Monday, May 12, 2008

Photo Extravaganza: Waitaha River, West Coast, NZ

For video footage of this day and others on NZ's South Island, check out my video library at Rapid Transit Video.

"The world was moving, she was right there moving and she was..." "She," could be a number of things in this photo. A specific she, though, that you might be interested in is the river. I will quote the mighty Tommy Tsunami..."Sometimes you have to acknowledge the fact that she, the river, is mightier than we." She the river, in this case, is the Waitaha River.

This is how the beautiful people get to the river. By dragonfly, by death egg, by lawn-mower engine powered plexi-glass bubble. Call it what you will, I would call it amazing. This photo was taken by Kev England. Many of the photos of the day were taken by Kev. Thanks Kev, the world thanks you.

There are moments in time when reality hits you across the head with a baseball bat. In New Zealand, and maybe England as well, actually India too, this baseball bat might be traded for a cricket bat. Anyways, the bat hits you and you are suddenly aware of the situation you are in. This hit comes while heli-boating when you realize that you are offically in the middle of nowhere. The helicopter flies away and the sound of its whizzing blades disappear, silence sets in, the bat swings and it never misses your head. Dave Kwant ignores the ringing under his helmet. (Photo by Kev)

If it looks like the water which Dave is boofing into is angry, that is because it is. Dave's not angry though, he's probably happy...very happy. (Photo by Kev)

One of the funniest parts about kayaking, to me, is that it takes us to so many gorgeous places. (That has been said so many times now, it is past cliché.) But what I find funny, is that while we are in these places, we barely take the time to look around and appreciate the beauty. For example, I think this is one of the only pictures that even has a landscape-like backdrop. And it doesn't even begin to show how amazing this river valley is! (Photo by Kev)

This is a photo of yours truly, in a section on the Waitaha that is amazingly awesome. Three drops stacked one, by two, by three on top of each other make one helluva rapid running experience. This is drop number two. (Photo by Kev)

Sometimes when running scary whitewater it is hard to look at what you are doing, people often close their eyes after they take their boof stroke and just hold on. Dave Kwant doesn't mind looking, he just doesn't like people looking at him, so he hides. Dave Kwant hiding on the same #2 drop. (Photo by Kev)

Dave's after-glow upon running the #2 drop. By the expression on his face it is hard to tell whether he is just excited about running the #2 drop, or if he has just dropped a #2. (Photo by Kev) This drop has parts that are border-lining on becoming an unflushable #2...we avoided these said spots. AVOID THE UNFLUSHABLE #2!!!

Actually, this could quite possibly be another spot where Dave has just dropped a #2. It is hard to tell though, because we cannot see his face. (Photo by Kev...again, and again, and again, and again...) This is the #3 drop in the amazing series of whitewater rapids, it is sometimes referred to as "the Cave Rapid"...for obvious reasons. Yes, the next step is to paddle through. And yes, it gets dark...and scary.

"I have SEEN the light!!!" JJ Sheperd emerges from the cave and boofs one horrendous hole. This hole has claimed many unsuspecting paddlers, and makes me sweat just looking at this picture. The preferred line is a bit further to river right, but is ridiculously hard to get to, because of a number of factors...the fact that you have just come out of a friggin' cave, and yer mostly just happy to see daylight again, as well as the current, which is pushing hard left, and your mind, which is really just trying to concentrate on timing that oh-so-important boof stroke, which will hopefully carry you over that horrible looking backwash! I am now sweating.

This is a mountain's fingernail, which has fallen off. Or maybe was ripped off. If your fingernail were this big, think about how bad it would hurt if someone ripped it off. I'd probably pour water over it too. (Photo by Kev)

This is another picture of me, avoiding another big hole, with another mean backwash. (Photo by Kev) Like most photos, these do not do diddly-sqwat for justice of the power of these life sucking hydraulics.

After the rapid with another mean hole in it, we went through this slot on the right. It wasn't a very tight slot, and it had a lot of water going through it. I'm pretty sure all the lines that we took on this day had a lot of water going through them. Kayaking was originally intended for rivers with more water than rocks. Only within the past 50 years have human beans started to kayak rivers with more rocks than water. At normal, lower flows, I reckon the Waitaha has more rocks than water. In fact, even on this day when we ran it, I bet there still more rocks than water. But while we were riding the river, our minds were focused more on the water, than the rocks. (Photo by Kev)

Back to that earlier cliché statement about kayaking in pretty places. I remember before flying up the river talking to Kev about the spiritual places we get to experience in our kayaks. The places where only a kayak grants entry, deep down in the butt cracks of the earth. Further down in this gorge, waterfalls pour into the river one after another. I eddied out, and smiling a grin probably a mile wide said to Kev, "This is one of those places!!!" he knew exactly what I was talking about. (Photo by Kev)

There are times as a kayaker, when you see a hole, rock, or obstruction in front of you and you wish you had wings. This is me, trying to grow wings. No Red Bull required. (Photo by Kev)

The plot thickens... This is JJ Sheperd dropping into a rather long, large rapid. At the end of the rapid there is a hole which is pretty much walled-in. Just upstream of where JJ is, there is a seam that sucks you down to China. JJ has just returned to NZ from China.

