Jones best of kayaking Kiwis

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media ServicesLuuka Jones has finished sixth in a highly-competitive K1 women’s final at the Australian canoe slalom championships in Penrith overnight.
Jones was the only Kiwi to progress to the finals on the second day of competition and her 112.09sec run left her 8.32secs adrift of home-town winner and reigning world champion Jess Fox.
Fox had a convincing win with a clean 103.77sec run, putting her 3.47secs clear of 2017 world championships bronze medallist Ricarda Funk (Germany).
Some of the biggest names in world slalom are contesting the championship at the Penrith Whitewater Stadium and it was the international paddlers who dominated the men’s C1 with Rio 2016 Olympic champion Denis Gargaud Chanut from France taking the win.
Chanut had a clean run and a finishing time of 98.68 that saw him 1.01secs ahead of Rio 2016 silver medallist Matej Benus (Slovakia). Slovenia’s 2014 C2 world champion Luka Bozic finished third.
Jones and fellow Kiwi Kelly Travers have made today’s semifinals of the women’s C1, while Callum Gilbert – who agonisingly missed the New Zealand senior men’s team in a tight selection battle – is the only Kiwi in the men’s K1 semifinals.


Comeback complete for Dangen


Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Tauranga kayaker Jack Dangen on his way to seventh at the Oceania canoe slalom championships in Auckland last month. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media

Jack Dangen retired from kayaking at the tender age of 17 to start a building apprenticeship but two years later, he’s carefully constructed a near-perfect comeback.
The Tauranga K1 paddler has been named in his first New Zealand senior canoe slalom team and will compete at world cup and world championship level this year with the likes of Olympians Mike Dawson and Luuka Jones.
He sealed his selection with a sublime fortnight during the national selection events recently, culminating in a seventh-place at the Oceania championships in Auckland.
Without Jones’ historic Olympic silver medal in 2016, however, Dangen could’ve been lost to the sport.
“I’ve always enjoyed paddling but after I finished school, I realised I needed to get a career and some money behind me so I started building,” the former Tauranga Boys’ College star said. “I had a good time and enjoyed life when I started my course but then I started missing kayaking when I saw other peoples’ results. Luuka getting silver was a big moment as it gave me a lot of encouragement and made me think I could really nail this.”
And nail it he did, after spending a year perfecting his paddling in Tauranga with former French C2 world teams champion Pierre Labarelle, training after work and heading to the Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Auckland on weekends. He was the fastest qualifier at the New Zealand Open in Manawatu, then headed off Dawson, Finn Butcher and Callum Gilbert at the Oceania titles.
The results pushed Gilbert out of the senior team by the slimmest of margins, with Dawson having already pre-qualified because of his superb world championship performance last year.
It came down to Gilbert and his good friend Butcher for the last spot, with Alexandra’s Butcher narrowly getting the nod. After making semifinals in every world cup in 2016, Gilbert is focused on the positives, which include selection in the under-23 world championship squad.
“It was a really exciting selection series, super-close and it came down to the last day, which was awesome,” Gilbert said. “I’m still on the under-23 team and there are likely to be some spots available at a few of the world cups so overall the season won’t be too much different to previous years. I’m just as motivated and driven – if not more – than I was last year and looking forward to another European summer.”
Jones will lead the women’s team, pre-qualifying in both the K1 and C1 categories, with Jane Nicholas joining her in both disciplines and Courtney Williams rounding out the K1 team and Kelly Travers the C1 team for the world cups. Ben Gibb, Patrick Washer and Shaun Higgens have all been selected to race in the men’s C1 for the world cup series.
Dangen, meanwhile, is already back at work and planning for the upcoming season.
“I’ll keep the same goals as I had at the start of the season but will probably go back to a winter training block now, to get fit again and start peaking for Europe,” he explained. “I’ve got to see what the boss says but I’d love to do four or five of the world cups.”
Luckily he’s got his employer on his side; Belco Homes owners Mike and Kathy Bell are keen supporters of canoe slalom, with sons Charlie and Josh just named in the national performance squad.
Dangen – who is of Tuhoe and Ngati Porou extraction – has also had plenty of support from friends, family and the wider canoe slalom strategy; he picks out Tauranga locals MaryAnne Washer, Sue Clarke and Roger and Claire Gilbert – Callum’s parents – for special mention, having got into the sport watching older sister Haylee competing at school.
But his grandfather Clive Dangen is perhaps his biggest fan. Having just turned 84, Clive lives in Papakura in Auckland and has hosted his grandson most weekends, training at Vector Wero, and provided all his airport transfers.
Work commitments mean Dangen will miss the next big international event of the season – this weekend’s Australian Open in Penrith – although there’s still a strong New Zealand contingent attending, amidst some of the strongest fields assembled in the Southern Hemisphere.
The first world cup of the year is in Slovakia in mid-June, with rounds in Poland, Germany, Slovania and Spain to follow, while the world championships will be held in Brazil in September.

