Monthly Archives: December 2008

2008 Kayaking Season

Date: 14/12/08
River: Therese Creek Dam, Near Clermont, Queensland, Australia.
River Conditions: Water clear, warm and not flowing at all. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions: Hot and sunny.
Number on Trip: 1 person.
Time on River: 1.5 hour.
Comments: Rain prevented access to our work site again so I grabbed the kayak and headed to explore the Clermont area in search of water. There was some water flowing in both Nine Mile and Cherwell Creeks thanks to the rains that closed our site but not much so I kept on going. I eventually arrived in Clermont and checked out the “Lagoon”, it looked a bit like the duck pond in Hagley Park, so kept going on to Therese Creek Dam, which I’d spotted on Google Earth. The dam formed a reasonably sized lake and I had a fun time paddling about on it. There was a number of power boats towing skiers but these where easy to avoid. I did notice after getting off the water that you weren’t supposed to boat/swim within 200m of the intake (pictured below).


Therese Creek Dam. No crocs or flowing water here but still a nice place for a paddle.

Date: 9/12/08
Possibly Back Creek, Nebo Shire, Queensland, Australia.
River Conditions:
Water brown, warm and not flowing at all. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:
Hot, sunny with occasional cloudy spells.
Number on Trip:
1 person.
Time on River:
1 hour.
This was my first paddle in my new Dagger GT. I’d been looking for a suitable place to paddle and decided to head to Nebo and see what I could find. That turned out to be nothing and so I turned off and headed for Sarina. I didn’t get far down the road before coming across this swimming hole. It was probably about100m long with enough width and depth for a bit of a paddle, plus the odd log sticking out of the water for “slalom” practice. Not exactly the Hurunui (or even the Avon for that matter) but it was still fun to be on the water and to put my new boat through its paces. I wasn’t keen to practice a roll even though water was warmer than some of Christchurch’s heated swimming pools, the dirty brown water and the thoughts of what it might be hiding put me off. I’ll probably return to this spot again after the rains as it has some rocks at the head of the pool which may form some kind of feature with a reasonable flow, might even be an interesting “park & play” spot!


My Dagger GT at a swimming hole on an unknown river near Nebo, Queensland. No crocs but no flowing water either, might check out again when it rains.

Date: 13/7/08
Ashley River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:
44 cumecs at Ashley Gorge, water brown, swift and cold. Grade 3.
Weather Conditions:
Cold but sunny.
Number on Trip:
9 people.
Time on River:
3 hours.
This was possibly last kayaking trip. I got back from Australia late Friday night / early Saturday morning and had planned to do the Brass Monkey race on Sunday morning as it was the only one that coincided with me being in Christchurch. I checked the river flows and realised that with a flow of 530 cumecs in the Waimakariri, the race was unlikely to be held (but the flow would make for a fast time for those brave enough to run it). However I did notice that the Ashley was also up and there was likely to be a number of people keen to run it. With this in mind I strapped the Blitz on to the roof rack along side the Invader and set off to the Brass Monkey put in, only to be told the race was off (surprise, surprise). After a quick look at the swollen Waimak, it was a quick drive down to the Belfast Tavern to meet up with screaming John’s team for a trip down the Ashley Gorge.

It was cold at the put in and the river was brown and swollen, we help Hugh assemble his cataraft and tried to keep warm while waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. Finally they arrived, crammed into the back of John’s rental van with most of our kayaks and we got on to the water, sliding down the bank into the river. I was feeling particularly nervous and my stomach was in knots, I guess as a result of the brown, swirling water and not having paddled for a while (recent swims probably didn’t help either. The early grade 2 rapids went by without a hitch especially as I deliberately chose easy lines, avoiding anything that looked “scary”. However on one of the first grade 3 rapids, I failed to spot a hole until it was too late, dropped into it, stopped and then flipped. I set up for a roll, waiting until the water went clear and the bubbles disappeared, then slammed my side hard into a rock, winding me, I aborted the roll and pulled the deck. Holding on to all my gear I swam towards to side with the aid of Hugh’s cataraft and Ian M’s kayak. Funnily enough this dunking was just what I needed to boost my confidence (the stuff that was worrying me wasn’t that bad after all) and I felt much better after that. I was also glad that I had decided to wear my wet suit as the water was pretty cold.

