount of water flowing over the rock that forms the hole. I took this opportunity to boldly go where I’d never gone before, and paddle up to the rock, cut across and then broke out into the main current, having passed over the site of the infamous Simon’s Hole.

Tori coming down on of the rapids in Maori Gully.

The boulder garden was pretty cruisy and so was the Bum Rock rapid. The Elevator was exciting but no real dramas, and then we pulled into the eddy above Cheese Grater and hauled our boats ashore. Taking throw ropes, various slings & rescue gear, we clambered over the boulders and made our way to above the churning white water of Cheese Grater.

Inspecting Cheese Grater, “Hmmm, maybe not today…”

Looking down through the green water, you could clearly see the various rocks that give the rapid its’ name. The river right line looked clean, but very shallow, the rocks in the middle of the drop broke the surface, forming a small rooster tail to the left, the left hand tongue looked clean, but with the promise of the lateral kick to the left, into the undercut bluff. We looked at the rapid for some time, with most deciding not to run it, then Tori said she saw a good line and planned to run it. While she went to get into her boat, everyone readied themselves with throw ropes etc, while I lined up the camera to video the event. Tori got lined up to the left of the small rooster tail to the left of centre, her kayaks nose pointing slightly to the right, a few power strokes and she was over the lip. Down the green tongue and into the trough of water foaming white water, disappearing beneath the foam, her tail caught in the green, back looping her boat. She flushed down stream and rolled up right as the safety crew looked on.

Sergi runs Cheese Grater after Tori had demonstrated the correct line for the day.

Having seen the drop successfully run, Sergi decided he’d run it too and walked back to his boat. He took a similar line, putting in a good sweep stroke at the top of the drop before dropping down into the foam pile and almost disappearing completely, with only his paddle, held high above his head visible. He resurfaced and glided cleanly out of the foam. Of course since the rapid had now been run successfully twice now, John R decided he’d run it too and so he headed back to his boat. He followed the same line as the others, his tail caught slightly, his kayak pulling a tail stand as he exited the foaming trough. Jim and I looked at each other, decided we didn’t need to prove anything and walked back to carry out boats to the eddy below Cheese Grater.

John R demonstrates just how far down the drop takes you.

The remaining rapids were relatively tame at this flow compared to Cheese Grater, so it was an opportunity to have a bit of a play around. With the corner rapid, a number of paddlers carefully dropped into the final hole for a surf because it has been quite difficult to get back on it from the eddy on river right as there are several rocks near the top of the eddy that block the exit, especially at low flows. Some surfing occurred but once the paddlers was swept downstream, getting back on was almost impossible, with only Jim managing to do it once from several attempts.

Had a brief, half-hearted play at the Pop Up Spot before carrying on to the take out. Liam & Alice were waiting at the take out, enjoying the sun. Carrying the Blitz out was a bit of a trudge and it was a relief to get up to the cars. Loaded up the boats, got changed into some dry clothes and then drove back to town. Had a brief tiki tour down the new northern corridor motorway due to some confusing signage but were soon back on track to The Peg and then home from there, feeling not just a little sore and tired.

17th January 2021: Waiau Uwha River

Date: 11/11/2018
River: Waiau Uwha River, North Canterbury, New Zealand.
River Conditions:  39 cumecs at Marble Point. Water discoloured, cool & swift. Grade 3.
Weather Conditions: Overcast & rainy clearing to sunny & warm. NW winds, strong at times.
Number on Trip: 24 people.
Time on River: 4.5 Hours.
Comments: I hadn’t paddled the Waiau for quite some time, so when I spotted the trip on the CWWC trip list, I was pretty keen. The weather forecast was a bit ambiguous, but looked like it would turn out ok. I had visions of relaxing at the take out with a warm nor-wester blowing and the scent of pine trees in my nose, a happy memory from days gone by. Graeme W was running the trip and we had quite a few people at the Belfast Tavern. I loaded my boat on to Merv’s trailer, on top of his raft and a few other peoples boats, before climbing in to his Landdrover next to Max, his very friendly dog.

Plenty of interesting conversation on the drive up to Culverden, where we stopped to meet up and make sure everyone knew where we were going. I fuelled up with a steak & cheese pie from the bakery, kayakers don’t just run on muesli bars. Once we were all assemble, Graeme gave a briefing and nominated me to lead one of the groups after it turned out only 3 of us had ever paddled this section of the Waiau before. Back into the vehicles and off to the Hamner turn off, over the bridge and down to the rest area near the Hamner River confluence.

Merv’s trusty Landrover delivers the boats to the right to the river.

Usually we get changed in the rest area and then carry / float our boats down the Hamner River to the Waiau, since Merv had a raft, moving it would involve quite a bit of grunt. Fortunately Merv also had a Landrover Discovery and so drove down the 4 wheel drive track to the river, across a small river channel and parked on the gravel banks of the Waiau, around 3m from the water. We unloaded the boats and got changed, I took a few photos as the tourist jet boats whizzed past, while the shuttle was run. We also got to watch the sunny day change to overcast with a few drops of rain, as clouds gathered over the main divide.

