Waiheke: Catching the drift of kayaks

By Donna McIntyre

Kayaking trips from Matiatia on Waiheke can be an adventure for the whole family, discovers Donna McIntyre.
Ross Adventures has been in operation for 26 years and is situated right by the ferry terminal on Waiheke Island. Photo / Adrian Malloch
Ross Adventures has been in operation for 26 years and is situated right by the ferry terminal on Waiheke Island. Photo / Adrian Malloch

Every time we go kayaking, we wonder why we don't do it more often.

On a calm day, it's fulfilling and peaceful gliding across the water, detached from our normal landlubber status as we gaze back to the unfamiliar angles on familiar landmarks and coastline.

And a great day out is a trip to Matiatia at Waiheke where you can hire a kayak or book in for a guided paddle just along from where the Fullers ferries come and go.

The blue and white landmark shed on the foreshore marks the spot where Ross Barnett has been operating Ross Adventures for 26 years. He puts his ongoing success down to matching customers' capabilities to suitable routes.

His operation specialises in families through to keen kayakers looking for more adventurous multi-day trips. For family groups he has two and three-seater kayaks.

With family groups Ross says he can "pretty much take any age, depending on weather".

"We can marry them to a type of kayak and can guide them or hire the kayaks to them."

But he says the safety margin increases as the ages get younger. "As soon as you get someone under nine the weather dictates what you can and cannot do. Sometimes we do four hour trips with a 7-year old if there is no wind. You can take the three-seater kayaks and they can go in the middle. Safety, fun and education is the philosophy.

"Safety first and then fun and then education if they want it. They don't get into difficulty because they don't reach it."

Wannabe paddlers are matched to the equipment according to frame and ability.

They are fitted with lifejackets, shown the most efficient way to paddle and taught how to get back into the kayak (self-rescue) if they come out. There are more tips if you're doing more challenging stuff ... going into caves or channels, surfing waves and landing on beaches.

The shortest trip is round the Matiatia harbour. The office has laminated maps showing currents and ferry ways to help paddlers pick out their routes.

"In Matiatia there are 10 different ways of getting out of this bay in different conditions."

He recommends novice kayakers take a guide. "It means they can relax and enjoy the trip, perhaps see areas they wouldn't have found themselves, while the guide can plan rest stops and fine-tune the trip. If you're not overly confident about getting out on the water, it's a good idea to start with a guide, or at least to get some instruction before you start paddling. After all you want to have fun rather than wearing yourself out by trying to go too far too soon or using inefficient techniques - more so if you have young children with you.

"With a guide you can be placed in more situations and find places you wouldn't normally see. Channelling is a lot of fun; you find channels in the rocks and go down a set of rocks. The water is often so clean and clear you see a lot of marine life." One full day trip option includes going through mangroves to the sand spit formation near Te Matuku Bay. "You can paddle underneath the man groves. It's like Crocodile Dundee country without the crocs."

What you need to bring depends on time of the year and weather. If it's fine and calm, you need only sunscreen, water - and a snack if you're going out longer than an hour.

"In January and February it doesn't take long to dry off if you get a bit wet," says Ross.

"But on cooler days bring a warm top. We supply a jacket that has a boned hood and Velcro cuffs to stop water coming up arms and the hood gives a sense of security."

The one-hour guided tours stay in the bay with the longer trips moving out from the bay.

If the wind is blowing, he suggests kayakers turn left out of Matiatia and paddle to Church Bay and Turtle Island.

They can beach the kayaks while they do part of the Church Bay coastal walk.

Or they do a two-hour trip by turning right from Matiatia and going the direction of the archway and Cable Bay. Again they can do part of that coastal walk.

NEED TO KNOW

Costs start from $30 for a self-guided tour for adults. Anyone under 14 has to go with an adult.

Trips range from one hour to seven-day self-guided trips (pre-booked and weather-dependent).

Ross's base also offers mini golf, a water trampoline, windsurfers, paddle boards, fishing kayaks and more.

Further information: See kayakwaiheke.co.nz.

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