New Zealand canoe slalom teams:

World Cups squad:
Men: K1: Mike Dawson, Finn Butcher, Jack Dangen. Reserve: Callum Gilbert. C1: Ben Gibb, Patrick Washer, Shaun Higgens. Reserve: Callum Gilbert.
Women: K1: Luuka Jones, Courtney Williams, Jane Nicholas. Reserve: Kensa Randle. C1: Luuka Jones, Kelly Travers, Jane Nicholas.
World championship squad:
Men: K1: Mike Dawson, Finn Butcher, Jack Dangen. C1: Ben Gibb, Patrick Washer.
Women: K1: Luuka Jones, Jane Nicholas, Kensa Randle. C1: Luuka Jones, Kelly Travers.
Men: K1: Jack Dangen, Finn Butcher, Callum Gilbert. C1: Patrick Washer, Callum Gilbert, James Thwaite.
Women: K1: Courtney Williams, Kensa Randle, Claudia Paterson. C1: Claudia Paterson.
Men: K1: Zac Mutton, Damian Torwick, George Snook. C1: Jack Egan, Charlie Bell, Stewart Bloor.
Women: K1: River Mutton, Casey Hales, Lotte Rayner. C1: Lotte Rayner.

CSNZ National Performance Squad 2018:
Mike Dawson, Jack Dangen, Finn Butcher, Callum Gilbert, Zac Mutton, George Snook, Callum Atkin, Damien Torwick, Jack Egan, Alex Hawthorne, Ben Gibb, Patrick Washer, Shaun Higgins, Josh Bell, Stuart Bloor, James Thwaite, Charlie Bell, Oliver Puchner, Luuka Jones, Kensa Randle, Jane Nicholas, Courtney Williams, Claudia Paterson, River Mutton, Casey Hales, Jaimee Wilson, Lotte Rayner, Kelly Travers.

Youth Olympic paddlers picked


Photo by David Hall

Six young kayakers are hoping to continue New Zealand’s proud paddling prowess at Olympic level.
Rotorua’s George Snook and Rivey Mutton, Tauranga’s Kahlia Cullwick, Finn Anderson and Oliver Puchner and Hawke’s Bay’s Henry Hall have been selected for the Youth Olympic Games qualifying event in Spain in April, with a ticket to the October’s Youth Olympics in Argentina at stake.
The paddlers will race both sprint and slalom, with Canoe Slalom New Zealand and Canoe Racing New Zealand joining forces to send the team, with help from the Olympic Solidarity fund.
Like their senior namesakes, the Youth Olympic Games are held every four years, with 28 sports featured on the summer programme. Athletes are aged from 15 to 18 and come from more than 200 nationals around the world. The games are used as a stepping stone for athletes, while also promoting Olympic ideals.
Canoe Slalom New Zealand spokesperson Sue Clarke said the selection of the six paddlers was a way of helping the next Luuka Jones or Lisa Carringtons achieve their Olympic goals.
“Most of these paddlers have come through the intermediate-aged AIMS Games ranks and some of them are already starting to feature at a national agegroup level so this gives them another clear step in the Olympic pathway,” Clarke said.
All nations must attend the qualification event in Barcelona, with spots in the Youth Olympic Games allocated on a continental quota basis.

NZ team:
Girls: K1: Rivey Mutton (Rotorua), Kahlia Cullwick (Mount Maunganui College). C1: Kahlia Cullwick.
Boys: K1: George Snook (Rotorua Lakes High School), Henry Hall (Taradale High School). C1: Finn Anderson (Tauranga Boys’ College), Oliver Puchner (Tauranga Boys’ College).