John having seen me get trashed (after I’d advised him to follow me as I planned to take the easy route) decided to portage the rapid but only needed to carry his boat for about 1m after bumping down the side of the rapid, earning the new nickname of “Chicken Chute” John. Although he did the right thing in walking a rapid he was happy with, Steel teased him unmercifully about it.

The rapid down to Forever Eddy was fun but you had to be on your toes as the holes were often hard to spot in the brown water. I accidentally dropped into the odd one but had enough boat speed to push on through. Once in the gorge proper the rapids came thick and fast but everyone got through without a problem, just the odd roll with the occasional helmet striking a submerged rock. I got a bit indecisive when it came to the last major rapid and instead of taking the far right channel, I swept into a large rock and dropped down the middle chute and tipped. The was a horrible graunching noise as something struck my helmet hard, I rolled up and made it to the side before checking for damage. There was no blood and my helmet was ok but I definitely knew I’d got hit.

The rest of the paddle out was pretty cruisy and I just had the odd play on some of the small features as I was feeling a bit sore from being knocked about. It was good to get into warm clothes and to stand in the sun before it disappeared behind the hills. I checked my head in a mirror and found I had a good bruise above my right eye, which form a distinct black eye later that evening.

Date: 11/5/08
Upper Grey River, West Coast, NZ
River Conditions:
Low flow, 92 cumecs at Dobson, water clear and cold. Grade 2.
Weather Conditions:
Cool but sunny with the odd cloud.
Number on Trip:
21 people.
Time on River:
4.5 hours.
This was a run down the Gentle Annie section of the Upper Grey. It was the second day of our easy West Coast trip and it was a trip I had been keen to do and I was not disappointed. The shuttle run is quite long and so a lot of effort went in to ensuring that boats, gear, cars and people well organised into their correct locations so as to reduce the amounts of running about required.

The river was absolutely beautiful, flowing clear and cool through some magnificent scenery. Mountains, native forests, river flats, the West Coast certainly knows how to put on a display.

The rapids were not too demanding, generally boulders gardens with plenty scope for playing and eddy hopping. Everything was just stunning, this is one of the reasons I enjoying kayaking so much, even just floating along watching the world drift by made you feel glad to be alive.

I had a great time catching eddies and picking my way through the various boulder gardens, picking up advice on lines to take and moves to make from both Pat and Kerry. Our little group ended up at the back of the bunch, with me lagging towards the rear. I was having too much fun and if you are further forward, others will often unintentionally block an eddy or put you off a move just by being there. Whilst I was fooling around at the tail of one boulder garden, I got stuck sideways against a rock, the flat bottom of my Blitz against the flat side of the rock. I tried to get free by wobbling about but that didn’t help. I decided to get out of my boat and get off the rock that way. When I was halfway out of the cockpit, the boat slid off the rock and tipped over. Unfortunately with my deck popped and being almost out of the boat already, I couldn’t roll so was in for a swim. I called to Pat before he disappeared from sight and he towed me to shore, feeling just a little bit silly (and wet).

The last section was fairly flat and so was a bit tiring and my blistered hands were glad to see the take out. This was a really lovely trip and definitely worth the long shuttle.

Date: 10/5/08
Taipo River, West Coast, NZ
River Conditions:
Low flow, water cold and clear. Grade 2.
Weather Conditions:
Cold but sunny with the odd cloud.
Number on Trip:
16 people.
Time on River:
1.5 hours.
This was the Saturday part of our “easy” (not grade 4) West Coast trip. We left the Yaldhurst Tavern while it was still dark and the group met up at the Taipo River take out where it crosses the highway before flowing into the Taramakau River. We were also joined by some local paddlers plus a group that travelled down from Nelson to take part in the trip, making it quite a large group of paddlers, especially with so many people I didn’t know. Driving over the 4 wheel drive track to the put in was exciting and we kept our fingers crossed that the roof rack would stand up to the vigorous shaking that it received.

After some fluffing about sorting out gear, we clambered down the steep bank and were soon on the water. This is a superb location, crystal clear waters flowing through a valley surrounded by mountains and steep hills clad in native bush.

The water was swift and clear and rather cold. The rapids were all relatively straight forward grade 2. I chose to try and take the harder lines and almost had a nasty surprise when I dropped into an eddy above one of the first rapids in the gorge. I had taken the right hand line as it looked exciting, with plenty of white water, while most of the others chose the left side. I found myself sitting in a eddy just above a large hole. Turned out not to be a problem but I was glad to have run it properly rather than blindly dropping into the guts of it as I nearly did.

