This is about the progression down a river or creek that unites people no matter who they are. While in the realm of downstream movement, nothing else matters, it's you, your friends, nature and your combined actions that creates Downstream Movement.
The Waitaha was the river of choice for my first heli-kayaking experience here in New Zealand. That high-water day will forever be ingrained into my head as an un-forgettable day and one helluva eye-opening experience. Later in the season we returned to the river, at much lower flow and had quite a different style day...
Bruce Dando and Kevin England, two legends in their own respects sharing a moment of passion, joy and excitement.
Kev showed up at my house one day with this photo from the day printed out poster size. (Chur bro!) It now hangs on my wall and allows me to awake each morning in a helicopter, flying up one of the sikest days of whitewater in the world!
I guess for Bruce, the excitement of riding in a helicopter has died down over the years. When you fly with him, he's as cool as a mobster (in his own west-coast Kiwi mobster style.) But every time I am in, or even just watching the helicopter I get all giddy inside...anticipating the day's action, like a bird soaring up a river valley (everybody dreams of flying!)...or maybe it's just the fumes?
I quite like this picture of Kev, running one of the most infamous drops on the Coast...Nikki's Drop. Named after the world-renowned Kiwi phenom, Nikki Kelly, it is located not only on one of the sikest rivers in the world, but in quite a picturesque spwot!
Here I am on the same drop, wishing I had a paddle blade in the water, not on rock! (Photo by Kev)
The lower flow enabled us to enjoy our surroundings a bit more than the first time I was on the river. Here we have Kev following Eden and Barney into one of the most majestic gorges I've ever imagined. The combined effect of being walled-in, the sun shining through and off the many waterfalls pouring in from the gorge walls, and the breathtaking color of the water kind of makes you feel rather lucky to be alive, let alone witness such amazing places.
Here we have Hokitika homegrown, Eden Sinclair, cruising out of the first of the three "crux" back-to-back-to-back rapids. While, un-like my first run, there was time and more eddies between the rapids, the consequences and threats of missing your line or eddy were still as great as ever.
Kev England charges the second of the mighty three, with the entrance of the third rapid in-sight, just downstream. This drop, (run on the right this time, as opposed to the left line taken at higher water) involved quite a cool s-turn, edge-transition entrance move (seen directly in front of Kev's bow here) which set you up perfectly at the lip of quite a cool boof.
Barn-Dogg, in da' house, settin' her up for success...something he does best!
I stitched together these images Kev shot of me to give a different perspective on the drop. A lot of folks think that stitched shots where you can see the stitches (or edges of the original pics) are unprofessional, or look bad. I on the other hand quite like the original, un-tainted feel they bring...or maybe that's just me making up excuses for not being some Photoshop pro!
Barnabus Young, driving hard above the entrance hole in rapid #3 of the set, the Cave. Needless to say, this has to be one of the most intimidating rapids on the run. When yer where Barney is in this picture, you feel like you're about to be eaten by some mythical monster...but you know if you partake in one helluva strong charge-fest, you'll be spat out the other end. If not, I don't even want to think about what the beast's belly looks like!
Mr. Sinclair again, this time performing a spot-on seal launch in the last gorge above Morgan's Gorge. The moment freezed in time here is quite a nerve racking one for many paddlers, as not only do you need to clear the rocks at the base of the wall, but you must also avoid getting shot into that little pocket up against the wall just downstream of where you land!
Barney pulling up..."Mommy, Daddy, come and look at me now...I'm a big man in a great big town...Years ago who would believe it's true...Goes to show what a little faith can do...up up up up up up up UP!" (Photo by Kev)
Barney Young, the entertainer. There's nothing quite like going on a river trip with this man, if there's one thing that's guaranteed...you're sure to laugh and smile! Eden knows knows what I'm talking about, and neither of these boys should be smiling as much as they are before the portage they're about to do!
The portage around Morgan's gorge has a track, but it is un-doubtably a NZ track...which means it's not really much of track, and is easily lost when attempting to follow. However, the rewards of your efforts are well worth the pain. This is facing upstream from the point where you first see the river again. Sieve Salad anyone?
If you look closely at the previous Sieve Salad photo you can see Kev, who scrambled down to river level to see what he could see. This shot by him, looks back up at Barney, Eden and I scouting the run-out rapid of the gorge. We were all experiencing one of those amazingly unique, mixed feelings, only felt in kayaking...a combination of exhaustion, apprehension, excitement and mystery.
The same moment in time, brought to you from my perspective. The decision was made to run the last rapid, a first for Eden, Barney and I. It was a most satisfying end to yet another incredible day of paddling on the Coast.