Jones showcases vast C1 improvement

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
New Zealand’s Luuka Jones on her way to second in the women’s C1 final at the Oceania canoe slalom championships at the Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Auckland today. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media
In the space of a year, New Zealand canoe slalom star Luuka Jones has gone from a half-drowned, last-placed wreck to an Oceania C1 silver medalist.
Just 15 months after adding the C1 discipline to her arsenal, she’s now within touching distance of the sport’s undisputed queen, Jess Fox, having finished second to the Australian at the Oceania championships at the Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Auckland today.
Jones was just 2.71secs behind Fox; a far cry from the 2017 final at the same venue when Fox won by a massive 13secs and the Kiwi rolled after missing a gate and finished more than 6mins off the pace once all her time penalties were added up.
“Last year, I nearly drowned in the C1 and was basically just trying to make it to the bottom upright!” Jones lamented. “This year, to come second and to be right in the mix was really good – any race where I’m getting closer to Jess is a good race and I’ve still got a bit of time until the Tokyo Olympics to keep improving in C1 and hopefully not drop off too much in K1.”
Her C1 improvement saw her make a series of world cup finals last year, although she saved her best result for an historic fourth-placing in the K1 at the world championships in France.
Fox picked up her fifth world title in the same race – she now has three C1 world titles and two K1 crowns – and has been a keen follower of her Kiwi rival’s progress.
“Luuka’s really pushing it in C1 and she paddles a C1 a lot like a K1, in that she attacks it a lot more,” Fox said. “I’m a bit more open and try for wider lines to keep my boat speed, whereas she’ll come right in and get right up close to the gate.  She’s an exciting paddler to watch and she had some great results in the world cups last year.”
Fox and Jones both picked up touches in today’s final, with Fox clocking 109.42secs and Jones 112.13, while another Australian, Rosalyn Lawrence, was third in 116.39.
It was a relief for Fox, who missed a gate in yesterday’s K1 final – ironically, so did Jones – and ended up eighth.
“I was disappointed with the K1 but the speed was there – it was just some technical errors that cost me dearly.  I put it behind me and came back well today and put down some good paddling in the C1.”
It was a good day for the Australian team, with Lucien Delfour holding off defending champion Michal Smolen (United States) to win a tight men’s K1 final.
The top six men all posted clean runs, with Delfour’s 88.89sec effort just 0.04secs in front of Smolen, with Mathieu Biazizzo (France) 0.39secs further back.
“I did the Whitewater XL at the end of last year which was super-early in the season but it gave me more time on this course,”  Delfour said.  “It’s one of the hardest courses in the world – it’s not big but it’s so technical. You’ve got to find balance and smooth paddling, which luckily suits me – I try not to paddle too hard, otherwise you just waste energy.”
The fairytale finish was nearly provided by Tauranga’s Jack Dangen, the only New Zealander to make the final.
The 19-year-old has only come back into the sport after having a year off to start his building apprenticeship but posted the fastest qualifying time at last week’s New Zealand Open and backed it up in style this week, finishing seventh.  It could’ve been even better too, picking up a touch on gate 15 which dropped him back a spot and cost him momentum.
“I had a really good first run last week and tipped over some of the top guys so I knew that I could do it,” Dangen said. “I’ve been going pretty fast in training, though there’s a difference between going fast in training and laying it down in a race. I can nail moves way better on the river but the next step is taking it onto the course, at a more consistent level.”
He’ll now wait to see whether he’s made the New Zealand senior team, which will be confirmed this week to compete in world cups and world championships later on in the year.
Mistakes kept New Zealand’s other leading paddlers out of the final, with Mike Dawson, Zack Mutton, Finn Butcher and Callum Gilbert filling spots 13-16 after the semifinals.
Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Australian Lucien Delfour. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media
Women’s C1: Jessica Fox (Australia) 109.42, Luuka Jones (New Zealand) 112.13 2, Rosalyn Lawrence (Australia) 116.39 3, Noemie Fox (Australia) 120.17 4, Sage Donnelly (United States) 123.95 5, Kelly Travers (New Zealand) 131.99 6, Kate Eeckhardt (Australia) 135.27 7, Alison Borrows (Australia) 142.93 8, Claire Jacquet (France) 164.15 9, Martina Wegman (Netherlands) 261.18 10.
Men’s K1: Lucien Delfour (Australia) 88.89 1, Michal Smolen (United States) 88.93 2, Mathieu Biazizzo (France) 89.32 3, Daniel Watkins (Australia) 89.84 4, Ondrej Tunka (Czech Republic) 90.08 5, Titouan Dupras (France) 93.26 6, Jack Dangen (New Zealand) 93.67 7,
Yves Prigent (France) 94.60 8, Timothy Anderson (Australia) 94.92 9, Benjamin Pope (Australia) 96.64 10.
Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Australian Jess Fox on her way to victory in the women’s C1 final at the Oceania canoe slalom championships at the Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Auckland today. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media

