It is the time of the year when Canada is graced with the brisk air and snow days. This year Team Canada decided to change it up and head down under to New Zealand and Australia.

Canoe slalom athletes have been put into a unique situation when it comes to traveling with our boats where all Canadian airlines and many international airlines not taking boats on flights. This has put us in a major dilemma as to how we travel to our international training camps and competitions.

Our trip started off with a teammate and I driving from Calgary to Seattle so that we could fly with Virgin Airlines. We picked up another teammate Jazmyne in Chilliwack and departed to Auckland. 

We arrived to Auckland where we met up with another fellow team mate Ben where we stuffed our selves into what we later referred to as the “clown car” where we had 4 boats, 4 suitcases, 4 back packs, 4 people and 1 paddle bag jam packed into a box like hatchback.

The first few days in New Zealand were magical.  We jam packed our days with training and exploring, as the outdoor territory was so beautiful and tropical.

The river was situated on the side of a main windy high way, which was between Mount Manganui and Rotarua (both popular tourist designations) in a small town called Okere Falls. It was a paddler’s paradise. With so many rivers all within an hours driving distance there was no reason to ever leave! Most of the people who inhabited Okere Falls were raft guides or paddlers.

Photo Credit: Liam Smedley

Photo Credit: Liam Smedley

We rented a batch where all 7 Canadians stayed where we could paddle back and forth to the course each day. The Kaituna River is an ideal training coarse with good eddies and consistent whitewater to practice hard moves. The slalom coarse is also the put in for the narrow creaking run of the Kaituna and Teutea Falls. We also had access to a long canal in the heart of the jungle with flat water gates, which proved to be an excellent physical conditioning area.

Our week came to an end with one of the top ten moments in my life. We journeyed to secluded glowworm caves. With pebbles at our feet and thermal heated water submersing our bodies, we felt our way along a tightly packed crevasse with the light of tiny green glowworms guiding our way. The meandering cave led us to a pool with two waterfalls that created a thundering echo of running water through the closing. The sound became a bit overwhelming so we carefully climbed up the water fall one by one until we reached another hot pool lite by glow worms in the surrounding and the clearest sky of stars with southern hemisphere constellations shinning bright. This night was the most majestic and magical moment I can ever recall. 

Photo Credit: Liam Smedley

Photo Credit: Liam Smedley

We were living the athletes dream with good training, good friends, impeccable weather and a comfortable living situation.