Mightily relieved: From left, kayakers Mike Gibb, Kat Bulk, Alex Martin and Steve Norton at the end of their epic mission


Four Queenstown kayakers recently completed one of the more extreme paddling adventures undertaken in New Zealand.

Kayaking instructor Steve Norton had determined a 300km paddle from the west branch of
the Matukituki River down the Clutha River — via Lakes Wanaka, Dunstan and Roxburgh —
was one of the longest inland-to-sea paddles you could do in NZ.

He roped in experienced kayakers Kat Bulk, Alex Martin and Mike Gibb, whom he’s all trained for Coast to Coast’s kayak legs, to join him.

Another local, Ollie Behrent, joined for the first half of the journey and Alex Nichol dipped
in for the stretch from Millers Flat to Beaumont.

Norton also decided the mission could be accomplished in only three days, meaning the kayakers had to paddle from dawn to dusk each day.

Bulk, 34, and Martin, 44, also put in six to eight weeks of training to be able to keep up with the blokes, Norton, 54, Behrent, 28, and Gibb, 33, then proceeded to more than hold their own.

On the first day, in which they completed 120km, paddling Lake Wanaka was easy to begin with but the lake became choppy and difficult as the weather turned.

Martin even fell out near the outlet, due to a side chop, but says that was ‘‘just silly on a really easybit of the lake’’.

On the third day, amidst a series of Clutha River rapids, Martin fell out again after trying to take evasive action when boats crashed into each other up ahead.

She clung on to her kayak while swimming for about a kilometre before getting out in a rock pool.

Then about 40km from the end, at Kaka Point, Bulk’s shoulder gave way — the aftermath of a plated clavicle fracture from a bad bike crash a year ago — and as a result she was in absolute agony to the finish-line.

To try and relax it, she and Martin sang ‘celebration songs’ to the end, one of which  merged with a chorus of nearby cows.

Gibb says ‘‘it was a really cool adventure’’.

‘‘We started out wondering whether it was possible to do it in three days, and each day was
massive and presented a different challenge, but the skills Steve’s taught us over the last three years made us capable of doing this.’’

Bulk best sums up the mission: ‘‘It’s amazing what you can achieve when a goal scares you