Whitewater course tests paddlers

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
French paddler Kilian Foulon on his way to victory in the Oceania canoe slalom men’s C1 final at the Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Auckland today. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media
International paddlers dominated the first finals at the Oceania canoe slalom championships in Auckland today, though the constantly-improving course also won its fair share of plaudits.
Katerina Kudejova (Czech Republic) took out the women’s K1 title at Vector Wero Whitewater Park, with Olympic medalists Jess Fox (Australia) and Luuka Jones (New Zealand) both missing gates to ruin their chances..
Frenchman Kilian Foulon also stayed out of trouble on the tricky artificial rapids to win the men’s C1 crown, despite Australians Daniel Watkins and Brodie Crawford and American Casey Eichfeld all recording faster raw times.
“It wasn’t necessary to go hard but it was best to paddle smooth, rather than try to go too fast,” 28-year-old Kudejova explained.  “People say there are so many stoppers on the course but I like it – it’s no problem for me.”
Her 100.66sec time was clear of touches, as was second-placed Australian Rosalyn Lawrence, who finished just 0.82secs behind Kudejova and nearly a second in front of Camille Prigent (France).
Lawrence has paddled the course as much as any of the internationals, having competed in last year’s Oceania titles, as well as both editions of the Whitewater XL event.
She’s seen vast improvements in the Wero course over the last 18 months and was delighted to escape without touches.
“It’s hard to have a clean run at Wero – it’s a tricky course and it can be quite unpredictable,” Lawrence said.  “There are more vertical walls here, which makes it surge a little bit, but it’s a much nicer course than last year.  It just takes time and tweaking and the courses naturally get better.  I really enjoyed in this year.”
Fox posted the fastest time of the day – a raw time of 96.53 – but missed gate 6 altogether and picked up two late touches as well.  Jones was also quick but missed gate 13.
It was a similar story in the men’s C1, where Foulon’s conservative approach paid dividends, as the only paddler in the final not to earn a penalty.
“I had a bad run in the semifinal with a couple of touches but I was really pleased with the final,” the Frenchman said.  “It maybe wasn’t the fastest time but it was clean.  The course isn’t super-hard but the rapids can be hard to manage so not picking up penalties was the key.”
His time of 97.86 was just 0.39 in front of Watkins, who picked up two touches, as did Eichfeld who was just 0.01secs behind third-placed Crawford in 99.60.
The best of the Kiwis was Ben Gibb in seventh, just 6.62secs off the pace, with Callum Gilbert eighth and Patrick Washer 10th.
Tomorrow’s racing sees semifinals and finals for both the men’s K1 and the women’s C1, alongside the first Oceania boatercross (extreme slalom) championships, which features four boats racing down the course at once.
Women’s K1 final:
Katerina Kudejova (Czech Republic) 100.66 1, Rosalyn Lawrence (Australia) 101.48 2, Camille Prigent (France) 102.39 3, Martina Wegman (Holland) 106.22 4, Noemie Fox (Australia) 108.81 5, Kate Eckhardt 109.11 6, Alison Borrows (Australia)  114.61 7, Jessica Fox (Australia) 150.53 8, Luuka Jones (New Zealand) 152.83 9, Sage Donnelly (United States) 168.59 10.
Men’s C1 final:
Kilian Foulon (France) 97.86 1, Daniel Watkins (Australia) 98.25 2, Brodie Crawford (Australia) 99.59 3, Casey Eichfeld (United States) 99.60 4, Lukas Rohan (Czech Republic) 101.41 5, Ian Borrows (Australia) 101.68 6, Benjamin Gibb (New Zealand) 104.48 7, Callum Gilbert (New Zealand) 107.36 8, Ethan Hodson (Australia) 109.50 9, Patrick Washer (New Zealand) 119.99 10.

