Conners first whitewater kayaking experience

I always love introducing new people to the sport of kayaking, so recently I made it a nice cold mission to introduce my friend Conner to our sport during her stay in New Zealand.
We started out with Paddleboarding in the ocean where she proved to have incredible balance, confidence and a decent paddle stroke, even in the cold pacific on a frosty morning. This was a good insight to the fact she was ready for a challenge and willing to push past any fear she may have.

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I knew that she had some experience in a lake but never in a river or whitewater, so we started out the week on one of my favourite beginner runs, the mighty Hawea. We had a quick run through on the gear as we suited up and she jumped in the Karma as her weapon of choice. A great stable boat that’s easy to manoeuvre and has length speed to make it through any holes/waves that we faced.

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When taking someone whitewater kayaking for the first time you generally noticed one of three personalities in a person… Quiet and nervous, loud and acting overconfident in an attempt to hide fear, or comfortable and listening in a positive vibe for the experience ahead.

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Conner was confidently ready to just go out in the current and give it her best shot, whilst also nervous for the cold water beneath her.

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I quickly explained eddy lines and the way to approach them. She was so confident that she charged straight out at it and unfortunately caught her edge and flipped instantly. She did a successful wet exit and swam safely with her feet up as we talked about earlier. I got her to shore and she was unbelievably positive about the experience, despite the cold and once her boat was emptied out she was keen to carry on downstream which had me feeling good about her attitude towards kayaking.

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Conner showed strong spirits on the way down, although I sensed some nerves while she was quiet. Like any new kayaker she found her boat turning different ways to what she wanted but the longer we paddled the better she was getting with her boat control.

Conner successfully ran all the rapids. Her favourite being the longest and hardest one two thirds of the way down. After it she was in high spirits and opted to hop out of her boat and take photos underwater (the water being still just as cold!) before hoping back in to carry on down to the waves.

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Once we got to the waves at the Playpark I gave her the option to check them out before she chose to run them but she decided she didn’t want to. She just wanted to charge them following my lead. So off we went after a couple tips and she made it through the first wave/hole no trouble. The second wave was definitely a harder line with water currents pushing different directions on the boat as you charge downstream.
She made it through only to begin to catch an edge after. Unable to save it, she took the plunge. Another successful wet exit and with radiating a smile floating around the water, she told me she wanted to run the last rapid again. We did so and she made it through up right.

We were now at the takeout and spirits were strong. I was stoked with how well she paddled and how she
handled herself when things didn’t always go as successful as she had hoped. We carried our boats back up to the car with numb feet and warmed ourselves up before loading up for the evening.

Who are you going to take out for their first time?

Courtney Kerin

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