The summer pastime. By David Williams, OUtdoors New Zealand, general outdoors instructor and Kayak Instructor for Kokako Lodge Hunua, and AUT University
Sea Kayaking is definitely an all year round sport but is best enjoyed in the summer months. It's an important part of our culture to spend spare summer time recreating on our coastlines and kayaking is a great pastime for anyone to enjoy. Kayaking has many different elements to it, ranging from multi-day solo adventures to exploring what is around the corner with a group of mates. In all cases the kayak offers an exhilarating way to venture out into the wild blue – or in some cases greeny brown…
But the fantastic thing about kayaking is that it won't ever get boring or repetitive because there are so many dimensions to the sport. Kayaking can be done as a solo activity, in a double kayak, with a group of friends or even in a guided trip. Each offers a different experience with a variety of outcomes. It is always good to start kayaking with a friend who has common interests, then as you become more experienced and passionate about the sport, the way to keep it interesting is with new and exciting challenges like solo and multi-day trips. With kayaking progression is a very important factor, as like most outdoor activities, it is dangerous to run before you can walk. Experience on the water will increase your understanding and confidence in the necessary areas like knowledge of ability, fitness, weather and tides. This will ultimately result in increasingly challenging expeditions.
Location and environment are fundamental aspects to consider when planning any voyage as this will also greatly affect the outcome of the trip. Even though it is labeled ‘sea kayaking’, estuaries and rivers can provide a different and fun journey where you can often lose yourself battling through mangroves – and without realising it, start talking like Steve Irwin… Crikey! Paddling down New Zealand’s beautiful coastline and visiting the many offshore islands can be a very humbling experience. Especially in summer and seeing the beautifully vibrant green and red of our native Christmas trees (Pohutakawas) which is exactly what Captain Cook first gazed upon in the late 1760’s.
Personally the reason I enjoy kayaking is because it’s a chance to get away from the everyday stresses of life. Being out on the water, miles from home and nothing I can do about it, forces me to take in the surroundings as I bob away in the chop, charging towards my next location with a salt-crusted smile. By dragging a lure behind I have the excitement of knowing that at any moment it could take off with a buzz and hopefully end up providing some fresh dinner wrapped in tin foil and cooked over a crackling fire on some Island whose name I can't even pronounce.
A key thing about New Zealand is that you are never more than a few hours drive from the coast. We forget that many countries either have no coast at all or if they do it's not easily accessible, so we should be grateful for how lucky we are and utilise the awesome bounty we have. The great outdoor guru Graeme Dingle says that it takes at least 3-4 days to truly escape society and find serenity, and I believe one of the most effective ways to achieve this is in a kayak. So no excuses, go and get amoungst it!