Gilbert shines at Oceania champs

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Tauranga’s Callum Gilbert on his way to topping men’s K1 qualifying at the Oceania canoe slalom championships in Auckland today.  Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media
Callum Gilbert took down the world champion and a host of other world-class kayakers at the Oceania canoe slalom championships in Auckland today but he was more concerned about where it puts him in the New Zealand frame.
The 22-year-old from Tauranga was the top qualifier in the men’s K1 on the first day of racing at the Vector Wero Whitewater Park, posting a faultless run of 84.37secs to edge top Australian Lucien Delfour by 0.56secs.  Mathieu Biazizzo (France) was third in 85.48, Kiwi Olympian Mike Dawson fourth in 85.62 while reigning world champion Ondrej Tunka (Czech Republic) was fifth, picking up a 2sec penalty touch to finish in 86.64.
Gilbert burst onto the world cup scene two years ago, making the semifinals at every round he attended, but endured a frustrating year last year.
“We did a lot of thinking about what could be going on because every run seemed to be the same story but in the end, we decided not to over-analyse things too much, put it down to experience and just get on with it,” he explained. “It’s been a long season of tough runs and it was nice to finally have a good one.”
While Dawson’s world championship performance (he finished seventh) means he’s already pre-selected for the international season, Gilbert is locked in a battle with fellow under-23 paddlers Finn Butcher, Alex Hawthorne, Zack Mutton and Jack Dangen for national team selection.
“Our selections are quite tough this year – usually in the past we’d have a pretty good idea of who’d be in there but this year is still completely up in the air.  It makes it very excited racing and it’s good to see where New Zealand is heading.”
Adding to the burgeoning New Zealand ranks was an impressive effort from Rotorua 14-year-old George Snook, who made in through to the semifinals with a clean 98.83 time.
In the women’s racing, Luuka Jones had the second-fastest raw time in K1 qualifying, though she picked up two 2sec penalties to drop her back to third in 98.40secs, behind Australian Rosalyn Lawrence (95.63) and France’s Camille Prigent (96.82).   World champion Jess Fox (Australia) was fourth, also picking up a penalty but breaking the minute-barrier with a 99.o00sec effort.
Jones also impressed in the women’s C1, qualifying second, although Fox showed why she’s won three world championships in the kneeling, single-bladed discipline by posting a time more than 7secs faster than the talented New Zealander.  Fox’s younger sister Noemie was third-fastest, with Kiwis Jane Nicholas and Kelly Travers sixth and seventh respectively.
International paddlers dominated the men’s C1 qualifying, with Casey Eichfeld (United States) recording 92.76secs, a second quicker than Frenchman Kilian Foulon, with Australians Ian Borrows and Brodie Crawford and Czech paddler Lukas Rohan rounding out the top-five. Ben Gibb was the only Kiwi in the top-10, qualifying sixth-fastest with a clear run of 99.90secs, although compatriot Patrick Washer went nearly a second faster in winning the repechage round.
Tomorrow’s schedule sees semifinals and finals for both the women’s K1 and the men’s C1, with the men’s K1 and the women’s C1 finishing on Monday, alongside the first Oceania boatercross (extreme slalom) championships, which features four boats racing down the course at once.

Czech paddlers dominate NZ Open

Patrick Washer on his way to the C1 title at the New Zealand Open on the Mangahao River near Shannon today.
Czech kayakers Ondrej Tunka and Katerina Kudejova proved too strong at canoe slalom’s New Zealand Open today, while the national selection battle heated up on the Mangahao River near Palmerston North.
Tunka, the reigning K1 men’s world champion, had a clear 89.62sec run in today’s final to take the win from young Austrian star Matthias Weger.  Although Weger touched a gate and picked up a 2sec penalty, he was still 2.51secs behind Tunka, with Australian Lucien Delfour third another 0.14secs further adrift.
Kudejova, the 2015 world champion, wasn’t quite as dominant in the women’s K1 final, with her 99.04sec time just 0.26secs ahead of France’s Camille Prigent and 0.72secs in front of third-placed Kiwi Luuka Jones.
Jones took out the women’s C1 final, however, warming up for next weekend’s Oceania championships in style. Her 109.69sec time was more than 16secs in front of Hannah Thomas (Great Britain) with Australia’s Demelza Wall third.
“I haven’t done much race preparation so it’s nice to be doing some racing again,” Jones said. “I’m happy with the weekend overall – my K1 was solid on a tricky course and I was really happy with my C1, where I paddled pretty well, so I’m looking forward to next weekend.”
Both Jones and fellow Olympian Mike Dawson are exempt from selection battles, courtesy of their world championship results last year, but below them, the battle for the two remaining K1 spots in the national team went up a notch.
Tauranga’s Jack Dangen was the fastest qualifier on Saturday and followed that with a 10th in today’s final, while fellow Bay of Plenty local Callum Gilbert posted a fifth and a seventh over the two days. Alexandra’s Finn Butcher, meanwhile, picked up a third in qualifying yesterday and followed it up as the leading Kiwi, in sixth, in today’s final.
“It was a bit touch and go in the semifinal with four touches but I managed to scrape through,” Butcher explained. “The first weekend of selection is always a bit stressful so it was good to get it done. The final run was pretty good really – I had nothing to lose after qualifying in 10th so decided to give it a bit more.”
Patrick Washer won today’s men’s C1 crown, meanwhile, edging another Czech paddler Lukas Rohan in the final by just 0.01secs, after Rohan picked up a touch.
Ben Gibb was third, ahead of fellow Kiwis James Thwaite and Dawson, who missed the K1 final after a barrage of touches but showed his versatility in the canoe class.
Next weekend’s Oceania championships will see a big contingent of Australian paddlers competing, including reigning K1 world champion and former C1 world champion Jess Fox.

