Monthly Archives: December 2002

2002 Kayaking Season

Date: 21/12/02
River: Hurunui River, Northern Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 59 cumecs at Mandamus, water clear. Grade 2+
Weather Conditions: Warm and sunny with south-easterly winds, some light cloud
Number on Trip: 30
Comments: This was the clubs annual Christmas trip which accounts for the large number of paddlers. We had near perfect conditions, hot and sunny with a reasonable flow and not strong wind gusts. Paddle down from the Jollie Brook get in to Seaward with most of the group paddling Maori Gully while the rest did the shuttle run. I paddled the Reflex again and enjoyed it immensely. Practised a couple of rolls in a quiet spot (as much to cool down as for the practice) and got to do on for real after I ended up backwards on a buffer wave at the base of a bluff and then tipped over. Not as smooth as the previous practices and took several attempts (a bit rushed and didn’t set up properly or raised my head too soon) but I was successful in the end. All in all it was a really great trip and for me probably the best of the season so far. After the trip most of the club headed round to Angus’s place for a pig on a spit BBQ, unfortunately I missed out as I had to head back to town to sell my Super Sport.

Date: 15/12/02
River: Hurunui River, Northern Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 153 cumecs at Mandamus, slightly discoloured from Jollie Brook down to South Branch, very cloudy from South Branch, very swift. Grade 2+
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm with gusty nor-westerly winds
Number on Trip: 20, with 11 doing the leg from Jollie Brook down to Seaward
Comments: This was supposed to a Club Safety Day, to teach and practise various river rescue techniques. However with the Hurunui running at 153 cumecs, it was decided just to run the day as a standard river trip. We split into two groups, one running the upper gorge down to Jollie Brook and then doing a run down Maori Gully. The rest of us planned to paddle from Jollie Brook down to South Branch. The trip down to the south branch confluence was pretty uneventful, but included a fair bit of eddy hopping practice to hone skills. At South Branch, most of the group was still keen to keep paddling down to Seaward. We left two people at the South Branch to let the other group know that we were continuing on down. As the two rivers converged, the current became particularly swift leading to the odd swim, roll or at least nervous moments as we paddled down to the Seaward get out. I had decided to paddle the reflex again and it seemed to save my bacon on more than one occasion, particularly when I failed to ferry glide across very swift channel and was swept towards a bluff with large buffer waves and swirling white water. Some how I managed to navigate it (actually I didn’t do anything, the reflex seemed to know its way and I just followed it) and even avoid getting recirculated around the large eddy that it formed. So I managed to avoid an embarrassing swim and even almost managed to look as if I knew what I was doing. Managed to keep my hair dry throughout the trip so I think I’ll take the reflex on next weekends trip too.

Date: 24/11/02
River: Ashley River, Northern Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 6 cumecs at Lees Valley, muddy and swift. Grade 2
Weather Conditions: Cloudy, with light drizzle, cold
Number on Trip: 17
Comments: It was decided to divert the planned trip to the Waiau to the Ashley, as the Waiau was running high (not as high as earlier in the week when it was running at 200 cumecs) and this tends to wash out most of the rapids. The Ashley generally can only be run after a bit of rain as its normal flow level is too low to allow kayaks to successfully navigate it. We had quite a large group with about 6 beginners, some of whom had only previously paddled the Lower Hurunui (once). I had decided to take my reflex (a 3.6m plastic slalom boat) down the Waiau to see how it handled in waters more turbulent than the Avon, so I was a little worried how it would go in the much tighter and rockier Ashley River. Most of the group paddled the upper section of the river from Gillespie’s Bridge down to Middle Bridge, while the four others paddled the gorge from Middle Bridge to the Domain. The early part of the upper section was quite tight and many of the features were difficult to avoid and there were a number of swims for some of the beginners. Though by the end of the trip, the river opened out a bit and many of the beginners were deftly darting in and out of every available eddy on the river and doing really well, especially considering it was, for some them, their second white water trip. I was impressed with the performance of the reflex, even when the going got tough it easily avoided or passed through all that the river had to offer. During one section where I successfully managed to dodge between several large boulders with pour overs forming holes behind them, despite my feelings of impending doom (or dunking). By the end of the trip I was considering selling my super sport and using the reflex as my secondary (or primary) white water boat. George also impressed all by a particular deft manoeuvre, he has trying to retrieve one of the beginners paddles that had got stuck in a hole. After unsuccessfully trying to lasso it from the bank with a throw rope, he climbed into his boat and headed into the hole to see if he could pull it out. Unfortunately his stern caught in the hole and tipped him upside down. However all was not lost, as while he was underwater he grabbed the paddle, freed it and then rolled upright to the cheers of the assembled masses.

Date: 3/11/02
River: Hurunui River, Northern Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 61 cumecs at Mandamus, clear and swift. Grade 2+
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm with strong nor-westerly winds
Number on Trip: 13
Comments: Bit of a rough trip, had a number of beginners and the river was up so we just paddled the leg from Dozy Stream to the Maori Gully put in. My balance wasn’t all there and I took the odd swim, the wind didn’t help either, often throwing you off balance or blowing you around the river unexpectedly. Did a couple of practice rolls in the river (the water was freezing) but didn’t pull it off when it counted, must get some ear plugs, having your ears full of water doesn’t help your balance any.

