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LIVE: Scott Donaldson arrives in New Plymouth as the first person to cross the Tasman solo in a kayak

Posted by nzherald.co.nz on Monday, 2 July 2018

"Absolutely knackered" after 62 days at sea, Kiwi Scott Donaldson made history on Monday night, becoming the first person to paddle a kayak solo between Australia and New Zealand.

Donaldson reached the shore at Ngāmotu Beach in New Plymouth at 8.44pm to be greeted by several hundred cheering supporters.

Tired and dishevelled, he was helped ashore then mobbed by loved ones as light rain began to fall.

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Scott Donaldson with son Zac and wife Sarah soon after he made landfall tonight. Photo / Ilona Hanne
Scott Donaldson with son Zac and wife Sarah soon after he made landfall tonight. Photo / Ilona Hanne

A crowd of about 350 had gathered on Ngāmotu Beach braving chilly 11C temperatures to await the transtasman kayaker's arrival.

Family and friends, including Donaldson's wife Sarah and their 8-year-old son Zac, waited at the yacht club before venturing out as he neared the shore.

After being helped on to land, Donaldson stood outside the yacht club flanked by his wife and son to thank his supporters for turning out.

He was then presented with a box of beer by New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom before filling out a Customs declaration.

Zac told his exhausted dad that he smelled and needed a shower.

Donaldson, 48, left Coffs Harbour on New South Wales' north coast two months ago on May 2, and has been paddling for up to 16 hours a day.

Sarah said her husband hadn't been on dry land since May 18 - when he landed on Lord Howe Island - and he was particularly craving a steak-and-vegetable pie.

It was his third transtasman attempt.

Speaking to media, Donaldson admitted he was "absolutely knackered".

"No one said it was going to be easy."

He said on a good day he was paddling 16 hours. On a bad day he was stuck in a cabin but on worse days he was "going backwards".

Becoming emotional, Donaldson said he had lost family and friends during his expedition, which was incredibly hard not to be part of.

Coming ashore was a "sensory overload" after seeing nothing but water and birds for two months.

"Last time was an adventure, this time was a race."

He apologised for taking his time on the final leg, which he described as special.

"I definitely did stuff I didn't think I could do. I challenged myself to the max.

"When you're trapped inside a cabin and you have five days of going backwards ... that's challenging every minute of the day.

"Some days I paddled to the point of exhaustion and then got up the next day and did it all again."

Describing a close encounter with a shark, Donaldson said it was a "frisky little bugger", several metres in length.

Another hairy moment was bobbing in a "little carbon conductor" during a fierce lightning storm trying not to be struck by a bolt of electricity.

The biggest wave he encountered was about six metres, he said.

Asked what was next he replied: "Family time."

His wife admitted some nervous moments but said she knew Donaldson had the mental and physical skills.

She said she couldn't wait to have him home.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tweeted on Monday night in recognition of Donaldson's achievement.

"There are some accomplishments that are difficult to fathom - like crossing the Tasman solo in a kayak. I'm pretty sure Scott Donaldson has stunned us all. Truly amazing."

Donaldson used the transtasman kayak attempt to raise funds for asthma research, a disease both he and his young son suffer from.

His second attempt at the crossing in 2014 was thwarted just under 80km out from the end point when he lost his rudder and was unable to recharge his radio batteries.

These issues, combined with head and chest injuries he received in a particularly rough night at sea caused him to abandon the attempt and he was winched from the water to safety.

The path Donaldson took since May 18 - when he landed on Lord Howe Island. Photo / http://tasmankayak.com
The path Donaldson took since May 18 - when he landed on Lord Howe Island. Photo / http://tasmankayak.com

Now, four years later, he has managed to beat the elements and achieve his goal, scoring himself a place in history as the first person to kayak solo the 2200km of ocean between Sydney and New Plymouth.

Donaldson's crossing this time hasn't been without incident either, with stormy weather and shark issues making for some nail-biting moments.

He and his wife have stayed in contact via a satellite phone during his crossing and in one conversation they had in late May, he told her about his encounter with a large shark.

He said the shark, about 2.5m in length, chased him, trying to bite the kayak's rudder.

A couple of weeks later, in mid-June, a fierce lightning storm also caused concern for the team when it hit the area he was navigating through.

With both the kayak and the paddle made of carbon fibre, this left Donaldson anxious until the storm passed because carbon fibre is an excellent conductor of electricity.

He had to sit the storm out to avoid moving his paddle through the air while the storm raged around him.