Ballsy Royal to jetboat driver: ‘Go closer to the wall’

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Maybe it was the wine from moments earlier.

Whatever it was, the Duke of Cambridge had no fear as him and wife Kate were taken for a wild jetboat ride down Queenstown’s Shotover River canyons yesterday.

The pair were taken on the jetboat ride immediately after quaffing some of Central Otago’s finest wine at Amisfield.

Shotover Jet operations manager Wayne Paton, who had the honour of driving the Royals on the 25-minute trip dubbed the world’s most exciting jetboat ride, says afterwards: “The Duke was right into the trip. He even asked me a couple of times to go closer to the canyon walls.

“They had a blast, so that’s my job well done.”

The boats can hit speeds of 85kmh in just 10 centimetres of water while skirting perilously close to the canyon rock walls.

Paton – a 13-year veteran of the firm which is an adventure tourism icon – admitted to butterflies prior to the drive.

“…while these are obviously the most high-profile people we’ve ever had on board, at the end of the day they’re customers looking for an amazing adrenalin experience and we treated them just like that.”

The 43-year-old talked to the Duke and Duchess plus other dignitaries on the boat about how jet boating was invented by a New Zealander, the river’s gold history and pointed out landmarks such as Coronet Peak along the way.

The Royals join more than three million passengers who’ve graced the boat trip since it started operating back in 1970.

Smiling broadly and somewhat damp thanks to spray from a series of Shotover Jet’s signature 360-degree spins, the couple chatted and laughed throughout.

David Kennedy, southern region manager for Shotover Jet owner Ngai Tahu Tourism added: “The Duke and Duchess had specifically asked to have a trip that was the same as any we offer on a day-to-day basis.

“They enjoyed a perfect Central Otago autumn day for it, with blue skies, sunshine, trees tinged with seasonal oranges and golds and snow-capped mountains in the distance.

“Just like any young couple they had plenty of questions about how the jet boats work, the scenery and gold mining history of this area and the river.

“And just like everyone else they hung on tight to the heated handrails in front of them when the driver warned them as he was about to go into each spin.”