Rather than wait for the shuttle drivers to returned, it was decided that my group should get underway and so I gathered 9 other paddlers to lead down the river. We had a safety briefing before hitting the river and then did a bit of a warm up while everyone got sorted out. While waiting by the bank, Max the dog (who we’d released from his lead once Merv was well on his way to the take out) jumped on my deck and sat facing me, while I scrambled for the camera to capture the moment. Sadly he leapt off before I got the camera fired up, and then ran off to make friends with some other people.

Paddling under the Hamner Bridge beneath brooding skies.

Our group had a range of experience, from a rusty grade 4 kayaker from the States to several paddlers in their first season. The paddled past the first corner bluff, which seemed quite unthreatening today, without dramas and regrouped beneath the bridge. There was quite a bit of jet boat activity on the river, which was good to see as many of New Zealand’s tourist orientated business have been hard hit by Covid-19 travel restrictions. This did mean that every time we heard or saw one, the “JET BOAT!” cry would go up and we’d all pull over to the edge of the river and brace for the surging waves of wake. The professional jet boat drivers were really good, very courteous & respectful of other river users, they kept a good eye out for us and we had no issues. Had a chat to one of the drivers, while waiting under the bridge, and let him know what to expect and how many paddlers in our group. He told us that the jet boats go down the river on the river left side and back up on river right, but generally we just went for which ever bank was closer.

The first section of the trip runs through a steep sided gorge and while there isn’t much in the way of rapids, the water tends to be quite boily, with messy eddies along the rocky walls. There were small patches of white water, where rocks broke the surface and I tried to make the most of these, cutting in behind the rocks and surfing where I could. Since these “rapids” were rather small and tight, I found my self stuck on an unseen rock on one of the early ones. The force of the water was holding my boat against the rock and I was having a hard breaking free. I was a little worried that I was going to need to tip over in order to break the hold, but managed to stay upright whilst rocking back & forth and escaping.

Further down the gorge, I was sitting on a messy eddy line when the call of “Jetboat!” went up and as a result I spent a little too long on a turbulent boil and tipped. A couple of tired roll attempts had me pulling the deck and self rescuing. Not a great look for an experienced group leader, so I emptied the boat out with a sheepish grin as a jetboat full of tourists shot past. I like to think I was just showing the newer paddlers that it is OK to take the occasional swim. A few of the beginners followed my lead, as the boils, bluffs & eddy lines tripped them up too.

Bouncing down a wave train.

After we left the gorge, the river flows across a gravel bed with riffle style rapids. I watched for landmarks and tried to remember features to watch for. Some familiar curves appeared as we approached one of the bigger rapids, which featured a popular play wave. I briefed the newer paddlers on what to expect and led the way, only to find the river had changed significantly and the rapid had been somewhat diminished by the passage of time and the movement of gravel. Still fun, but no play spot anymore.

Interesting rock formations at Marble Point.

The further on we went, the better the weather got, the skies cleared and the sun came out. We passed the winery and joked about stopping there for lunch, with Graeme picking up the tab. There were more comments about how far was it to our lunch stop, but eventually the distinctive rocks that mark Marble Point rolled into view. Graeme’s group was just behind us when we pulled into our lunch time picnic spot and we all had lunch together as various jetboats whizzed by or preformed 360’s to thrill the punters.

A jetboat blasts past Marble Point.

I was impressed by the variety and complexity of the lunches people unpacked, as I munched on my beef jerky with a muesli bar for dessert.

The lunch stop at Marble Point, with an impressive range of lunches.

The rapid below Marble Point was probably one of the better ones of day, nice & bouncy with a bit of a play wave. Didn’t get much of a chance to surf, before following the rest of the group downstream.

One of the bigger rapids on this section, just below Marble Point.

We had a fairly diverse group of river craft, including a SUP and Merv’s raft. It has been quite nice that the club has embraced this diversity and is much more welcoming now. We’ve even changed the club’s name from the somewhat dated, and not technically correct, White Water Canoe Club (since we mostly paddle kayaks, not canoes) to the more inclusive Canterbury White Water Club. It is good to celebrate and embrace diversity.

A nice day for a paddleboard.

It was good when the skies cleared, the sun came out and the day got warmer. Paddling is always better when the sun is shining.

Sunshine & whitewater.

Since it is often difficult to fit a set of split paddles into the back of many of the smaller boats, some people carry hand paddles. These require a little more practice to use competently, so it was impressive to see them being used well. This set got shared around to give a those who were interested in trying them out, a go.

Who needs a paddle?

We carried on down until we neared Sharks Tooth, I briefed everyone in our group and then led the way down the rapid, pulling into the first eddy to take photos or rescue people as required. As a lot of the water bypasses this rapid now, it isn’t quite as exciting as it used to be, but still fun.

Running Sharks’ Tooth rapid.
Rachel runs Sharks’ Tooth.
Getting some air off Sharks’ Tooth rapid.

