Four years ago Marcus Choy paddled up to me when I was surfing at Pillar Point in northern California and said, “You guys have GOT to go to New Zealand. I told them all about you.” Sure enough, Coastbusters Sea Kayak Symposium organizer Paul Hayward contacted me shortly thereafter and invited the Tsunami Rangers to present at the next symposium. I accepted on behalf of captain Jim Kakuk and myself. When 2008 rolled around, I had to have some surgery on my aorta and couldn’t make it. Commander Deb Volturno took my place, and she and Jim had a splendiferous time.
Jim and Deb made such a good impression that Paul Hayward invited us again for the 2010 symposium. Deb graciously let me go in her stead. In last week’s blog I described Jim’s and my first week in New Zealand and the cool kayak trip to Motukawanui in the Bay of Islands. I promised this week to discuss Coastbusters and the International Kayak Week. So here we go.
The symposium (go to www.coastbusters.co.nz/cb2010/) was held at Lake Pupuke in Auckland and started with a bang Friday evening with Satoru Yahata’s multimedia show on his amazing island-hopping kayaking journeys from Japan to Indonesia. His show focused on his time in Irian Jaya, where he was a big hero to all the kids. I was deeply impressed by this young man and look forward to his future adventures.
Our host in Auckland was kayaker Erica Law, who not only shuttled us around, fed and housed us, but made our stay in Auckland memorable with her great personality and strong kayaking spirit. On Saturday, the big day, the day we were to present our show, she drove us from her nearby home to the symposium, where we split up and enjoyed various lectures and shows, every minute filled with wonder.
After admiring the displayed kayaks, I watched Paula Renouf’s Sicily show, which featured otherworldly seascape photos taken from a volcano. I also enjoyed learning about paddling the Danube from Max Scharnbock, roughing it in Baja from Rick Wiebush, freezing in Antarctica from Lawrence Geoghagen, and kayak touring the Queen Charlotte Islands from Patti Stevens and Yves Aquin. Every presenter was top notch. Jim and I are eternally grateful to Yves for helping us set up our show so it would actually project on the equipment.
Jim and I presented a slide show on the Tsunami Rangers that afternoon and then jumped in the lake, where Jim did a few rolls after I tipped him over and shook his boat. Steve and Sue Levett were the real stars on the water, as they did one nearly impossible Greenland-style roll after another. After dinner, keynote speakers Paul Caffyn (yes, the Paul Caffyn) and his paddling partner Conrad Evans blew us out of the water with a beautiful multimedia show about their trip to Greenland to reenact the Gino Watkins journey done eight decades ago. What a fabulous day!
A Real Tsunami in New Zealand
Sunday, 0600—I was not officially awoken as I was supposed to be because we were to kayak at Sullivan’s Bay that morning, but I woke up on my own, sensed something was amiss, looked out the window, saw a beautiful dawn, and went back to sleep. No wakee, no gettee upee. That’s my motto. At 0800 Jim woke me and said the planned Coastbusters paddle was canceled—due to a tsunami. I leaped out of the sack and ran into Erica’s kitchen to get the news.
An 8.8 earthquake had gone off in Chile and a possible tsunami was expected to hit New Zealand later that morning. Thus Paul Hayward called off the paddle and notified everyone. After the great Indonesia tsunami in 2004, it was smart to err on the side of caution.
We watched the news on TV and after the tsunami warning ended, proceeded to Martin’s Bay in the afternoon, where Jim and I shared a small cabin to keep out bugs and rain (we Tsunami Ranger wimps don’t like bugs and rain in the summer!). The seas looked safe enough but Jim and I opted to hike in the verdant hills above the bay. That evening, Jim and I gave another slide show and everyone kidded us for bringing the tsunami. It wasn’t our fault!
International Kayak Week
On Monday, the IKW began with a paddle to Cape Rodney (I think that’s what it’s called). Renee Olivier loaned me her kayak and Paul Hayward loaned me his spare helmet (thank you both!). As soon as we left the beach the sea felt like jello in a gently rocking bowl. Perhaps the non-tsunami had shaken and stirred the water after all. Lawrence Geoghagen, Jim and I decided to explore the rocks and a cave, which was a lot of fun. At lunch, everyone snorkeled and had a good time. On the way back to the take-out, one of the participants crashed in a rock garden and dislocated his shoulder. The IKW leaders were on the ball. He was rescued, towed to shore and sent away to the hospital in short order. That night Max Scharnbock shared some groovy German TV footage of the Danube journey, which showcased a slew of little boats and interesting people.
At dawn I did tai chi on the beach, and then Jim and I gave a surf safety lecture. We all drove to a surfing beach and everyone ran into the water and started surfing before we could get organized. It turned out that they were sandbaggers and way better surfers than they had let on. Two veteran kayakers, John Kirk-Anderson (JKA) and Dave Winkworth, guided the surfers with us and everything went swimmingly. It seemed like after surfing we soaked at a hot spring and then went wine tasting at a fantabulous winery, but I may have gotten my events and days mixed up a bit. Wine tasting will do that, especially if you bring a bottle back to the cabin.
That night Aussie Dave “Winkie” Winkworth gave his amazing talk and slide show on paddling Australia’s north shore in crocodile country. Giant marine crocodile country. They call them salties. Yeah. And of course there were sharks, and fresh water was scarce, and it was desolate, and—remind me never to kayak there!
The next morning I met JKA on the beach while I was doing tai chi, and we entered a long conversation about jujitsu, a mutual interest. Later, everyone kayaked where they wanted in and around Martin’s Bay. Jim and I tagged along with Gerry Maire and friends and paddled the coast to Big Bay, where we enjoyed a nice little hike with splendid vistas.
On the final IKW day, it was quite windy, so some opted to kayak and the rest of us hiked in the bucolic countryside near an Army base. JKA and I continued our discussion of jujitsu. We all met back in the parking lot and said our goodbyes.
After that, Jim and I hung out at Erica’s house for the next few days, visited Piha surfing beach and strolled downtown to the New Zealand Maritime Museum where we marveled at the ancient canoes and catamarans next to the modern catamarans and monohulls. Auckland is a haven for people who love the sea.
Then I flew home, still wanting more Bay of Islands and Auckland. I miss all the great people I met at Coastbusters and IKW. Next visit I want to explore New Zealand’s mountainous South Island, and then go to Australia, and Tasmania…. There’s a lot to see and do down under. If you ever get a chance to go, stay for at least a month per island. Eirik the Red says, “Check it out!”