This unique experience began with a 45-minute drive to Rangitaiki River. Along the way a pictorial instruction pamphlet was passed around followed by a guest book. I don’t know which was more intimidating.
The instruction book showed a few diagrams with the sledge (similar to hard plastic boogie-board) in the middle of the river at different angels with arrows indicating the directions in clock hand terms for upstream and left and right for downstream. Specific number of kicks and the angel to which you moved your leg were also discussed. We also received verbal instructions to keep our arms inside so as not to scrape rocks and holding the boarding at all times. Kicks were to be straight-legged to avoid knee accidents and we never to stand up as most accidents occurred when feet got stuck in rocks while the current continued to pull the body downstream. Lastly, we were shown how to right ourselves should we take on water and wind up with board on top of us.
Not really understanding some of the diagrams I passed the booklet on and began reading the guest book in the hands of the fellow next to me. After reading a few excerpts like: I never knew drowning could be so much fun, thanks for keeping me from drowning, and this is the most insane thing I’ve ever done, I choose not to read anymore.
When we arrived at the starting point, we were fitted with wetsuits, life jackets, booties, odd shaped fins and helmets with front cages. What have I gotten myself into?! Okay, scuba, skydiving, rafting, but this is a little unnerving.
After being given instructions on how to get across the river to the eddy, our group had to demonstrate our ability. If the guides didn’t think we could do it, that was it, they wouldn’t allow us to endanger others or ourselves. With four guides to our group of seven, this was SERIOUS fun. Fortunately, we all passed, and after a briefing of the obstacles and which side the next eddy was at for us to get out at, we took off. We were to be as close as possible to the person in front of us, but always in direct alignment with the front guide. I remind myself not to open my mouth as waves are breaking in my face from all different directions. And whatever happens, I must not loose my grip on the board. I was so intent on these two things as well as staying right behind the person in front of me I totally missed seeing the two boulders we skirted around. Nor did I ever see the photographer that was taking pictures of all of us. We reached the eddy and all managed to pull out and gave each other a pat on the back. This was good practice for the next two, which get progressively more difficult.