I was going to have a bit of a play, but a swimmer put pay to that and a game of boat chase ensued. We got the paddler back in their boat and I paddled upstream to get a photo of the Tooth.

Merv paddles a couple of passengers down the river in is raft.

From here, the rapids get fairly mild, with some flat sections between them. I briefed people on the importance of getting out before the bridge and its’ associated irrigation intake. As we neared the bridge, I began to worry that I couldn’t see any of our vehicles, and hoped that I hadn’t missed any info about alternative get outs. We pulled over before the bridge and I led the group up the track to road, where fortunately our vehicles waited. As a group, we teamed up to get Merv’s raft up to the road and on to his trailer. Getting changed in the warm Canterbury afternoon with the scent of pine needles in the air, was a great way to end an enjoyable paddle. Feeling tired, we drove back to the city and then straight home.

10th January 2021: Hurunui River

Date:   10/01/2021
River:    Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  27 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2 – 3, water swift & clear.
Weather Conditions: Overcast with sunny spells, westerly winds, strong at times.
Number on Trip:  18 kayakers, 2 packrafts (10 kayakers doing Maori Gully).
Time on River: 
4 hours
Comments:  My first trip of the new year was scheduled to be a run down the Hurunui. The weather looked promising and the flow was around 30 cumecs, making for a pleasant, cruisy trip. There was a light drizzle as I loaded the boat on roof rack, but this looked to clear and by the time I reached Belfast, early for once, it was looking to be a nice day. I hitched a ride with Sally, another geologist working for Tonkin & Taylor, and two pack rafters, for the trip up to the put in.

We got changed at Seawards, looking at the ground I noticed a couple of shell casings. I picked them up and they appeared to be 9mm blanks, which was quite interesting as most firearms chambered for 9mm are either pistols or a few, now prohibited, semi-automatic rifles, though they may have been from a specifically blank firing pistol rather than a pistol firing blanks.

We left a vehicle at Seawards and drove up to Jollie Brook, which was busy with paddlers sorting out their gear. We divided up into three groups and hit the water.

Ollie leads the group down the Jollie Brook section.

I ended up in the first group, which had a number of newer paddlers and we made our way down the boulder gardens, catching eddies and surfing on the small waves. Having a number of newer paddlers, there was less playing so we moved pretty quickly, so less opportunities for taking photos.

Packrafts are fun and can certainly handle whitewater.

Had a brief play around at the Mezzanine before a “lunch” stop at the confluence with the South Branch before carrying on downstream.

A lunch stop at the South Branch confluence.

Brief discussions above Devil’s Fang Falls, with some of the group deciding to avoid it by portaging down the left hand side. The rest of us ran it down the usual far right channel without any drama, and another paddler dropped down staircase on the left channel as well.

Playing around on Devil’s Fang Falls.

There was a little bit of play in the foam and I took the opportunity to get some “water” themed photos for this years’ Water New Zealand photo competition. I didn’t win last year, but did manage to get a photo of the Hope River on the cover of their bi-monthly journal.

Breaking out for a surf.

Played around at the wave below the Dozy Stream put in, which is always popular, before carrying on down to Seawards.

A bit over half the group chose to run Maori Gully, a bounce down the wave train, a quick play on the Magic Roundabout, avoid Simons Hole, down the boulder garden, past Bum Rock, no dramas on the Elevator and a little air and a lot of water on Cheese Grater (though no ones cheese got grated).

Cheese Grater! Maybe a little far to river left…

A visiting American paddler took an interesting line on the Corner Rapid and dropped into one of the holes, causing a little surprise but no real hassle.


We had a bit of a play one the wave at the bottom of the rapid and I got some nice photos, including experimenting with taking photos underwater.

The hole at the end of the corner rapid certainly provides a good surf, if you can get on & manage to stay there.

A brief go on the Pop Up Spot, though I didn’t feel like tipping over, so I kept it pretty tame. On to the take out and the trudge up the hill to the vehicles. We stopped off at the Brew Moon in Amberley for an after paddle drink, before heading back to town.

20th December 2020: Hurunui River

Date:   20/12/20
River:    Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  23.4 Cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2 – 3, water swift & clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny & warm followed by a southerly change, to overcast, with occasional rain.
Number on Trip:  28 kayakers (12 doing Maori Gully).
Time on River: 
4.5 hours
Comments:  Wishing to escape the stress that the lead up to Christmas always seems to involve, especially with the added worries of much delayed earthquake repairs, drug dealing neighbours and the demolition & development happening to the rear of our property, a run down the Hurunui looked just the ticket.

I hitched a ride with Nick and we drove up to the Jollie Brook put in, with a brief stop at Dozy Stream, to inspect Devil’s Fang Falls and make sure the lines looked good or at least runnable. Not many seemed keen to run the rapid as they thought it looked a little bony, I felt the right hand line would be fine.

Sorting out boats before hitting the river.

We split up into groups and got changed in to our gear, our group hit the water first and were underway while the shuttle was still being run.

Blair pulls a rock splat.

