Select Page

February 12, 2005

New Zealand Part 1, 2/6/05


I’m here in Rotorua, where I’ve been for the
past two days. I’ve been getting over a horrible sinus infection for the
past 3 days and haven’t been able to paddle here yet. But I feel much
better today, and hope to paddle tommorow (and just about every day thereafter).
After Penrith, this country seems out of another planet! There is much
more green vegitation, and incredible rolling hills (think Hobbiton from
the Lord of the Rings–which was actually shot very close to here). It’s

Thus far my time here has been spent: sleeping, being
cranky, being tired, trying to limit my exposure to others, eating, taking
medication, and reading. I headed down to watch some friends paddle the
Kaituna today, which got me really excited to paddle tommorow. We plan
on paddling Kaituna tommorow, then Full James on Saturday, then Wairoah
(probably mispelled) on Sunday, then back here for another few days on
Kaituna. I’m psyched! We’re staying in a small cabin on the lake which
the Kaituna drains very close to the put-in. Can’t talk long now because
we’re heading out to a local hot-springs for a soak (think unnaturally-induced
fever to kill infection), then back home for the evening.

This place is cool, though they still insist on driving
on the wrong side of the road. The locals still don’t think it’s funny
when I turn into on-coming traffic by mistake. There are lots of black
geese here. There are palm trees intermingled with other non-palm trees
all over. There are lots of sheep (thankfully behind fences). The rivers
are smaller, and farther between. The country is incredibly beautiful.
Life is a bit more relaxed. See ya!


New Zealand Part 2, 2/8/05


Life is good here in the land of Kiwis. I’m in a backpacker’s
internet cafe in Rotorua again right now. Here are some updates since
last time:

-Devon and I are mostly healthy again after our tragic
battle with a horrible sinus infection. I’ve never been so glad to be
healthy. It’s so good to be able to paddle and move again!

-I’ve run the Kaituna once, and played the hole several
times now. The run is SICK! There’s a 20 foot falls, and several other
creeky-fun rapids in a GORGEOUS canyon in a lush jungle-like atmosphere.
The hole continues to get better as the levels rise. This morning I was
getting phonix monkeys left, lunar orbits both ways, HUGE loops and space
godzillas, and lots of clean and super clean cartwheels left. I love the
video angles on the hole–there are some REALLY cool shots to be had!
It’s also fun watching Devon learn to Phonix Monkey. She’s very close
and will probably be getting them before we leave. Megan is working on
cartwheels and loops, and improving daily. Everyone is learning–this
is a great place to be!!!

-We spent a 1/2 day at Full James at a not-perfect
level. Even though the wave quickly washed-out after we arrived, the water
and scenery was beautiful. We did a bunch of flatwater work on back-deck
rolls and flatwater cartwheels/lean cleans. I then did a mini-clinic on
flatwater cartwheeling for two local teen guys. They had a blast. OUR
are excitedly asking to check them out and demo. It’s pretty cool to have
that kind of buzz here.

-Megan and I ran the Wairoa yesterday, which was substantially
harder and steeper than I had guessed. We met up with Devon 1/2 ways down
at a playwave. It was WAY fun, with several fairly steep boulder rapids
and beautiful surrounds. There were a few 10" falls, and other complex
rapids that were good to go in my All-star. About 100 yards from the put=in
was a SICK hole. As soon as I saw it, I knew that the biggest loop in
the history of the world was going to be thrown in it. The hole was FAST,
steep, and retentive with a tall pile. It was hard to plug an initiation
straight, but I finally got a massive one on my 5th ride. After that loop,
the world will never be the same–it was that big. I’d love to go back
and get one on film, but I’m not sure if our schedule will allow this
as the river only runs 26 days a year. Sorry if I can’t get photos or
video, but you’ll just have to image a short, hairy, hobbit-like guy in
a red All-star looping so high that he’s level with the top of the canyon
walls–100 feet above the water…well maybe not QUITE that big, but it
was huge.

-I’ve now been to 2 hot-springs, which are ALL OVER
the Rotorua area. It feels great to soak after paddling so many hours.
Some of these places are just awesome!

