Survivor: Wakatipu

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They might not look Bondi budgie smugglers but these two brothers (above) were Queens­town Bay’s unofficial
lifeguards during a homemade raft race last Sunday. 

Locals Tariki “T” Griffiths (right) and David Griffiths patrolled the shore in their party barge while three of their tradesmen mates flailed about in crazy contraptions they had cobbled together. 

Tom Wenlock, Carl Potter and Tony “Oats” Oliver challenged each other to come up with floating fun vessels a fortnight ago, but they had to be built in just three hours. 

The Griffiths boys hauled Potter and Oliver out of the freezing water when their rafts broke up, and cheered on race organiser and winner Wenlock around the five-knot buoy and back to shore. Potter – who used two inflatable double mattresses with a wooden pallet and a bike on top, connected to paddle wheels made from plywood – was first to fail “after about 10 seconds in the water”, Wenlock says. 

Oliver had a similar design, using plastic drums for flotation and a bike propelling paddle wheels – he went well till he split the raft in half trying to pull a “wheelie”. 

Wenlock’s simple and sturdier vessel – made from medium-density fibreboard, black plastic and Gladwrap – won the race with “good, old-fashioned rowing”. 

The Griffiths barge – complete with couches, barbecue, fire and wheels for transport – has been a familiar sight on the lake since New Year. It’s been given the thumbs-up by harbourmaster Marty Black because it complies with maritime rules. 

“I reckon he’s quietly impressed by it,” Tariki says. 

On Sunday, the Griffiths brothers supplied diving equipment to retrieve any broken bits from the bottom of the lake. 

Equipped with lifejackets and wetsuits, the amateur rafties are distancing their antics from a dangerous stunt two weeks ago by three British tourists who were rescued by coastguard volunteers from Pigeon Island. 

Two 24-year-old women and a 32-year-old man set sail without lifejackets in a raft made from truck-tyre tubes tied together with bungy cords and a duct-taped wooden frame – it was destroyed by waves and their actions were slated by harbourmaster Black. 

Black has no problem with last weekend’s raft race. But he only found out about it afterwards – “they should have signed off a safety plan first”.