It's the latest thing.

Each day, a growing number of people are launching inflatable rings and boats, kayaks and rafts to glide down the Waikato River. They launch either at the lagoon below the Control Gate Bridge or at Cherry Island, and get out at the hot pools at the Ōtumuheke Stream or at Hipapatua Reid's Farm.

From the safety conscious to the body conscious, clad in wetsuits with lifejackets to a bikini and anything in between, river floating is popular with Taupō young people who enjoy hanging out with their friends for a couple of hours while enjoying the peace and serenity of the Waikato River.
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A family group easily navigates into the Waikato River float exit at Hipapatua/Reid's Farm.
A family group easily navigates into the Waikato River float exit at Hipapatua/Reid's Farm.

Meziah Rimene, 16, Krysta Dawson, 16, and Myles Haysham, 17, are waiting at Gates Park for other friends to arrive after dropping off a pick-up car at Hipapatua. This is Myles' first time doing a river float, Meziah has been down three times already and Krysta has done it heaps of time.

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Meziah says the trip takes one to one-and-a-half-hours, depending on the current.

"It's a fun time with friends. It's nice weather. You do notice the river levels going up and down."

Krysta is going down in a tube and the friends have a raft to keep things dry. She says sometimes they bring a speaker so they can listen to music while they get a tan. Two of the three friends say they are competent swimmers and Krysta says she always checks the water levels beforehand and knows of lots of places along the way to get out and have a swim.

"There are heaps of stops along the way. We stop at the swings, Cherry Island, the hot pools and get out at Reid's Farm."

One visitor from the United Kingdom wrote on TripAdvisor that it was the most fun they had in Taupō.

"Go buy a rubber dingy from Warehouse, grab some beers and float down to the spa pools from town!"

Lake Taupo Harbourmaster Heath Cairns encourages all people floating down the river to wear a life jacket.
Lake Taupo Harbourmaster Heath Cairns encourages all people floating down the river to wear a life jacket.

Lake Taupō harbourmaster Heath Cairns acknowledges that a lot of people are enjoying floating down the river, but says it is not something he would encourage because the water levels of the river can change at any time. He is also disappointed by the amount of rubbish generated by people doing river floats.

"One minute it [the water level] can be calm, and then the next minute it can drop really quickly and expose hazards."

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Energy company Mercury controls how far open the gate is on the Control Gates Bridge, near the Lake Taupō outlet and have timed opening of the dam at Aratiatia.

Although technically not responsible for people going down the river in blow-up pool toys, Mr Cairns says he makes a point of speaking at high school assemblies about floating down the river in a safe way. He wants people to enjoy themselves, but do it in a sensibly

He says some people are not used to rivers and this makes them over-confident.

"Fresh water is not as buoyant as sea water, and alcohol can take away people's awareness. If you miss the exits at Ōtumuheke or Hipapatua, then there are limited places to get off the river before Huka Falls."

He says people need to be aware of the many snag hazards just below the surface.

"The little floaties can deflate real quick if punctured by a tree."

People need to be respectful of the water and be aware of the river and the currents. He adds that the Control Gate Bridge is shut when a drowning is suspected and says when this happens the rapidly dropping river level creates a hazard for river users.

"Stick together. Do it with your mates. And wear life jackets."