I was stoked to be invited by Gordon Rayner, who was interested in setting up a new kayaking academy in New Zealand. It fitted in well with existing training plans, and this opportunity was too great to miss. The coaching team included myself, Claire O’hara, Anna Bruno, Max and Gordon Rayner. The camp was based on the edges of Lake Hawea next to the Hawea Whitewater Park. It’s an awesome purpose built community facility which provides two fantastic wave features. The first wave is more of a hole feature (although it was great for practising wave moves too). The second wave is the largest of the two features and has a green face with a pile, perfect for air screw’s, helix’s, pan-am’s, pistols and links like blunt to pistol, although it’s still a little slow for some of the multiple linked moves.

Those attending the Academy were initially split into two groups during the day with the beginners on a mission to prepare for some epic surfing action, learning whitewater rolls and river running fundamentals. Those who already had white water experience started working towards all those crazy tricks that make us tick. The groups did awesome, and we were all amazed by their progress through the week – epic first time surfs, many first-time rolls and big air freestyle tricks.

There was a great atmosphere and team spirit. The thing I love the most about these type of camps is seeing everyone working to support each other in achieving their aspirations. It’s more than just the boating, it’s a chance to clear our minds, focus on the here and now, to see and feel the outcome of our actions and interventions unfold, all within an environment far beyond the normal chores of school or work. Something that I feel has far reaching effects on our daily interactions and view of our own perceptions of the world. It may sound a little profound, but what it really comes down to is young and old having fun on the water and reflecting after a great day on what really counts. It’s great to see the process of development, from reflection at the end of the day, to the next day and surfing the waves, running rapids, smiling, laughing and just as importantly ceasing the opportunity to improve and celebrate our success as a team. It reminded me why this beautiful sport has become such a big part of my life.

Here’s some of my favourite shots from the Academy week…