This was a fairly quick trip but I tried to do as much playing and catching eddies as possible, though this was often difficult with such a large group. The best play spot was just below the highway bridge and we spent some time there before getting changed.

We planned to run the lower section of the Crooked River next but it was decided to try Moonlight Creek instead. Not sure if anyone in the group had actually run it but it was decided it was worth a crack. After a long drive we made it to the take out, the lack of water didn’t look promising but we carried on to the put in before deciding there was too little water and not enough daylight for the run. So after a short bush walk to have a look at the river and some old mining ruins, it was off again to Ikamatua. Moonlight Creek looked quite lovely but definitely needed more water and is probably worth a visit at some other time.

The evening at the Ikamatua Pub was certainly an eye opener. The local rugby team had won for the first time in a while and so were celebrating a lot! This mainly involved drinking copious quantities of alcohol and culminated in several players running naked through the bar with flaming newspapers clenched between their buttocks in a tradition know as a flaming ass-hole. Not something you see everyday!

Date: 4/5/08
Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions:
23 cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2+(3), water clear and very cold, lots of drifting clumps of didymo visible.
Weather Conditions:
Sunny with overcast period and freezing cold with light southerly winds.
Number on Trip:
7 people.
Time on River:
5 hours.
This was the annual Hawarden Gap trip down the Hurunui and my first kayaking trip in a while. It had also got a lot colder than the previous trip back in March and I hadn’t made the appropriate adjustments to my kayaking wardrobe. I didn’t dress as warmly as I should have and didn’t even think of bringing my poggees. The flow was low and I was keen to play and after a couple of rolls, I was quite damp as my dry jacket was letting water seep through to my inner layers. As the trip progressed, I got colder and colder and my interest in further play evaporated unlike the water in my jacket.

When we stopped for lunch I warmed up a little. I should have put on my extra clothing but for some reason I didn’t, a silly mistake! By the time we arrived at the Hawarden Gap, I was frozen. Graeme had a swim on an earlier rapid as was probably pretty cold too, so he and a few others decided to portage the rapid. I put on my spare cloths and felt better with the extra poly pro on. Ian M ran the rapid first without a problem. When it came to my turn, I ferry glided across the river to an eddy above the rapids and promptly flipped on the eddy line. Water flooded up my nose, filling my sinuses with freezing cold water. When I’d got back under way I’d forgotten to put my nose clip on. I rolled up but the damage to my confidence was done and I was feeling a bit funny from the excess water in my head. With my nose clip firmly in place, I broke of the eddy and headed down the rapid. Taking the right hand line, I got down the first drop, spun upstream and flipped, no roll attempt this time and I bailed out in the flat water at base of the rapid, doh! Thanks for the photos capturing the moment Graeme.


Tipping over doing the Hawarden Gap. Photo kindly provided by Graeme.


Then bailing out after not even trying to roll! What is that about? I blame the cold. Photo kindly provided by Graeme.

I swam to shore clutching my paddle and towing my boat as I have frequently done before on this rapid (I think I’ve only run it successfully twice before and one of those times was alone in the Topo Duo). I was now soaked but still quite a bit warmer with the extra clothing. The rest of the rapids presented no problems but the paddle out was pretty gruelling with the low flow. Eventually we made the take out and it was a real relief to get into some warm dry cloths. I also got to drive the shuttle up to the top and then head straight home from there, thus missing on the usually hour long wait at the get out while the sun sets and the temperature drops to freezing. Not the most enjoyable trip of the season but it would have been greatly improved if I had dressed correctly and had brought my poggees.

Date: 24/3/08
Location: Lake Wanaka, Central Otago
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm.
Number on Trip: 2.
Time on Water: 1.5 hours.
Comments: The lake was crystal clear and the day perfect so Lauri and I paddled out to Ruby Island from the Wanaka Township. It was a beautiful day and the scenery was superb, it made for the perfect way to unwind after Warbirds over Wanaka. There were plenty of others out on the lake and we even got to see the Catalina do a touch and go on the lakes surface. Paddling out to the lake was easy, even in the Fly but paddling back was harder as there seemed to be more swell. The speed boats kept there distance so we just got the odd wake to contend with. It was a nice paddle even if it was just flat water, lunch was well earned that day.

