Tommy McDowell competes in the canoe slalom at the Buller Festival over the weekend. Photo: Barry Whitnall/Shuttersport.

White water wonder

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Most of the 250 plus competitors at the weekend’s Buller Festival were from out of town, but Nelson boy Tommy McDowell made sure he was up there with the best – taking out the C1 open men’s slalom.
The Buller Festival is New Zealand’s premier white water event and attracted a large crowd of out-of-town competitors – including a former Olympian from the UK.
The festival started off with the popular boater cross, an event which sees kayakers race together down the river. Over the course of the weekend there was also kayak and canoe slalom, rafter cross, SUP race and the classic cardboard cup, which involves making a vessel out of cardboard and tape and taking it down the river.
The event is held every year and showcases exactly why Murchison is known as the “four river plains”, with its top spots being used by hundreds of competitors over the weekend.
Event spokesperson Sophia Mulder says this was no doubt the biggest weekend on the Murchison calendar, with plenty of money spent in the town.
“I think this year we had a lot of people coming from further. We had a lot of international competitors and not just professional athletes but some just here for a good social time,” she says.
“There was a good long queue everywhere, the Four Square was flat out, the petrol station was flat out. I don’t think they’ve sold as much bread, meat and beer as they did this weekend.”