We had a reasonably experienced group, so there was a reasonable amount of playing to be done. Blair had a great time doing rock splats and other moves.

I love the Jollie Brook section of the Hurunui, as it is a good combination of boulder gardens, rapids, gorges, play spots and quiet pools to practice rolls of other tricks.

Kiran pulls a whoopie, while AJ lines up for his turn.

Whoopies seem to have made a come back, with many people now paddling RPMs & Axioms, and there were a number of places for people to practice their skills.

Getting some air in the club’s Jackson Duo.

As we neared the South Branch confluence, the clubs Jackson Dynamic Duo caught up with us near the Mezzanine Rapid and I was rewarded with this spectacular aerial shot, as it launched skyward over a rock. We played around on the Mezzanine, the lower flow allowing relatively easy access to the raised eddy at the base of the bluff, giving newer paddlers the opportunity to tick off this achievement. There was also some fun surfing too, before a brief “lunch” stop at the South Branch confluence.

The usual line on Devil’s Fang Falls.

The section down to Dozy Stream is pretty cruisy, though the weather was changing and our blue skies and sunny day gradually disappeared. As we neared Devil’s Fang Falls, the usual discussions on who is planning to do what occurred, who planned to take the left channel, who planned to portage and who planned to run the rapid and which lines they intended to take. I went down the standard right hand line, avoided the “fang” and pulled into the eddy at the bottom and got the camera out to capture the others as they came down the rapid.

Blair hadn’t inspected the rapid on the way up, so got out on the left hand side for a look. After watch another paddler run the rapid down the standard route, he got back into his boat and lined up on his preferred route…

Blair not taking the usual line on Devil’s Fang Falls.

But for some reason he chose a channel to the left of the usual line. I had looked at this line from the road, and it looked sort of ok, but from above, sitting in a kayak, it looked a lot less attractive.

Pulling cartwheels on Devil’s Fang Falls is the sign of a real pro.

Blair’s progress down the rapid involved pulling an almost cartwheel, before disappearing from sight.

Blair & his kayak are in the the centre of the photo. Honest!

Fortunately he soon popped up, quickly reoriented himself, and had a quick surf with a smile plastered on his face. I made a mental note to myself not to take that line in future.

“All good!” Blair survives an alternative line on Devil’s Fang Falls.

Several other paddlers went down the left hand channel of the river (the usual portage route) and then dropped down the bouncy staircase on the left hand curve of the rapid, into the foaming white water at the base.

Coming down the left channel on Devil’s Fang Falls.

I personally prefer the far right channel as it tends to be much smoother and you tend not to spend time under water. So far I haven’t had any issues with the “fang” at the end of the run out, the flow seems to push you away & round it, rather than into it.

The top of the play spot below the Dozy Stream put in.

We regrouped below the rapid and one of the other groups caught up, while we waited for those that portaged to get back on the water. Past the Dozy Stream put in, we sent a bit of time at the popular play wave. There was the odd bit of drama as the occasional paddler got swept in to the bluff below the wave and ended up swimming. It’s a tricky spot to roll up in as the small eddy on the right hand side feeds back against the bluff, keeping you stuck there. Not fun, I try to avoid this and probably don’t play here as much as would if I felt happier about the wash out zone.

A quiet family outing on the Hurunui.

This particular spot is a great place to get good photos and I generally use the “I’m taking photos” excuse, to avoid getting washed against the bluff after a surf & roll go wrong. Ok, so maybe that is a little chicken of me, but I do like to stay smiley side up.

Playing below the Dozy Stream put in.

Others, possibly with more competent or confident rolls, are more than happy to showcase there skills and I am more than happy to capture that on “film”.

One of the quiet gorge sections.

The weather had changed and what had started as a bright, sunny day was getting cooler and more overcast. We picked up the pace a little on the way down to Seawards and only had an occasional play as we worked our way down the rapids.

Getting ready to run Maori Gully.

At Seawards, some of the group left the river to run the shuttle, while the rest of us hung around until all those who wanted to run Maori Gully were assembled. Once we were all ready to go, we moved off in dribs & drabs, bouncing down the wave train to meet up at the Magic Roundabout. After enjoying weaving in & out, and roundabout on the various waves, eddies and flows of the Magic Roundabout, we carried on downstream.

Past Simon’s Hole, where no one was keen for a surf, down trough the boulder gardens and bum rock. The Elevator was relatively some and no one had any issues, despite having a few people who hadn’t been through the Gully before.

Going down the elevator.

There were a few nerves above Cheese Grater, I chose to go early and hopefully get a few photos of the rest of the team. I picked a line, just right of centre and slid down the tongue with a reasonable amount of boat speed and the nose pointing slightly right, no dramas, and pulled into an eddy on river right that afforded a good view of the drop.

Getting some air off Cheese Grater.

There was a fair bit of air, as kayaks shot up the wave below the drop. There was the odd person who got kicked to the left, but no real dramas and everyone seemed pleased to have braved the challenge of Cheese Grater. Some nice pics too, before someone parked in the eddy in front of me.

“I survived Cheese Grater!”