Date: 9/3/08
River: Buller River, Tasman District
River Conditions: 44 cumecs at Longford. Grade 2+, water clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm, nor-westerly winds.
Number on Trip: 11.
Time on River: 2.5 hours.
Comments: We were disappointed not to be able to do the Hamilton Rapids on the Wairau after the way was blocked by a locked gate due to a goose shoot. So we did the 3km run from Lake Rotoiti to State Highway 63 bridge on the Buller instead. A very scenic run with almost continuous bouldery rapids, plenty of eddies to catch and holes and waves to play on plus the odd eel. Per had close encounter with a log under bridge at take out which we’d been warned about but he didn’t notice until it was too late. Exhausting after a very energetic trip, I took only roll near end after massive surf session near end of the run, it really rocked and I was absolutely stuffed by the end, so were a few of the others judging by the number having naps on the way home (including our driver, well after he shifted to the back seat).

Date: 8/3/08
River: Waihopai River, Marlborough
River Conditions: 7 cumecs at Craiglochart No1 bridge. Grade 2+, water clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm, nor-westerly winds.
Number on Trip: 11.
Time on River: 2.5 hours.
Comments: 7km bed rock gorge from power station to picnic area, finished just before dark, nice cruisy run but probably better with more time and water, very tired by finish, lots of flat water in the last section, bashed elbow on rock in one rapid.

Date: 8/3/08
River: Clarence River, Kaikoura
River Conditions: 6 cumecs at Jollies (at top of river). Grade 2+, water discoloured.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm, nor-westerly winds.
Number on Trip: 11.
Time on River: 3 hours.
Comments: Last section of the Clarence from Glen Alton Bridge to State Highway 1 bridge, rapids pick up in the later stage with some excellent big wave trains.

Date: 24/2/08
River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 21 cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2+(3), water clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm, gale force nor-westerly winds.
Number on Trip: 11 people doing from Dozy Stream down and 7 just running Maori Gully. Time on River: 3.5 hours.
Comments: We had quite a large group for this trip and it was decided to split into two groups, with one doing multiple gully runs and the other group was keen to go further up and get a longer run in before doing the gully. Those in my car were keen to do a warm up before doing Maori Gully and I wanted to run Devil’s Fang Falls again, so we joined the latter group. Starting at South Branch was mention but in the end it was decided that we would start at Dozy Stream. Nearly everyone was on the water by the time we got back from shuttling the cars. Even Dennis wasn’t keen to run Devil’s Fang Falls (too many rocks exposed), so disappointed I got in below the falls with everyone else. After paddling around feeling a bit bummed out, I decided to run the falls anyway and got out and started walking up the bank. The wind was gale force and it was a real struggle to carry the kayak with out being blown over, so in the end I had to drag it. By the time I had reached the falls, everyone had disappeared from view, off down the river so I decided I just run the staircase on the side rather than the hard drop where there was a possibility of getting stuck. Running the drop was quite exhilarating and I paddled on down the river feeling better.

I caught up with the group at the next rapid just as they were leaving so I had a bit more of a play before carrying on to catch up at the next rapid. This seemed to be a bit of a theme for the trip, with no one keeping an eye on any stragglers. As I was at the rear I kept a watch on anyone other than me that was getting left behind, this included waiting for a good 5 minutes or more after the rest of the group disappeared leaving one guy adjusting his boat on the bank. Admittedly after he was back on the water, he left me behind on the next rapid. The other theme was the gale force winds, these whipped the spray off waves, sending it hurtling down the river like hail stones. It made the trip a lot less fun as paddling upstream meant battling against the wind as well as the current.

When we got to Seawards we had a bit of a break while one of the vehicles was shuttled and lunch was retrieved and then it was back on the water. Not one of the better trips through Maori Gully as the wind interfered with a certain amount of play and made some of the eddy hopping pretty difficult. Some of the highlights were jumping over the middle of Simon’s hole (at low flows this doesn’t seem to cause much in the way of problems) and catching Grandstand eddy and watching everyone go past from its entrance above the drop. I also tried to catch the right hand eddy below the Elevator (or if Grandstand eddy is on the Elevator, then the other main drop), tried to boof in from above, realised that this would actually work at the lip and dropped straight into the hole. I flipped but quickly rolled up, to be flipped again as I was side surfing the hole upside-down. My paddle caught the green water current and this dragged me out of the hole so I could roll properly, which was pretty cool, it was the first time in a while that I had got stuck in a decent hole. We also had a good play at the pop up spot and tried some stern turns at another eddy line somewhere so it was a pretty good day out despite the wind.

