A Rotorua kayaker hoping to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is offering a $1000 reward for his custom-made, $4500 kayak, that was stolen from an Ōkere Falls riverbank on Friday.

Zack Mutton is desperately searching for his kayak ahead of the New Zealand canoe slalom team trial this week.

"We have to qualify top three in New Zealand to go and race in the world championships. If I'm not able to race I miss out on points."

Mutton began kayaking before he could walk and has aimed for the Olympics for as long as he can remember.


"I have dedicated my life to this sport," he told the Rotorua Daily Post.

On Friday morning Mutton finished training, put his kayak on the bank and went to get his car.

When he returned, it was gone, leaving the 18-year-old "gutted".

"I've trained for the last few years to get there [the Olympics]. It's my whole life."

Mutton's mother, Amanda, told the Rotorua Daily Post yesterday they had "no clues yet".

"We are offering the reward to hopefully bring more information forward. We can't replace years of work, it's so devastating ... we are hoping the council gets back to us on Monday with surveillance footage from the site."

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Zack Mutton after the Canoe Slalom Junior World Championships last year. Photo / Jamie Troughton
Zack Mutton after the Canoe Slalom Junior World Championships last year. Photo / Jamie Troughton

Mutton is going to try racing in another kayak this weekend.

He used it last year, but it is currently in the Czech Republic, in a damaged state, and it takes a month to get used to another kayak.

"He's hoping to get it flown back to New Zealand and repaired here. He feels that's his best chance of a 'plan B'.

"Even though it will be slower as it's been broken and got a bit of water in it, and extra friction. We are still hoping it comes together."

Amanda Mutton said the whole ordeal had been "crazy".

A Rotorua man approached the Rotorua Daily Post to offer financial support to the Muttons after the theft.

Amanda said that was "amazing".

"It's been very expensive, not only losing the kayak but offering a reward and trying to get the broken one flown back here via Amsterdam."

Zack Mutton's stolen 3.5m kayak was made in the Czech Republic a month ago.

He described it as "useless to others but it's priceless to me".

"Every kayak is cut to the style of the paddler, the weight of the paddler, the personal preference of the paddler."

He said having to race in a different kayak "could be the difference between winning or coming dead-last".

A police spokeswoman confirmed police had reports of a kayak stolen from Ōkere Falls sometime between 10.30am and 12pm on Friday.