The green lush forest, the tropical looking palm trees, and the tight gorge makes you feel like your in the most remote places in New Zealand. The Upper Kaituna in Rotorua was the river we had our minds set on paddling. We were lucky enough to scout the river with professional kayaker Sam Sutton who owns Rotorua Rafting which takes tours down the highest commercially rafted waterfall drop in the southern hemisphere daily. He invited us on a raft trip to scout the river for SUP. While rafting the Kaituna Sam and his raft guides do an incredible job of making you fear what’s ahead while also making you feel safe. They teach you about the Maori culture and before you hit that 7 meter drop they have you say a Maori prayer asking permission to pass. I asked Sam and his guides if the front of the boat would go under and he replied the whole Freaking raft is going under! After rafting the Kaituna I was a bit intimidated by the tight channels and big drops while my husband Kevin couldn’t wait to SUP it the next day.
The Kaituna has a Slalom course right at the beginning of the upper part of the river where I spent most of my time practicing and watching all the pros train. There were a ton of hard core rafters getting ready for the International rafting championships in Indonesia. Mike Dawson Olympic kayaker and World Champion from NZ offered for Kevin and I to come have dinner and stay at his place the night before we were getting back on the river on the SUP’s. He made us an amazing dinner and we talked a lot about both our travels and future plans. His training schedule inspired us and he got us all pumped up for the next day.
The slalom course consists of a few fun drops and nice eddy turns which are the perfect warm-up that can be lapped over and over – and we did. Mid day we met up with Rotorua Rafting and followed their rafts down one of the most beautiful rivers we have ever seen. On the river are three Class IV drops and over a dozen amazing Class III rapids. All in all it was one of the best days we have ever had on the river and our Kialoa Insanity Swift paddles were the perfect whitewater paddles to have for their durability and lightweight. The rapids and scenery were out of this world – but the people we met and became friends with made the experience truly unforgettable and that is what paddling is all about – being together on the water.
WNY Expeditioners Kevin Cullen & Christian Edie
Kevin and Christian are two athletes that love to travel. Follow their adventures as they explore the diverse places and activities they encounter around Western New York and beyond.