Kayaking History

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Hay, does anyone no of any great info sources for first desents, first production of New Zealand boats

matt15's picture

Ask old school paddlers or visit kayak shops. I have done about 5 riversin the Tga region in 9 years

hugh's picture

You have to talk to a whole bunch of paddlers, some older, some younger.

For example, I did a (first?) descent of the Waipara in October 1980 in one of the first plastic Olympias. That's 2 factoids for the price of one.

Graham Charles' guidebook has some good info on first descents on some of the hard @!#$ rivers with first runs in the last 15 years or so. For some of the others you had better hurry because the early explorers are getting on a bit.

There have been maybe 6 phases of river first descents in NZ.

1. Maori - 1000+ years of running rivers in waka and mokihi. Some huge rapids on the Waikato - now drowned by hydro, had Maori names, like Wakarere (flying canoe), so it might just have been paddled way back.

2. Pioneer NZ 1860 to 1910. 1st runs on the bigger rivers like the Wanganui, Waitaki, Waimakariri etc in wooden boats. Some had decks so they could survive rapids.

3. Wood planked and then canvas canoes - 1918 to 1950s - Clarence, lower Mohaka etc

4. 1960- 1980 GRP - fibreglass enabled paddlers to run harder rapids without wrecking their craft. - Lots of grade 3-4 runs, including the Whataroa, Karamea, and NI rivers galore - upper Rangitikei etc. Paddling shifted up a gear in 1972/3 when the Lettman Olymp was built from the Olympic slalom winning design. You spent all week fixing your boat for the next weekend.

5. Plastic - 1980s - Up a grade and more technical - Arahura, Nevis, West Coast gorges etc. Dancers and Olympias and Bandits etc. Paddlers were now the weakest link.

6. Modern era 1990 ++ - short creek boats, better skills, bigger balls? - the upper upper everything. Paddlers now need new skill sets and technology to push the envelope further.

alan.bell's picture

you're on the best site mate - use the search facility on rivers.org