"Everybody was Kung-Fu fighting, those cats were fast as lightning.
In fact it was a little bit frightening, but they fought with expert timing." JJ emerges from another seam, this time just above the exit hole of the rapid. (Photo by Kev)

An expertly timed boof, with perfect placement. (Photo by Kev)

Dave Kwant was next to drop in. His boof was neither expertly timed, nor perfectly placed. If you compare this photo to the photo above of JJ boofing the same hole, Dave's boof was not that far off. In fact, I reckon his stroke timing was only a few inches premature, his bow is not that much lower than JJ's. But, the resulting freestyle maneuvers that followed Dave's boof stroke however, were far superior to JJ's simple skim over this unique playspot. (Photo by Kev)

Lucky for me, I was still eddied out upstream of the hole in perfect view of a ride that surely would've captured a World Freestyle Championship crown. This ride was followed by the appropriate victory swim, then by this world champion swan dive. (Photo by Kev)

The events that followed this jump got stressful for a bit...and that's an understatement. I learned how to understate from the Kiwis down here; they are the masters of the understatement.

This is at the end of the last gorge before Morgan's Gorge. I saw many things happen from this spot. First, I looked downstream, and saw JJ signaling he had caught Dave's boat. Moments later I heard cursing, turned around, and saw Dave fall down a rock from about 15-20 ft. up. After making sure he was OK, I looked down, and appreciated where we were and that everyone was OK. I laughed and took this picture. I thought about these rocks and how they had a lot less to worry about than us, they'd already been through enough. Actually they'd probably been through a helluva lot more than we just had!

I then watched Kev seal-launch back into the river after all the excitement. I was in awe of life and kayaking at this moment in time.

A tired group, post boat/Dave recovery. "It's all good on the Coast until shit goes down." -JJ Sheperd.

Dave's boat wasn't too happy about the whole episode. It told me.

One gorge still remained on the river...Morgan's Gorge. It was again a stressful gorge for all members of the crew. After over an hour of a grueling portage through thick NZ bush, the "track" (NZ "tracks" are the equivalent to game tracks) dropped down to a cliff overlooking the last rapid of Morgan's Gorge. After close inspection of the rapid, or what we could see of it, and then an evaluation of my physical condition (fatigue, dehydration, mental overloadness) I decided to give it a miss and continue in my own world of portaging hell. Just before I continued on my way I heard the follow conversation take place...

JJ- You gonna run it?
Kev- I'll run it if you run it.
JJ- Ok, but I get to go first, so I don't have to see you get your ass beat in that hole.

Karma ruled over all. While lost, in my portaging hell, I heard a whistle from down inside the gorge. With no way to help, I continued my portage as fast as possible. The following pictures are from Kev, of JJ, paddling the last rapid in Morgan's Gorge...just after JJ swam in the gorge, and self rescued himself and his boat up a crack in the side of the river-left cliff wall. If JJ had not had a break-down paddle in HIS boat, he would've had to paddle this by hand. Also of note, is Kev's perspective inside the gorge. After seeing JJ getting beat-down in front of him, Kev paddled the remainder of the rapid and quickly ran/climbed his way back into the gorge to see if JJ was OK. He is probably the only person who has ever stood where he was while taking these photos.

JJ, post swim/ self rescue, dropping into the remainder of Morgan's Gorge.

"White-out, from there on out!"

Paddling out safe and sound, like an ant squirming out from underneath the deep tread of a recently stomped gum-boot.

We made our way down the rest of the remaining whitewater and to the car for a seriously needed sigh of relief. Spirits were high as we reflected on one epic day. It was one of the best days of my life. There were swimmers, there were heroes and there were heli-virgins. But in the end there were just people. Now that's some seriously deep shit!

Speaking of deep shit, this trip report has been made possible by NZ rush hour traffic. Thank you for reading.

Again, video footage of this day and others can be seen at Rapid Transit Video.

This has been Cooper Lambla tellin' you to Big up yo-self, from En Zed. And I'm out.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

More remarkable!!
Beautiful stuff there Coop!!! Love the excitement and tension and appreciation of all things kayaking!
AND, just got my edition of the new "Canoe & Kayak Whitewater" edition and love the photo on the inside back of Pat Keller taken by the truly inspired Cooper!

1:42 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

Thats freeking sweet dude. You are most certainly my hero. Keep the pictures and stories on MRP coming.

Oh yea, and do you have another e-mail address besides your earth link? I sent you one there and it came back saying your account is deactivated for "inactivity".

-Rob Siegel

9:33 AM  

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