World champ heads NZ Open field

Photo by Jamie TroughtonDscribe Media Services
Czech paddler Ondrej Tunka returns to New Zealand for the first time since winning the Whitewater XL title in Auckland in 2016 for this weekend’s New Zealand Open in the Manawatu. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media
World champion Ondrej Tunka will highlight the opening event of the international canoe slalom year, joining athletes from seven countries at the New Zealand Open on the Mangahao River near Palmerston North.
Czech Republic’s Tunka, who collected K1 men’s gold in France last year, heads a strong cast of paddlers, including top Kiwi Mike Dawson, defending champion Australian Lucien Delfour and Michel Smolen (United States) in the two-day competition.
Leading the women’s field will be Tunka’s compatriot Katerina Kudejova, who won the 2015 world championships in London in the K1.  Olympic silver medalist and top Kiwi Luuka Jones, 13th at the last world championships, will try and defend her K1 title, with another Czech, Veronika Vojtova, capping a strong top-three.
Jones will also line up in the women’s C1, alongside fellow Kiwi Kelly Travers, who beat her last year.
There is guaranteed to be a new champion in the men’s C1 event, with defending champion Frenchman Thibault Blaise not entering this year.
Kiwi Ben Gibb was third last year and will back his chances of taking top spot on the podium this year, as will Kiwi Patrick Washer.
The New Zealand Open carries ICF ranking points and will be used as a New Zealand selection event, as well as a buildup for next week’s Oceania championships in Auckland.

Schoolgirl conquers Motiti solo swim

Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Tauranga’s Georgia Bavington embarks on her 11.1km ocean swim from Motiti Island to Papamoa. Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Tauranga schoolgirl Georgia Bavington has created a little piece of swimming history, becoming the youngest person to conquer the waters between Motiti Island and Papamoa.
Just two days after finishing second in her agegroup at the national 10km championships at Lake Taupo, the 14-year-old went even longer, swimming 11.1km in 3hrs 48mins 11secs yesterday, finishing between the flags at the Papamoa Surf Life Saving Club.
Despite lumpy conditions churned up by a steady north-easterly breeze and having to swim the entire distance with only a chase boat and kayaker for company, Bavington was delighted with how her first big ocean swim had gone.Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
“It was a bit easier than I thought it was going to be,” the Mount College student said.  “I thought it was going to be a bit rougher than it was, that it would rain and the water would be colder than what it was but it was actually quite warm.  The worst thing was the little jellies going into my togs and making me itchy but apart from that, it was really good.”
The Motiti swim has been on her radar since her Team Shorebreak coach and former Cook Strait swimmer Sheryl McLay first mooted it in October.  There have been several recorded swims between Motiti and Maketu, beginning with Rotorua teenagers Stephen Joseph and John Haycock, who did it in 1969 after covering themselves in a mixture of grease and Vicks to ward off the cold.  They enlisted some local swimmers to accompany them in a relay and turned a seven-mile journey into a 10 mile, six-hour epic, raising $1411 which was enough to cover the mortgage on the newly-built Maketu surf lifesaving clubrooms.
Legend also has it two Maori made the swim to Maketu; once when an ancient fleet of Manaia waka washed ashore on Motiti during a terrible storm and other in 1831 when a fleeing Ngapuhi raider took to the waters to escape a cleverly-hatched Motiti Islander ambush.
Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media ServicesHowever, it wasn’t until 2006 that a 10-strong group of local Tauranga swimmers took the slightly-longer route to Papamoa, landing at Taylor Rd Reserve.  Bavington’s journey covered yet more distance, taking her further down the coast to the Papamoa Domain, battling the swell and currents in the final third of her swim.
Having recently qualified as a lifeguard – her first day on patrol at the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service was on Sunday, sandwiched between her two epic swims – Bavington admits she’s loved the water ever since learning to swim as a 4-year-old.
And her summer of swimming isn’t over yet; her immediate sights are set on next month’s 3.3km Huka XStream down the Waikato River, followed by the 4.6km Rangitoto to St Heliers swim in March.
Photo by Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
A typically warm welcome from Papamoa Surf Club patrol captain Shaun Smith, who supplied a towel and an IRB ride back out to the support boat.