As I write that last sentence though, I wonder...Does paddling such quality whitewater, in such gorgeous settings, on such a regular basis take away from its meaning, significance or importance? Paddling has always been an obsession for me, but I wonder if paddling less adds more meaning to each time you get out and paddle...or if paddling regularly satisfies the soul on a more regular basis, therefore creating greater happiness?
"Ya paddled much big water?" These were the words of Kevin England as we pulled the cars over to peer into the guts of the Nevis Bluff rapids on the Kawarau River. Kev, Barney and JJ discuss the game plan.
This is Paul Current. He likes to smile...and style difficult whitewater...sometimes he combines these two hobbies. It's quite the spectacle to watch.
PC punches through the entrance hole guarding the start of the Bluff. Your success on this move determines if the rest of your run will be full of panic or relaxation...sort of.
About to drop into the crux hole of the rapid, P-to-the-C reaps the rewards of a styley entrance. "Hey-diddle-diddle, right down the middle!"
Speaking of Hey-diddle-diddle, Mr. I've-got-a-riddle...Barney Young sets up to punch the first hole. A punch he will get.
I always enjoy paddling a wide variety of styles of whitewater, just to keep ya on yer toes. Too much of one style will draw blinders over a paddlers eyes, making kayakers more like horses rather than donkeys. Donkeys don't wear blinders. Here's a picture of the post-bluff carnage footy review...the real carnage came later that night. (Photo by Kev)
The Dogleg put-in scene, post-carnage and after a couple mid-day Bluff runs. This session on the Do-Little-Do-Nothing Wave was made possible by Matt McCloud. Thanks Matt, for the van full of playboats, the hospitality, the crashes and everything else during our stay(s) in Queenstown!!!
Following that perfect blend of blue weather, we once again found ourselves in Fiordland gearing up on the banks of the Hollyford...This time upstream, on the mighty Monkey Creek section.
And if the people of the party are feeling hardy tonight... This is one of the first long, complex rapids you come to on Monkey Creek, it really sets the tone for a run that ranks up there with any of the classic Coast runs. (Photo by Kev)
The Hollyford River valley after a good rain is one of the most magical places I've ever paddled. Every glimpse out of the tree-lined river bank you get, has one of the tallest waterfalls I've ever seen perfectly framed in it.
Dave Kwant, charging the burl to avoid burling the charge. (Photo by Kev)
This unsuspecting double drop is placed precariously at the top of a rather perplexing mumble jumble of a rapid. Not the most uncommon sight on Monkey Creek. (Photo by Kev)
More gorgeous waterfalls provide a surreal backdrop to more fantabulous rapids. The exit of this rapid which Dave is entering was one of the sikest boofs on the river...S-turn into a white-out charging left auto-air. Tasty, but I was too slow on the trigger to provide any visuals.
Some rocks are good rocks, and some rocks are bad rocks...it is amazing how fast a good rock can become a bad rock. PC finds no bad rocks...and is thankful.
After Monkey Creek, we headed back north in a chase of the last of the water to the put-in of the Nevis River. On the way, this van depicted a typical conversation with one of our beloved crew members...Mr. Baranabus Young.
Following a highly amusing drive the night before, we woke to a river level dropping off towards the low side of ideal. But thanks to some inspiration from this feller, Mr. Matt McCloud, we opted to still give 'er the ol' college try...level be damned! To roughly quote Tommy Hilleke, "I've never been disappointed by making the decision to go kayaking."
The Barn-Dogg eying up another chunker of a rapid, somewhere in the midst of the never-ending Nevis action. Big ups to Mr. Kevin England, who took this and the remaining pictures of our trip down the Nevis.
"Welsh Matt" opting for a slightly different angle on the same drop.
An absolutely classic representation of Barney's unique heart of gold, personality and style. The only thing unrepresented here is the volume at which smack is spewed out of that gaping mouth!
Cranking one out, at the end of the same, long mamajama.
Appearing only after heavy rainfall, these desert flowers are often found sprouting up in some of the most harsh environments on earth.
Due to its guidebook fame, climaxing location on the run, and its mere size, Big Brother could easily be considered the Nevis River's most infamous rapid. Giving his chops a rest, Barnabus' boat loudly persuaded anyone else from attempting the left "slot."
Sometimes a suspected boof becomes a toosh, and sometimes a suspected toosh can transform into a boof. Here, I experience the later.
The Nevis flows into the Kawarau River just above Citroen Rapid. Below Citroen lies Retrospect, arguably the Kawarau's largest rapid. After a false end to our day, we were rallied to continue downstream by a large floatila of Central Otago's finest rapid riders partaking in a stag-due for Mr. Kent Huxford. Here we have the likes of Dylan Thompson making the crux move on the frothing monster.
The Longman Antz, of Cumec Magazine fame, improvising a rather styley line through the maw. In an attempt at making a new "down the meat" line, the remainder of Team Nevis (Kev and I) failed to represent in the style department.
