Palmerston North Paddlers

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Hello all. I'm a paddler from the US (Minnesota, specifically), with a pretty solid base of experience in Class III-IV whitewater, in river-running, playboating, and creeking. I'm flying into NZ around July 4 and will be going to school in Palmy through November. I'd really like to hit the water as much as possible. So, a few questions:

1. I'm planning on feeling things out, then shipping my gear if it looks like I'll be able to paddle a lot. Good idea?

2. I won't have a boat, but am hoping to either get a blem from Bliss Stick since thier factory is so close or maybe just work for them for a few weekends to earn money towards a boat. I have a creeker but I'm in the process of selling my playboat, since I'm starting to out-play it. Also a good idea?

3. Are there a lot of paddlers in Palmy or in the area? I need some contacts.

I guess that's all for now. Any advice would be appreciated, and hopefully I'll see some of you on the water this season.