Footnote from Pukehina surf lifesaving identity Boyd Harris:

There have been a couple other swims from Motiti, ending at the Maketu Surf Lifesaving Club, a distance of 12.5km.

  • Former Maketu lifeguards Donny Reid, Leanne Reid and Bronwyn Hamilton swam it solo in 1997, along with 15 others in relay.
  • In 2006 Donny Reid, Boyd Harris and Nathan Harris completed the swim as memory to Peter Harris, another ex-Maketu lifeguard who had sadly passed away.
  • In 2015 Todd Rowan, Donny Reid, Boyd Harris and Philip O’Reilly swam it solo, along with two relay teams from the Chiefs Super Rugby team and Te Puke Sports Rugby Club. This was a fundraising effort for James Reid to support some medical procedures he needed. This event was supported by Maketu SLSC, Maketu Coastguard, Maketu Fire Brigade and Maketu Waka Ama, along with many many local identities and people from the surrounding district.
  • There was another solo effort timed in with the Kaimona festival but unsure how that went.

Bronze for Kiwi kayaker at worlds

Finalists in the extreme slalom (from left) Mike Dawson (NZ), Boris Neveu (France), Vavrinec Hradilek (Czech Republic) and Vit Prindis (Czech Republic) drop into the Pau course. Photo by Balint Vekassy/
Kiwi kayaker Mike Dawson has capped a successful canoe slalom world championship in style, grabbing bronze in the event-ending extreme slalom final in Pau, France, overnight.
The 30-year-old battled through five rounds of intense head-to-head racing, eventually finishing behind 2012 Olympic K1 silver medallist Vavrinec Hradilek (Czech Republic) and Frenchman Boris Neveu in the four-boat final.
It was the ideal way to end an incredible world championship for the boutique 10-strong New Zealand team, after Dawson (seventh) and Luuka Jones (fourth) had both made their respective finals in the K1 slalom, leaving Dawson buzzing.
“All the dreams came true – it’s just a wicked end to an amazing world championships here in Pau,” Dawson said. “To stand up there with Vavra and Boris – guys that I’ve raced together with for so many years – and share a podium at the world champs with them was insane.”
It’s the first time extreme slalom – which features four paddlers racing together in plastic boats down a modified slalom course – has been held at the world championships and it’s an event nearly tailor-made for Dawson.  He’s spent 13 years competing overseas, using the thrills and prizemoney from extreme racing to bolster his Olympic canoe slalom campaign.

Photo by Balint Vekassy/
There’s now talk the sport’s governing body – the International Canoe Federation (ICF) – may push to include it in future Olympics.
“After a lot of work with the ICF, it’s awesome to see extreme slalom as a recognised event. We’ve had World Cups with it but this was the first world championship and it was an amazing presentation of what white water kayaking is all about. It’s just going to keep growing and growing and to hear officials say it could be an Olympic discipline in the future is really exciting stuff.”
After 10 world championships since his first in 2005 and two Olympics, it’s also exciting for Dawson to see the depth in the sport in New Zealand growing.
“It’s just going from strength to strength, with Luuka winning a silver medal at the Olympic Games last year, to have two finalists here in the canoe slalom events and to come away with a medal in the extreme slalom shows that we’re in such a wicked place. The support and backing we’ve had from High Performance Sport New Zealand is doing wonders and it’s created an amazing team and given us the opportunity to deliver what we can on the world stage. We’ve got amazing juniors coming through who performed exceptionally at the junior worlds this year and have the likes of Finn Butcher and Callum Gilbert who came so close to making the semifinals here. We’re contenders and we’re now able to compete with the best in the world.”