When we got out and headed back to the cars, we found half the other group waiting in the shade having only done one run down the gully, after which a few people just headed back to town, so I was glad we got a bit of extra paddling in. We stopped off at the Nor-Wester for drinks and bumped in to Erik from Film Soc, who had just returned from a tramping club trip to Mt Cass. Apparently the Nor-Wester is a popular watering hole for a number of different groups.

Date: 9/2/08
River: Waimakariri River, Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 34 cumecs at State Highway One Bridge. Grade 2, water clear.
Weather Conditions: Overcast with sunny periods, warm with light nor-easterly winds.
Number on Trip: 2 safety kayakers plus over 800 competitors.
Time on River: 13 hours.
Comments: This year I got to take part in the Coast to Coast, together with Lisa F, we helped keep the competitors safe from a nasty willow sieve close to the finish. I spent around 13 hours on the river and didn’t get off until it was almost dark and everyone had packed up, still I had plenty of food and I didn’t have to sit in my kayak the whole time so it was quite a nice day out. No one had any problems at our spot but we did see the evidence of upstream carnage in the form of ample duct tape on some boats. Only two paddlers decided to shoot the gap between the top two sets of willows, fortunately both successfully as failure could have easily been lethal. Most of the top paddlers ignore the upstream instructions but safely avoided the willows, while the the rest of the field took the safer but slightly slower route we marked out. We spotted Chris P and Kerry H paddle past, but neither Kerry nor myself spotted our Outward Bound instructor, Roger, who was racing as part of a mixed team. I parked my car in the wrong place and someone had to break in using a wire to move it. When I parked it at 6am there was nothing there so I parked it well off the road near a fence around a paddock, hopefully well out of the way. However they removed the fence and the paddock became a car park for support people so my car was in just the wrong place, oops. Was pretty exhausted by the end of the whole thing, getting up at 4:30am will do that, on the river by 7:30am, in position and set up by 9am and the first competitor went by at almost 12:30pm so I could have had a sleep in after all.

Date: 17/1/08
River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 26 cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2+(3), water clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm, strong nor-westerly winds.
Number on Trip: 10 people (3 on a cataraft) with 9 running Maori Gully.
Time on River: 4 hours.
Comments: Hugh organised a trip down the Hurunui for a Radio New Zealand reporter covering the Hurunui Water Conservation Order application and we tagged along to provide safety and background interest. Pat provided some good coaching and plenty of tips as I followed him down the river catching as many eddies as possible in Maori Gully. I also got help out with a few rescues (my first in a while), included Per after watching him tip over as I waited with Pat in Grandstand Eddy. Pat saw him go over and asked if Per could roll, I replied “yes but…” and took off in pursuit to help him and his boat over to the river bank. Plenty of playing so we managed to loose Hugh and the raft by the half way mark and by the time we got of the river, the cataraft had be disassembled and carried up to the cars, much to our relief.

Date: 13/1/08
River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, NZ
River Conditions: 24 cumecs at Mandamus. Grade 2+(3), water clear.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm, some nor-westerly wind gusts.
Number on Trip: 9 people with 8 running Maori Gully.
Time on River: 4 hours.
Comments: Per got a few people together for a Sunday Hurunui trip as there was not club trip set until well into the new year. It was a beautiful day on the Hurunui and things were pretty busy at the put in, with at least two other groups of paddlers plus some family groups enjoying the river on a hot summer day. On the way up to Jollie Brook we stopped off at the new rapid (now called Devil’s Fang Falls) above the Dozy Stream put in and discussed the best strategy for running it. At 20 cumecs, the left hand channel looked pretty boily and the right hand channel looked very rocky with a rooster tail forming on the fang at the bottom. The staircase on the far left hand channel looked good, if there was enough water to get to it.

Back at the put in, I went round and talked to the other groups of paddlers to make sure they were aware of the new rapid. The two guys with the Dancers hadn’t paddled the Hurunui in twenty years and were very pleased to hear about the changes before they got to discover them by surprise.

Ran the shuttle and drove my car back up to Jollie Brook then got on the river. Nice run down the river with plenty to do. We met the guys in the Dancers later on and they were pleased that they had know about and were able to walk around Devil’s Fang Falls and they thanked us for saving there lives! Not much playing on the Magic Roundabout as it was full of river bugs! Jumped Simon’s Hole in a show of bravado and then eddy hopped my way down Maori Gully.