Thursday, March 27, 2014

Kiwi Adventures

Last March I made my first trip to New Zealand when Jason Searle invited me over to train with him. He took me on a 3 week 'non stop' adventure sport tour of the North and South Island and I absolutely fell in love with the place (see the March 2013 blog link for my blog on our adventures).

This year i'm back to train with Jason again and the fun has just continued.


I arrived at Queenstown airport to by greeted by Jason and one of the most incredible airport views ever. Everywhere I looked there was snow capped Alpine style mountains cutting through the bright blue sky. Stunning. The drive from the airport up to the Hawea waves reminded me exactly why I love this place, natural beauty at its best. Big lakes, crisp blue rivers and 360 degrees of mountains still in their natural form. Most of which have been untouched, no roads, cable cars, houses just mountains and hills.

Morning view from Jason's place

After just over an hour of driving we were at our destination. Kitting up quickly we jump straight onto the Hawea river and hit the waves.

Loving life at the Haweas

Courtney throws a huge loop

3 hours of non stop loops, blunts, cartwheels and mcnasty's later and we're knackered. My longest and most productive freestyle training session in almost 3 months. The waves are even better than I remembered and it felt so good being able to train properly again. The next few days pass in a blur. Boating every day we make the most of the chance to train on such great features.

Claire O cartwheel in the top hole
It's rare to get a training venue like this, where the wave training and hole training is on an equal par and both in the same place. We mix up each session we do switching between the two features, which are only 100m apart, working on move after move. Its great to be back training again and its impressive to see how much Jason has progressed. He's been training hard all year and spent the last 3 weeks at the waves and it really shows. The difficulty and variety of moves he can now throw is so much higher than only a year ago. He's training for and looking like he'll be a very strong contender for the NZ National Championship title at the end of the month.

Jas cruisng check out the reflection

The weekend quickly comes and the number of people at the wave picks up. There's kids, adults, beginners, pro's, body boarders, surfers, sunbathers. bikers, photographers, mums and dads. Its great to see the river community that has developed here. Its crazy to think that just over a year ago this feature didn't even exist.

Courtney tears up the wave as I surf and take pics

I met back up with my good friend and NZ National Champion Courtney Kerin and the fantastic Rayner family and we kick start the weekend with a great morning mountain biking on some incredible single track runs before heading to the river. After paddling we spend a night hanging out with a great group of local paddlers in Wanaka. Where we get invited to go watch the NZ National Rodeo championships (Cowboy style not kayaking this time), hike up Mount Iron and paddle the local grade 2 river run.

The Wanaka Rodeo

Mary shows us here local MB runs

Top of Mount Iron

On the Sunday I work with Courtney back at the Hawea waves and we coach the local kayaking kids. Most of whom I know from last year and a few who came with us and competed at the World Championships in the States. In total we have 14 juniors train with us over the weekend which shows the strength and development of the freestyle here in NZ. As the weekend draws to an end we hear word that the dam's not going to be releasing much water this week so we stay on the water as long as we can surfing the waves. Before making the decision to head to the coast to visit Courtney’s family and home town.

Coaching young paddlers at the waves

Courtney's from a small coastal town called Oameru which is famous for it Penguins, farming and coastline. So we spend a fun few days driving tractors and quad bikes around their farm. Cruising along the countryside in Courtney's Uncle Kev's convertible BMW sports car. Keeping fit with some stand up paddle boarding sessions in the harbour, trampolining at the local gym and workouts and runs along the beach. We ride penny farthings and the steam punk train in the old town. Look visit the Marrachi boulders and look at the white stone carvings and other local produce in the shops. 

Driving Uncle Kev's Tractor

Quad biking round the farm

Driving Uncle Kev's Sports Car

Cruising in the sports car

Omaeru Steam Punk Train

Flips n Tricks

Fun Times

Marakki Boulders

Massive Marraki Boulders


We watch the little blue penguins, seals and a possum at the local animal sanctuary. Then see yellow eye penguins, more seals and a dolphin under a massive rainbow as we walk along the coast. This is my first time to this area and, like every other part of New Zealand I have seen so far, its stunning. Miles and miles and miles of beautiful unspoilt beaches covered in seals and birds and a bright blue sea stretching out into the Abyss.



Rainbow, surf and a dolphin in the distance

Courtney being a Yellow Eye Penguin


Its just amazing view after amazing view

Then we hear word that the waves are coming back in. So we pack up and make the drive back along the Landis Pass cutting our way through a valley surrounded by more mountains, rivers and lakes back to the Hawea and start training once again. Before we know it the trips is almost over. Jez flys in to join us for the last few days.

Back in the valley

Jez going big

Claire O having a go at some new moves

Jez arrives in NZ
Fun in the sun

NZ time

Its his first trip to the South Island so we make it a good one giving him a  'non stop' action filled few days of stunning views, amazing mountain biking and other kiwi adventures. He loves it and as we fly back home to Australia we already begin to plan out next trip to NZ.

New Zealand Life

Life is good :)

Checking out from NZ until next time...

Photos by Claire O, Jason and Jez. More epic photos by Jez coming soon.