John Weekes

John Weekes is an NZME. News Service reporter based in Wellington.

Kayak Kiwis get drop on river rivals

Jarred Meehan says a cool head is needed.
Photo / Red Kangaroo Media
Jarred Meehan says a cool head is needed. Photo / Red Kangaroo Media

Who were the mystery men who made global headlines plunging off huge waterfalls recently? John Weekes discovers they are keen Kiwis - and Iceland's Drowning Drop was nothing to their recent exploits on our own West Coast

If you do dangerous things people are going to talk about you. That's certainly the case for two Kiwi extreme kayakers who have gone global in the past week with British news websites covering their antics.

The Daily Mail and the Sun published pictures of Ben Brown and Jared Meehan in some almost unbelievable situations.

But viewers probably didn't know the pictures are two years old and the pair have been on a pile of new adventures since.

The amazing shots were taken while they were halfway down an Iceland waterfall named for the number of kayakers it has swallowed.

"You just focus on exactly what you want to do," Hamilton-based Brown said.

"On that particular one there was a rock I just wanted to go to the left of." Brown and his mate were traversing a waterfall called the Drowning Drop in Iceland.

Since that mission, the two kayakers, both in their early 30s, have had adventures closer to home.

Their Flow Hunters exploits saw them kayak across New Zealand for the best part of 35 days. In that mission last summer the kayakers covered 8000km and took on 17 rivers.

The adventure was made into a TV show now on Sky Sports.

Brown said the remoteness of the South Island's rugged West Coast presented special challenges. "You've got to access the majority of the rivers by helicopter, which throws a whole other variable into the mix."

Adventures in more exotic locales have also featured since the Drowning Drop. Brown and Meehan were among a group of adventurers who tackled the wild rapids of Africa's lower Congo River.

The Grand Inga Project, also known as Congo 2012, was led by South African kayaker Steve Fisher and made into a movie set for release in August.

Brown often goes kayaking with Meehan, who said a cool head was needed to keep from going under.

"You don't really have time to think about anything else, apart from finishing off what you started and getting the hell out of there, really. The real feelings happen at the bottom when you look back up and see the waterfall," said Meehan.

Despite all the adventures since the Drowning Drop, Brown has some strong memories of that day in Iceland.

He had broken his back while travelling in Thailand just a year before he tackled the Icelandic beast.

"I landed quite hard, but it was all good," he said.

Here, they rate South Island's West Coast and the Kaimai ranges near Tauranga as top kayaking spots.

For those wanting to emulate their jaw-dropping feats, they have some advice: "Link up with a good school and get your skills up.

"You don't have to be plunging off massive waterfalls to make it fun."

- Herald on Sunday

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