After Cheese Grater, the remaining rapids are a lot less daunting. Feeling a bit cold and tired, I was keen to get to the take out. The climb out is always tiring, but it was good to get to the top and get into some warm clothes, and out of the light rain.

As it was getting a little late, Nick & I just headed straight back to town, without the usual stop at the Brew Moon. As we hit the motorway, we ended up in the wrong lane which resulted in us getting trapped on the new Christchurch Northern Corridor (CNC) motorway bypassing Belfast and heading directly into the city. Turning back was not an option and it wasn’t until we reach Cranford Street before we could back track to Belfast. The CNC had only just opened and it was quite interesting to explore this new route, still it didn’t get us home quicker.

17th December2020: Avon River (Ōtakaro)

Date:    17/12/2020
Avon River, Christchurch, NZ
River Conditions:   
1.656 cumecs at Gloucester Street bridge. Water clear. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:   
Overcast and cool, NE winds.
Number on Trip:    
11 people.
Time on River:  
1.5 hours.
Comments:  We had talked about doing a trip down the Avon River as a Christmas or team building exercise for the Groundwater Team at ESR, for a couple of years now, this year we finally took the bull by the horns, the bit between our teeth and actually organised it. The main logistical issues was that not every one has or can borrow a kayak. I had thought those without boats could buy a cheap inflatable raft, for a leisurely float down the river, as we’d done with a group of our friends many years ago, floating downstream from the Puriri Street bridge to the Botanic Gardens. However, with days to go before the trip, a census of rivercraft indicated that there were still a number of people without suitable aquatic transport. Fortunately, between Phil & myself, we own more that a few kayaks and so were able to outfit those bereft of a boat, with a suitable whitewater solution.

The weather forecast looked less promising, the day that had been chosen as the result of a Doodle Poll, seemed to be an almost winter like day, cold with showers, flanked by sunny, warm days with temperatures in the high 20s. The proposed day dawned, grey and cold, but with the hope it might clear by the afternoon. By the time I was driving out to our storage lock up to pick up some additional kayaks, I had the wipers on, with rain dotting the windscreen. Lashing three boats on my roof rack was interesting, with multiple straps keeping the kayaks in place, and I found myself missing the convenience of my old upright bars. Still, the kayaks stayed in place on the trip to work, via a stop at the supermarket for some food for the picnic at the end of the paddle.

Despite the weather, people at work seemed quite excited with the prospect of a paddle. I checked in with people to make sure everyone was happy and knew what we were doing and as the proposed meeting time near, I got changed and then drove down the the Botanic Gardens entry. Phil turned up a little after me and we unloaded our combined fleets on the grassy riverbank, and waited for the rest of the crew to arrive. Spray decks were put on and kayak fitted into, or not in some cases, leading to modifications or boat swaps. Once everyone was sorted out, we drove down to the Margaret Mahy Playground, parked up and crammed into Panan’s Prius for the shuttle back to the park.

Sorting out kayaks and gear.

Back on the river back, novice paddlers, squeezed into unfamiliar kayak and Phil assisted in launching them into the river with words of advice and a steadying hand. Once all the ducklings were on the water, Phil climbed into his own playboat, secured his deck and then slid down the bank and launched into the river. I briefly considered doing likewise, but the possibility of it all turning pear shaped and me looking stupid or wet or both, had me opting for a more conventional seal launch from the rivers edge.

Phil helps to launch Panan in my Blitz Special.

Judging by the smiles, everyone was enjoying themselves and no one was too cold, despite some people having dressed for a more summery day. Some of the newer paddlers, were learning how to paddle and steer their kayaks, and Phil was happy to provide additional coaching. The lack of spraydecks on some of the kayaks made things a little precarious for some, especially Greg who was using Murray’s son’s canoe polo, which had a low profile and risked flooding the cockpit if he railed too much.

Hard to believe we are still in the centre of New Zealand’s second biggest city.

Paddling through the Botanic Gardens is an enjoyable experience, as the river winds through the park with its’ diverse assortment of greenery and water fowl.

Paddling through the Botanic Gardens.

Floating past the Antigua Boatsheds and down the riffle that marks the downstream limit that can be paddled using the hired boats, we passed into the central city. Paddling under Montreal Street, the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial comes into view, giving one a chance to reflect on the lives lost & changed, as well as the changes wrought on the city & its’ environs. Since the quakes, much of the city has changes dramatically and the Avon River corridor has been the focus of some of those changes and although we are in the urban centre of Christchurch, much effort has gone into restoring the river into a more natural state, as well as making it more accessible.

Paddling past the Earthquake Memorial Wall.

Passing under the Bridge of Remembrance allows for some reflections on the destruction & lives lost in past wars, before drifting past the The Terrace.

The Bridge of Remembrance.

The Terrace is a popular entertainment area, that morphed from the ruined Strip after the quakes.

“Is anyone stopping for a drink?”

We didn’t stop for a drink here or to enjoy at tasty meal at one of the many dining venues, but carried on our journey downstream, though I think Lee looked quite tempted. Often there are eels around the landings, but we weren’t able to spot any this time and we didn’t feel like trailing our fingers in the water to attract them.

