My experience of river boarding in the Kawarau Gorge with Mad
Dog River Boarding was not pleasant.
My sister and I were told when we went that the river was
high. We were kitted up in a wetsuit, life jacket and helmet
and given a body board, which was strapped to our wrist.
We were then driven to an area near the river and given
practice time in eddies before setting out with a group of
about 20 people, including children, as well as a group of
The guides instructed us to kick away from whirlpools, but
because the water was high I found it difficult to keep
constantly kicking, especially when I did not know the river
and what was coming next.
The guides were preoccupied helping some of the children, who
it seemed started to panic soon after the start of the trip.
I remember being swept into a whirlpool not far into the
trip, and being pulled under.
We had been told that if we were sucked into a whirlpool we
should hold on to the board and we would pop straight out.
The only problem was that as soon as I was pulled under the
water, the board was ripped from my grasp.
As I was trying to kick up and out, I was being pulled down
by the water. I could see the board swirling above me.
I have been around water all my life and never felt scared,
but can honestly say I thought I was not going to get out of
When I popped out, a guide who had stayed back seemed
horrified, and said something like he hadn't expected me to
stay down that long.
He told me to try to catch my breath and kick away from the
next set of whirlpools. He said no-one could leave the
trip once they were in the river, and I had to stick it out
until the end.
I have to admit I was not enjoying myself and wanted out.
The rest of the group looked white and drained after the
trip, and most were very quiet. I wouldn't want to
river board in that river again.