Date: 20/10/02
River: Lower Hurunui River, Northern Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 73 cumecs at SH1, swift and slightly discoloured. Grade 2
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm with strong nor-westerly winds
Number on Trip: 17
Comments: This was the first river trip for the new beginners doing the WWCC instruction course (if you don’t count their trip down the Waimakariri the previous weekend). I tagged along as the planned trip down the Rangitata was cancelled due to lack of interest (I was the only one that phoned in). We had about ten beginners and eight helpers. The weather was in complete contrast to the previous weekend and at times it almost seemed that a swim was necessary. Was quite nice just to paddle along with the beginners and it was an opportunity to brush up on some skills that may have been neglected. Managed to avoid a dunking, although just barely as some of my eddy entries and exits were a bit rough and the wind nearly blew me over a couple of times. Most of the beginners had a swim or two but nothing serious.

Date: 13/10/02
River: Hurunui River, Northern Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 47 cumecs at Mandamus, clear and swift. Grade 2+
Weather Conditions: Cold southerlies, snow showers
Number on Trip: 10
Comments: Cold! Had a number of snow showers whilst on the river, poogees were a must, my hands nearly froze without them (someone lent me a pair for the trip, and I brought myself a pair on Monday). Water was pretty cold, took a longish swim through the Jollie Brook rapids and another further down where the current flowed directly in to a bluff. Failed to roll both times as I couldn’t get a set up, so will be back to the pool for more practice. Quite a good trip with about 10 paddlers, lost one guy after he badly bruised his thigh during a swim in Jollie Brook rapids. Had my boat float away from the bank before I could secure the spray deck at one stage, fortunately I was able to grab my paddle (the wrong way round) before I floated off and was able to navigate the rapids and get in to an eddy before my boat filled completely with water, that was a bit embarrassing (though quite amusing). I got out before Maori Gully (grade 3) and helped with the shuttle after getting changed in the driving snow.

20021013 Kayaking_Hurunui

Ian shows the way despite falling snow.

Date: 22/9/02
River: Waiau River, Northern Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 120 cumecs at Marble Point, water muddy. Grade 2
Weather Conditions: Generally fine with squally showers and gale force NW winds
Number on Trip: 18
Comments: With the gale force winds whipping the river, we decided against paddling the Waiau and instead had a swim in the hot pools at Hanmer. A bit disappointing but I guess it was better than a miserable, possibly dangerous trip.

Date: 19/5/02
River: Rakaia River, South Canterbury, NZ
Comments: This was the end of season “Mystery Trip” and we paddled down through the Rakaia Gorge, nice easy scenic trip, quite a cool location. Not much in the way of white water but Valdi still managed to get some playing in with his short Sub 7 (I think by the end he wished he had a longer boat).

Date: 12/5/02
River: Rangitata River, South Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 50 cumecs at Klondyke
Weather Conditions: Overcast and cold, light drizzle and strong NE wind gusts.
Number on Trip: 2
Comment: Another cold foggy Christchurch morning, throwing the kayak on the roof of the car in the dark and then it was off to Caltex Hornby. Nine kayakers off to tackle the mighty Rangitata, but only Hannah and I wanted to do the lower grade two section. So it was off to Rangitata Rafts and then a quick shuttle up to the grade 4 put in and then back to the rock weir at the Klondyke put in. Had lunch whilst sitting in the sun after putting our gear on and then we carried our kayaks down to the river. The river was clear and blue and very cold, running about 50 cumecs. I had decided to paddle my Prijon Fly as my previous trips down the Rangitata in my Super Sport and the rolling sessions at QEII had boosted my confidence and I was now prepared to give the river a go in the more responsive Fly.

We put in and had a bit of a paddle around and then headed over the weir, Hannah choose the harder line while I took the easy line at the side, a bit rocky with the low flow. Then it was off down the river, ducking in behind rocks and playing on anything we came across and generally enjoying a nice day out in the sun. We stopped at one rapid about halfway down with quite a neat little play hole. With the lower flow level the hole wasn’t as turbulent as on previous trip so we were both able to play around in it without much difficulty. At one stage I caught the back of my kayak in the hole and lost it and ended up upside down, fortunately I was able to roll upright without much difficulty thanks to Chee Chang’s expert tuition at QEII.

