Keep Calm and Kayak On! - New Zealand Kayak Magazine

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Keep Calm and Kayak On! - New Zealand Kayak Magazine

Keep Calm and Kayak On!Sarah Holmes and Emma Millen started at Lake Taupo andpaddled to the very end of the Waikato River at Port Waikato.“They said it couldn’t be done, but we knew we could do it. We knewwe had the fitness, skills and above all determination on our side tomake it happen, but more than that we chose to do it as we couldn’t findany record of anyone completing the challenge – let alone two females- in six days.”These are the motivational words of two Auckland women who hadoriginally made a pledge to kayak the mighty Waikato, New Zealand’slongest river, in ten days. Sarah Holmes and Emma Millen would startas close to the source as possible at Lake Taupo and paddle to the veryend, where crystal-clear, fresh water becomes the salty expanse of theTasman Sea at Port Waikato.Why? Why not? The 22-year old fitness fanatics, who have been firmfriends since childhood, are very much of the ‘life is for living’ brigade,in their case the seed was sown back in 2011 when Sarah tragically losther mum Michelle after a lengthy battle against depression. Emma hadalso seen her own mother suffering with different medical battles and sothe planning phase commenced, with the theme ‘Doing it for the Mums’at the forefront of their minds. Unlike most challenges of this naturesponsorship was never an issue.“It wasn’t about raising money” said Sarah, a Personal Trainer, “It wasall about raising the profile of depression in New Zealand and abouthow important our mums are.”The planning phase was completed quickly by Emma, a professionalkayaker. Mapping out the journey, calculating the daily route down tothe minute and giving consideration to logistics, nutrition and above allsafety was paramount for Emma, “We knew that we had to averageseven kilometres an hour, ten hours a day or we wouldn’t do it. Wewanted to be the first and fastest, however my goal was to do it safelyor not at all”.Even as they made their way to Taupo with their Support Team therewere those that doubted it could be done (including the author of thisarticle!) At approximately 425 kilometres this was certainly a challenge,but mid morning on Boxing Day 2012, as most people were recoveringfrom Christmas Day and wondering how many alternative meals theycould make out of a turkey, the girls slipped quietly onto the lake andpaddled to the centre in their white water boats . Avoiding a Cessna 206float plane as it skimmed across the water on landing was to set thescene in an unexpected fashion, typically the duo saw the funny sideand ploughed on regardless – Keep Calm and Kayak On!The first stage to conquer was the initial rapids section to Reid’s Farmand then sensibly abandon all hope of cascading over the Huka Falls.Emma took the rapids in her stride whilst Sarah, a comparative novicebattled through until she came to grief near the world-famous HukaLodge Hotel. A brief portage to the safer side of the daunting falls sawsome deft abseiling as the girls lowered themselves and their equipmentwww.kayaknz.co.nzISSUE SIXTY Nine • Autumn 2013 9


Tui ExcelPenguinShearwaterSkuaA versatile, go anywherekayakA tried and true winner that deliversaffordable excellenceA proven design that justgot betterAn exceptionalperformance sea kayakSouthern EndeavourFor all the kayak specs. and stockists,visit www.q-kayaks.co.nz or phone 06 326 8667Skua - 1st Plastic Sea Kayak -Trans Taupo Race 2011- Circumnavigation around the South Island.www.kayaknz.co.nzISSUE SIXTY Nine • Autumn 2013 11


Hamilton and Huntly and on Day Five they reached Mercer. It was NewYear’s Eve 2012. As revellers danced the night away oblivious of themassive effort, the girls grabbed some brief sleep; they knew that thefollowing day, in order to beat the tide, they would have to start early.“We were exhausted and the pressure we had put ourselves underwas starting to show – I knew how close we were, we had reduced thejourney from ten to six days and we were in striking range. For the firsttime I felt we might have set the benchmark,” said Emma.At 2.30am New years Day 2013, surrounded by mist they set off,Emma’s father acting as a guide in the family boat, torches lighting theway. Emotions were high as the pair dug deep and paddled againstthe flow, passing old training grounds in Franklin; near now, near to thefinish. White caps were whipped up by the 20 knot wind as they finallysaw the sand bar that crosses the river and announces the end of thejourney. They had made such good time that they had to paddle aroundthe river mouth until the immensely-proud welcoming committee arrived.Reunited with their families, the girls collapsed onto the beach, shookhands, hugged and then nodded to one another before sprinting tothe sea.“We were shattered but we had made a pact to leap into the ocean– we knew that our mums would be incredibly proud of what we hadachieved. It was at this stage when someone shouted ‘you never knowgirls, you might have set a record…’”Words and images: Mark Bond 2013 ©12 ISSUE SIXTY Nine • Autumn 2013 www.kayaknz.co.nz

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