No trolls under this bridge.

One of the neat things about kayaking along the Avon, is getting to see the city from a completely new angle or seeing sights that you wouldn’t otherwise see. Under another bridge, a number of steel waratahs had been hammered into the river bed forming a sort of slalom course, which caused some of our group a few difficulties.

The Gormley Statue with the new convention centre in the background.

We paddled past Gormley’s “Stay” and admired the almost completed Convention Centre, which is apparently meant to open later in 2021.

Paddling past the refurbished town hall and fountains.

It was nice to see the fountains working as we paddled through Victoria Square and past the Town Hall. Further down they are working on building a new foot bridge and there were a few workings to avoid.

Paddling past the partially repaired band rotunda.

Work has begun on the repairing the band rotunda, but it will be a wee while before anyone enjoys a meal there again.

Wakas under the bridge.

We were surprised to find a couple of traditional Maori waka under the Manchester Street bridge. The waka are used for paddling tours on the Avon and trips can be booked via their website, which would make for a very unique way to explore Ōtakaro.

The Poplars, with the take out at Margaret Mahy Playground.

Once we reached the Poplars, others from the group who had not been able to join us on the river, met us at the Margaret Mahy playground landing. While most of the group got out at the landing, Louise’s children had a go at kayaking under Phil’s tutelage, there were some smiles, splashing and a few tears, but I think they mostly enjoyed themselves.

We paddled down a little further, so we didn’t have to carry the kayaks as far to get them on the vehicles. From there our team huddled under the playground shelters and enjoyed a pot luck picnic and conversation. Lee provided some entertainment with his climbing skills. Eventually as time and the chill of the “summer” evening got to people (apparently not everyone had dry clothes or clothes suitable for “balmy” nor-easterly winds), numbers dwindled and we all headed home. It had been a fun trip and many were keen to do it again next year, possibly with a BBQ and better weather.

13th December 2020: Ashley River

Date:   13/12/2020
Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  
5.5 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water clear and cool. Grade 3.
Weather Conditions:  
Sunny & warm, with brief cooler, overcast periods
Number on Trip: 
Time on River: 
3.5 hours.
Comments:  We had the CWWC Christmas BBQ planned for this day at the Ashley Gorge Domain and Hugh thought it was a great idea to get a paddle in before the BBQ. Even though the flow was a low 5.5 cumecs, I was keen and soon a plan evolved, meeting at the campground at 9am. This meant a 6am wake up and I struggled out of bed, got dressed and loaded up the car. Breakfast was French toast with bacon, fried banana and fresh blueberries from our garden, a splash (or a slosh) of maple syrup, coffee & grapefruit juice. I was just mopping up the last of my maple syrup when 8am, my intended leave time went past and didn’t actually get away until around 8:24, somewhat behind schedule.

The route is pretty straight forward but a stop for petrol and a cycle race delayed me further. Everyone was changed and ready to head up to the middle bridge when I arrived. I quickly changed and left my dry gear in John H’s car and together with Cody and John H, headed up to the put in. We had quite a big group and Hugh had lent out a number packrafts for people to trial, so had five packrafts on the river too.

Gear was sorted out and packrafts were inflated. I decided to embed myself with the Hugh’s packrafting crew, to provide a “safety” kayaker and get some good photos for promotional purposes. Soon enough, we were on the water and bouncing down the river.

Kerry dodges the tree.

Everyone seemed happy driving their packrafts and everyone avoided the tree in the river, that forms the first hazard on this section. Pretty easy to avoid, but still a hazard.

When the boats hit the water, the air contracts and you have to stop to put more in.

There was a short stop to add some additional air to the packrafts, because no one likes it when their boat goes soft. This done, boats were back on the river and the adventure was underway.

Kerry & Becs, smiling down the river.

With only 5.5 cumecs in the river, this was definitely at the low end of the paddleable range for the Ashley. Some of the rapids were a little bony, but still easily navigable, though you did have to pay careful attention to picking your routes and avoiding rocks. I watched John H going down the big boulder garden above the forever eddy, and he seemed to be taking an unusual route and he disappeared behind a big rock for some time. I had taken up a position to photograph the others coming down the rapid, so I waited for him to reappear. Eventually he rounded the rock, hand walking his kayak, having run out of water on that route.

“We got soaked for this?”

On the previous Ashley trip with John R, we had noted flashes of yellow on the bottom of the river but didn’t stop to investigate further. This time John H was keen for some underwater action and with some assistance from Kelly, managed to recover a couple of raft paddles. The shafts were well made, crafted out of stainless steel, by someone obviously skilled in metal working. There was just one small problem, they were very heavy and if dropped, would sink to the bottom of the river, not entirely desirable but at least they wouldn’t rust whilst sitting on the river bed.

Kelly shows her style & skills.

