This summer I met BRENT BOURGEOIS, a well known Mount local and we discovered a shared passion for the environment. He had an idea to SUP (stand up paddleboard) from AUCKLAND to TAURANGA and asked if I wanted to come as support crew. Thinking it was ‘just a bit of talk’, I said, “Yeah, for sure.” Brent tagged me on Facebook and announced the paddle, and I thought , “Oh hell!” It was on. The set date: February 23rd. The reason: Because it was there to be done!
DISTANCE TRAVELLED: 65 KM
My upper body was ready, but sitting for so long was going to hurt. We launched just after sunrise with an outgoing tide, passed Rangitoto Island and headed out to the open. I was excited about the marine life, and the Hauraki Gulf did not disappoint. Being tailed by mako sharks and dolphins that put on a spectacular show were highlights. The conditions were silky calm, right up until about 8 km from landing, when the wind picked up. Brent’s focus and strength saw him through to the end, though. We landed at Port Jackson and enjoyed a stunning sunset over a barbeque.
DISTANCE TRAVELLED: 57 KM
Today we really had to watch out for each other, as rounding the point at the top of the Coromandel Peninsula was not for the fainthearted. The swell was around two metres and with confused water coming at all angles, it was one of the scariest moments of my kayaking career. We got through the worst of it to be faced with dark clouds that rolled in fast. The heavens opened and hammered down on us. We were then confronted by a head wind and were quickly running out of time to land. I sat in the kayak for a total of 12 hours solid. And it hurt. Big time. We finally arrived at Opito Bay and I was very happy to fall out of the kayak and onto dry land.
DISTANCE TRAVELLED: 60 KM
I spent last night in a cabin, so a good bed helped to ease my aching and broken body. We set off on yet another pearler of a day, with a plan to stop at Hahei for coffee, then on to our destination at Whangamata. It was all plain sailing until around 5 km out, when a head wind picked up and made for a slow trip in. We powered up with electrolytes and bars to keep us fuelled during these last few kilometres, so we were ‘all smiles’ as we rounded the point to come in for landing. That was, until I saw the surf. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of kayak surfing, but not in a sea kayak with gear onboard and cameras out in the open!
DISTANCE TRAVELLED: 61 KM
My wet shirt made for a slightly uncomfortable start, but it didn’t matter because the surf was still pumping as we walked towards the glowing sunrise. I opted for powering through rather than timing the sets, and it was a refreshing way to wake up. At the southern end of Whangamata, we could just see The Mount! The adrenaline was pumping, and we went for it. After a quick stop for coffee in Waihi Beach, we were ready to tackle anything, even the Bowentown Bar which was just rockin’ and made for some fun surfing. Past 20 km of Matakana Island, Mauao was like a welcoming giant standing above us. Emotions started to flow. I had close friends around The Mount, waving and cheering, and the old eyes were definitely watering. As we drew closer to Pilot Bay, we were met with applause. It took some doing, but we had made it! Life is short. Don’t let it slip by.
TOTAL DISTANCE TRAVELLED: 243 KM