The Stag himself, after paddling all the whitewater on the Kawarau River had only just begun his evening!
To conclude this evening's concerto I will leave you with few points of interest...
It's known world-wide that Kiwis are some of the most hard-out mo-fo's out there. This was recently confirmed by my good friend and flatmate, Dr. Simon Hensen, who despite having a broken leg still rallied and came kayaking with us down the Huranui. Good on ya mate!
Kiwis are also rather legendary for their unique sense of humor...which is demonstrated below. This actually has everything to do with kayaking, at the same time as having nothing...
And lastly, having nothing to do with Kiwis, or New Zealand... Another good mate of mine, Joey Hall, has recently produced a new website for his company Deadman Productions. Deadman is a sort of bastard child of all of Joey's combined talents, which include graphic design, illustration, web design, video production, and more. The new site sports samples of his past work, (like the rad-as design pictured above...everyone should write Joey and get him to make a Deadman t-shirt with this design on it!) and also includes ramblings, a Top 5, a "Mix of the Week" and more. Mixed tapes are BACK!!!! Check the freshness HERE!
This past summer I joined the likes of Paul Current, Jason Jason Sheperd, Kevin England, Barnabus Young, and David Kwant for a trip down to Central Otago and Fiordland...the Marion Creek section of the Hollyford River was the first river we got on. Enjoy...
The shades of blue foreshadow blue emotions…not for, or even about the kayaking (or the sandlflies for that matter!) but rather towards the damage of thousands of dollars worth of multi-sport gear. It would all be worth it in the end.
Different shades of blue over Lake Wanaka foreshadow the sweet-as weather and days to come. (Good weather for kayaking balances a perfect blend of blue...blue rain drops, followed by clear blue skies!)
After being stunned by the beauty of Lake Wanaka, we crested a ridge to find the eqaully gorgeous Lake Hawea resting underneath the evening shadows and cotton candy.
The next morning we entered Fiordland...
A unique place to say the least. As well as containing some of the most magestic mountins in NZ, Fiordland also boasts roadside whitewater! Roadside Class V...in New Zealand? The group unloads at the get-in to the Marion Creek section of the Hollyford River.
Like a grandfather's fragile wrinkly fingers, the limbs of the native bush and trees hang over the river as if to radiate wisdom and positive spirits out through their fingertips.
Like many classic NZ rivers the Hollyford doesn't showcase any large single huckster drops, but instead provides the continuous, technical more "rapid-running" style of whitewater that pushes a paddler more in a holistic sense. Dave Kwant shimmer-shines a boof off the first ledge of the river.
A man who is guaranteed to take fewer strokes than you and still keep it more styley, Mr. JJ Sheperd, working through the top of a hover-o-matic S-turn kinda sort of rapid...ish...thing.
"I keep my cup raised up..." Kev England, keepin' it up when he needs it up most!
The addictiveness of kayaking is sometimes compared to a drug addict's addiction to drugs. While that might not present the healthiest image, it portrays the seriousness of the matter. Unlike drugs however, kayaking provides that "fix" to the addict in a much healthier manner. Here we have Kev England, who can't see past his next fix...his "own worst enemy." Check out Spencer Cooke's well-written words on this topic, of what he describes as his "problem."
Here we have PC dropping into the last rapid on the run before the portage. Take notes ya'll, because this outfit is likely to be Hee Haw Jones approved!
PC on the second half of the same rapid, in a real "Go Left and Die" scenerio. Unlike in the Northern Hemisphere, you do actually go right!!!
Post-river, before driving through Homer Tunnel, this "spwot" confirmed that Fiordland's scenery was unlike anything I've ever seen before! 20,000 years ago glaciers carved these steep valley walls, leaving behind some of the tallest waterfalls in world, as well as this snow-bridge, and a heard of big woolly mammoths...who still wore their coats, even though it was the middle of summertime!
Milford Sound in all her beauty. The clouds were alive on this day, so I'd recommend checking out my NZ "South Island" Video Journal for better visuals of the magic, as well as footage from the Hollyford River.
While in many aspects very different from the Sierras, Fiordland presents a similarly enchanting feel. John Muir would've loved it here..."I know that our bodies were made to thrive only in pure air, and the scenes in which pure air is found." This is a scene where pure air is found.
Stay tuned for more pure air thoughts and images from this southward bound roadie!
In the NEWS side of things...
Kev England runs Maruia Falls at really high water! No, actually that's not news, but I like the shot and it gives me a chance to announce the creation of my latest video on Rapid Transit Video...
Check out www.rapidtransitvideo.com to watch Volume III of my New Zealand Video Journal..."Stayin' South." In this video you will be able to watch footage from that high-water day at Maruia, as well as much much more...its sure not to be a bore! But thanks to Reading Rainbow..."You don't have to take my word for it!"