It was quite impressive to see the skills presented by the paddlers and the way the packrafts could be moved down the rivers and through the rapids. The modern packrafts from Blue Duck Packrafts with thigh braces fitted, can come either as self bailing or with a spray deck fitted, and can be paddled & maneuvered in a way very similar to a white water kayak.

Smiles are contagious, Kelly is having a fun time.

Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and there were plenty of smiles.

Sergi resurfaces.

Several of those paddling a packraft for the first time had no issues and clearly showed their skills on the river.

Becs & Kerry enjoy a rest & the beautiful scenery.

It was a great day to be on the river and it was quite fun to be part of the group of packrafts as they bounced down the river. While quite maneuverable and able to be paddled like a kayak, there was less playing on the rapids, though Keri and Sergi spent some time surfing when the opportunity arose.

Hugh’s in his happy place.

It was also great to see Hugh really enjoying his time on the river too. He has been through various rivering permutations as he has aged, as kayaks became difficult to roll due to reduced flexibility, catarafts emerged as the rivercraft of choice. Unfortunately the bulk, lengthy set up times and difficulty moving the raft once it was set up, reduced the convenience and usability. However packrafts are an amazing alternative, they are lightweight, can be inflated quickly & easily, are stable & maneuverable and can be paddled like a kayak, hopefully extending Hugh’s paddling career for many more years.

Kerry has a nervous moment before the smile breaks out again.
Packrafts must be a lot of fun, as there were plenty of smiles.

For a first time packrafter, Kerry had a ball and really showed off his paddling skills. I got some great photos and seeing Kerry’s smile coming down a rapid really brightened my day.

Kerry makes a splash.

Kerry gave his boat a good work out, testing its’ maneuverability, working his way down the more technical rapids, the lower flow exposing more rocks and making the lines tighter, though the slower flow giving more time to make decisions.

Kerry boofs like a pro.

Boofing and surfing, Kerry gave it all a go with impressive style. Sergi also enjoyed his time in the packraft, pulling plenty of moves, though I suspect he missed his usual play boat, whilst surfing on the regular spots.

Sergi runs the main drop in the Ashley Gorge.

I rushed the approach to the main drop and didn’t get the line quite right and tipped at the bottom. Fortunately I rolled up quickly and was still able to quickly get into position to catch Sergi running the drop with style, but sadly missed the opportunity to photograph the others.

Kerry chills out and takes in the natural splendor in one of the quite sections.

Leaning back on the soft pillows of air that make up a packraft, made for a relaxing float down the quiet sections, giving the paddler time to soak up the beauty of the Ashley’s gorges.

Plenty of big smiles on this trip.

It was a great trip and we were all a bit tired when we reached the take out at the Ashley Gorge camp ground. Chris P had the barbecues set up and the great spread of food on hand was greatly appreciated by the hungry paddlers. After a tasty “lunch”, I headed back to town feeling satisfied by an excellent day out.

15th November 2020: Ashley River

Date:   15/11/2020
Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:  
9.5 cumecs at Ashley Gorge. Water clear and cool. Grade 3.
Weather Conditions:  
Sunny & warm, light winds in the afternoon.
Number on Trip: 
Time on River: 
4 hours.
Comments:  I’d been watching the Ashley come up and go down repeatedly, but often life and other commitments or responsibilities would get in the way and the opportunity would pass. The Show Weekend club trip was off to Murchison, which would have been great but I couldn’t really leave home for too long, so it was a nice surprise when John R, suggested a low flow run down the Ashley Gorge. There were a few others interest but when 8:45 rolled around, there was only the two of us in the Belfast Tavern carpark. We decided that two was enough and headed off to the Domain.

It was a pleasant drive out to the Ashley Gorge Domain, we got changed, left my car at the take out and drove up to the middle bridge. With just two of us we were soon on the river.

Enjoying a beautiful spring day on the river.

John was keen to provide some coaching on pivot turns, something I’ve never really done intentionally. They used to be something that happen when I was leaving an eddy in an RPM or my old Super Sport, as the tail sliced beneath the surface and the nose shot into the air, followed by me being upside-down and unable to roll. Swimming was usually the result of an unexpected whoopie.

Making a splash.

I got the basic idea, but it often seems so counter-intuitive to my “not tipping over” natural responses. Realistically, I need to be happier with my roll before I try moves like this with any serious intent. Still it was good to get some understanding of the techniques involved, even if I couldn’t really commit to trialing them on the river.

John R tidies up some bottles & other rubbish dumped by a drunken rafting party a few days earlier.

Further down we came across a collection of bottles and other rubbish on the river bank. John cleared it up and we carried out the rubbish in our boats, something those responsible should have done. Later, in a conversation with Phil at work, he mentioned that a few days earlier on the river, he had encountered a group of drunken idiots in a raft. They didn’t have proper safety gear and seemed to be lacking in clues too, telling Phil to F off when he asked if they were OK. We suspect they may have been responsible for the trash, plus the yellow bladed raft paddles that seemed to litter the river bottom further downstream.

Cruising down one of the grade 2 rapids.

John offered to take the camera for some of the rapids and capture some rare photos of me paddling, which was much appreciated.