-We’ve been lucky enough to be loaned vehicles from
some VERY generous friends here since we arrived. We’re now in a 89 Mazda
Bongo Deisel van that our friend Jesse left us to sell for him when he
flew back to the states yesterday. It’s AWESOME beyond words with a bed
in the back, shakey roof-racks, and some really intense rattling noises
coming from the worn-out rear U-joint. But it’s perfect for us–I couldn’t
ask for more even if we were renting. What fun!

-We’ll be heading down to Gisbourne on the coast to
hang out with some good friends of Megan’s on wednesday and thursday.
Then Devon and i are coming back up to Kaituna for a few more fun days
before flying back to Sydney on the 14th, then back home on the 15th.

Life is good. this place is incredibly beautiful. I
can’t get enough of the landscape with it’s rolling hills and incredible
plant-life. I’m truly in Middle Earth. Mom would be forced to live here
permanently if she ever visits. Then I could write a country-music song
about my lifes troubles involving my mother leaving the country and abandoning
us and my troubles living in a van down by the river.

More to come. Life is good.


New Zealand Part 3


I’m back in the internet cafe near the grocery store
in Rotorua. Here’s what I’ve been up to for the past few days:

-AWESOME Kaituna play sessions: I’ve learned to tricky
wu left, dialed my lefty phonix monkey, and learned to lefty lunar orbit,
as well as thrown LOTS of cartwheel left, with some big loops and space
godzillas thrown-in for fun. The hole is also pretty fun for mystery moves.
It’s warm, beautiful, and there are always people to paddle with. Here’s
what I’m working on now: rotating farther on the split-wheel part of the
Tricky Wu and placing the open-faced draw farther around to bring the
bow through smoother, staying crunched on my Lunar Orbits for the second
half of the stern pirouette to avoid falling over to complete the move,
starting to add intentional practice time for the JEDI FLIP to get them
semi-dialed and get a few on film—I have 4 play sessions left on the
Kaituna, and am finally realizing what a perfect freestyle training site
this is. Devon is getting VERY close to phonix monkeys now, as well as
lunar orbits left.

-We went to Gisborne (pronounced: GIZ-bin) for the
past 2 days to stay with the Willis family, who are friends of Megan.
The family was INCREDIBLY nice and live on an orchard with lots of fresh
fruit, dogs, and sheep. We got into the ocean for a few hours to surf
the waves in our boats on Thursday, which was a BLAST!!! The waves were’t
huge (like 5-6′ total wave height), but it was so much fun! Wave wheels
and kick-flips on the way out were great. On-wave helix, pan-am, air blunt,
air screw, and McNasty attempts were a blast. I can’t believe that I’d
never had my kayak in the ocean before! what was I thinking?

-I’ve learned more about New Zealand names and pronunciations.
The natives liked to use very long words, or shorter ones with an over-abundance
of vowels. Such as "Aniwaniwa, Waikaremoana, and Maraekakaho".
Some times letters combine to make new sounds, as in "wh" becoming
"f". Here’s a pronounciation guide for a few words that I’ve

Whakatane (Fah-ka-TA-neh) with the A pronounced long
like in "fawn"

Ngarauwahia (?) I still don’t know how to pronounce

Whangamomona (?) It sounds like a New Zealand "your
mom" joke Ruatuna (are-you-a-TUNA—–R-U-A-Tuna?)

-I got sunburned badly about 5 days ago on my nose,
face, and back of my hands. It turns-out that NZ is closer to the ozone
hole than any other land, so the sun likes to hurt you here. Combine this
with the ultra-sensitivity to it that I got from my antibiotics and I’m
quite crispy. Luckily, Ben (from the Willis family in Gisborne) loaned
me a pair of stylie mountain biking gloves that I’ve been wearing while
I paddle. This has resulted in: 1. Keeping my hands from getting worse,
2. The faded red-to-pink elastic band on the gloves has made me look quite
fashionable, and 3. caused me to drop my paddle on a few occasions. I’ve
been using some of Devon’s sweet pink-colored zinc cream on my nose and
face. Let me tell you–THIS IS FASHION, BABY!

I’m here for another 2 1/2 days of fun in paradise.
I have to come back here. I’ll try to write one last update from either
the New Zealand airport or from Sydney during my day there. I look forward
to seeing all of you back home.




Click to view larger image

Stephen Wright

Click to view larger image

Stephen Wright Big Loop