After a while we decided that we should head off again, I decided to have a go at running the entire rapid again. I moved up the side of the rapid and then ferry glided across the current and then turned down stream above the hole. At this point I lost it again and in no time at all I was upside down again leaning towards the back of my boat face down, something struck my head hard. “Shit” I thought, opening my eyes I could see more rocks ahead, so I decided to bail out rather than attempt a roll. I surfaced and caught hold of my boat, there was blood on my face and in my mouth but I wasn’t sure where I’d been hit, I was worried I might have damaged by teeth (dental work can be expensive). Hannah paddled over to me in no time and helped me to shore. Pulled the boats of the water and got the first aid kit out, I was feeling pretty stunned and still bleeding. Cleaned the wound up at the riverside and then inspected the damage in the reflective “Riot” logo on Hannah’s helmet, I was now the proud owner of a jagged 4cm cut above my left eye. After applying pressure to the wound and staunching the blood flow, Hannah covered it up with a dressing. Ironically Hannah was doing the first aid part of her outdoor education course at the Polytech the following week. Then after a bit of a rest we set of again, still in good spirits but with a bit of a sore head.

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful and we didn’t stop to play on any of the later features. I was a bit worried that I might possibly go in to shock or have some other complication or that my dressing my come off if it received a dunking (actually it wouldn’t have, in removing it later the doctor pulled out numerous small hairs as it was so securely taped down). Had another swim further down after my kayak tipped on its side in a rock garden and I couldn’t right it, even with my paddle braced against the bottom. I ended up bailing out rather than risk another dunking (and possible battering) in the shallow water. Hannah helped fish me out and after emptying my kayak out, we headed off to the get out point with no more problems.

We finished the trip safely and just a little worst for wear. I got 8 stitches that night at the 24 Hour Surgery, the wound has now healed but has left an impressive scar to remind me of the events that day. Did we learn some lessons? Yes. Firstly there are risks when paddling any river. Even though I had paddled the section a number of times before and there were no “real hazards” present, accidents can and do happen anywhere and you need to be prepared to deal with them when they do occur. Safety begins with you, being able to roll and having appropriate safety gear with you, helps both prevent problems occurring and enables you to deal effectively with any that may occur. There is no real reason why most people shouldn’t carry at least a basic first aid kit (dressings, bandages, tape etc), a basic survival kit, extra warm clothing and a throw rope in their kayak on all trips.

20020512 Kayaking_meets_geology

Kayaking meets Geology. Photo by Lauri.

The other point that people may note is that there were two relatively inexperienced people paddling on their own. In hindsight this probably wasn’t the best idea, even though we were reasonable well equipped, could both roll and were reasonable familiar with the river. Four people is a much safer number, this allows one person to stay with an injured person while the other two can go for help, if necessary. The other thing I noticed afterwards was how my helmet fitted. I had adjusted it to fit perfectly, however since I had started wearing a Macpac numbskull, this made my helmet sit higher on my head reducing the protection it offered to my forehead. I have since remedied this and have also attached a sun visor to my helmet and I’m considering fitting a chin guard to improve the amount of protection offered.

So that is how I got the big scar on my head and what lessons I learnt from it. I had a good trip and enjoyed myself and was still able to go on the mystery trip through the Rakaia Gorge the following weekend (I made a point not to even get my hair wet that trip as I’d just had the stitches removed). I would also like to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped me out this season with advice or by fishing me out. See you all on a river next season.

Date: 5/5/02
River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
Comment: Not 100% sure I was on this trip but it was only a grade 2 one so I possibly was.

Date: 24/3/02
River: Waiau River, North Canterbury, NZ
Comments: Not 100% sure I was on this trip but it was only a grade 2 one so I possibly was. It would have been a run from the Hanmer River down to the take out above the Leslie Hill Bridge.

Date: 17/3/02
River: Rangitata River, South Canterbury, NZ
Number on Trip: 4
Comment: Another paddle down from Klondyke. Grade 2.

Date: 17/2/02
River: Rangitata River, South Canterbury, NZ
Number on Trip: 6
Comment: I had been learning how to roll my kayak and last week did quite a good job of consistently rolling upright in the pool. However I got a bit of a surprise on our trip down the Rangitata river. Before we started off down the river one of the guys wanted to test his roll and did so, I thought I’d try too, unsuccessfully. Second try I realised that my buoyancy vest and all were preventing from tipping over completely and thus botching my set up. So it is back to the pool this week, this time with all my gear.

Had a good trip and didn’t go for too many swims. The weather was great (for a change), the river was swift and clear and the white water was big but reasonably simple to navigate. Just 5 of us did the grade 2 trip, the rest of the group doing the Rangitata gorge which is grade 4 and a bit beyond my skills (by a long way).

It was a good day out, unfortunately I was on call and so I had to do a job when I got back to town. I ended up having to drive to Methven, which is about 100km from Christchurch, closer to where we had been kayaking than to town, but I didn’t have any gear with me so I couldn’t fix it in passing. Still I was rewarded as I was leaving Methven as I saw a cat and a morepork sitting on the ground about two feet apart (the owl and the pussy-cat?), neither moving. So I stopped the car to take a look, the cat ran off but the morepork remained and seemed to shivering a bit, so I stroked its back to see if it would respond, which it didn’t, so I picked it up and while it was cradled in my hands it scramble to its’ feet, spread its’ wings and took off, which was quite amazing. Hopefully it was alright, I wasn’t really sure what I would have done if it hadn’t flown off.