Me & the Blitz enjoying a beautiful sunny day on the Ashley.

I don’t often see what I look like when I’m on the river, so it was cool to get these pictures.

A rare photo of me running a rapid. Photo by John R.

Sometimes I think I look kind of funny, Lauri says she can tell it’s me from a distance purely based on the way I paddle, which I’m not sure if it’s an entirely good thing.

Running the main drop in the Ashley Gorge. Photo by John R.

The main drop is interesting, as there is a bit of a hole above the main drop, to avoid, before riding down the tongue or boofing to the left, to land in the eddy. Or some combination of these, depending on how successful your relative techniques are. Fortunately this time I was successful, though a little quick so John didn’t have quite enough time to set up to capture the sequence.

Catching the eddy after the main drop. Photo by John R.

Still he did get some very nice pictures.

Following John R down a rapid whilst holding the camera.

It was such a beautiful day and it was so nice to be back on the river after such a long break. The Ashley Gorge is a wonderful place to spend a sunny day.

Enjoying the scenery on one of the calmer stretches.

During one of the quieter stretches, I spotted a large trout, one of the few I’ve ever seen from my kayak. It vanished pretty quickly, speeding out of sight to hide in the shadows.

John R making some moves.

We worked or way down the river, taking our time and enjoying the various features. Lack of paddle fitness started to show on the lower sections and the flow slowed and the rapids became less frequent. As we got closer to the campground, groups of people enjoying the warm sunshine and cool water, appeared along the bank. It is always good to see others appreciating the natural environment and our special water resources.

Eventually we reached the domain, got changed and then shuttled back to the middle bridge so John could pick up his car. I stopped in Oxford for an ice cream and a drink to keep me going, before arriving home at an almost reasonable hour.

2nd November 2020: Avon River

Date:    2/11/2020
Avon River, Christchurch, NZ
River Conditions:   
1.656 cumecs at Gloucester Street bridge. Water mostly clear. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:   
Overcast and coolish.
Number on Trip:    
1 person.
Time on River:  
30 minutes.
Comments:  After a long day doing science in the lab, I headed home, dropping off a DVD at Alice’s and picking up extra groceries (almost a little too much for my motorcycle). Lauri met as I pulled up, needing to tell me something before I’d even turn of the bike and taken my helmet off.

Apparently the family of pūtangitangi (Paradise shelduck) that had been living around Swanns Road bridge and Avonside drive, which had originally consisted of two adults and fourteen ducklings had been stuck with further tragedy. The mother duck had been hit by a car a week or so earlier, with papa duck soldiering on with a rapidly diminishing troop of ducklings. Down to just two ducklings, papa duck was killed by a car and his remaining youngsters were being bullied by other adults birds (pūtangitangi can be very territorial).

A group of bird rescuers had been trying to catch the remaining ducklings so they could be relocated somewhere safer and be taken care of until they could look after themselves. They had been trying to catch them for most of the day, but being restricted to the river banks, had made the task quite difficult. Lauri had seen the request for a kayak and had offered her one up, if anyone was willing to pick it up, as she wasn’t up to getting down to the river and chasing ducklings.

When I got home, the group was still down at the river after nearly 10 hours and once Lauri had filled me in on the details, I quickly changed into my kayaking gear while she put away the groceries. Shouldering the Blitz, I hurried off to the Swanns Road bridge. Spotting a group of people upstream, I headed in that direction while looking for a good launch spot. The banks were a little steeper than expected and the water was a bit shallow, but I managed to select a suitable spot and then struggled to get my deck fitted, feeling a bit tired and out of practice.

I paddled over to where a guy on a sit on top kayak was trying to catch the final duckling, who was playing hard to get (the other duckling had been caught earlier). I tried to herd the duckling to the sit on top, so the guy could scoop it up in the small hand held net, but the duckling was very good at evading and when we got close, it would often dive under the water, swim under the kayaks and pop up somewhere else.

Chasing a paradise duckling on the Avon. Photo by Verity Tearnan Verster.

We tried various variations on this theme, without success. Eventually I took the net to see if my luck was any better. Paddling, maneuvering and chasing a fast moving duckling isn’t exactly easy, especially when you’re holding a net as well as a paddle, and are trying not to scare or hurt a young, fragile bird. Eventually, after a number of attempts, the duckling surfaced next to my kayak after diving to avoid the net. With the net still under water, I was able to lift it up under the duckling, trapping him and lifting him out of the water. From there, he was transported carefully to the waiting rescuers on the bank, where he was able to join this sister.

Job done, I said goodbye and wished them luck, before paddling off downstream. The river was quiet and empty and I briefly reveled in the peace and solitude, before clambering out of my boat and up the bank. A short walk home and then I filled Lauri in with the news. I then changed and wander down to the shops to pick up some well deserved takeaways for dinner.

The ducklings were given a full check over and one was treated for a minor infection. Once they were sufficiently recovered, they were relocated to a sanctuary with sprawling fields, a private stream, various other animals. Hopefully they will have long and happy lives.