Murchison kayaker wins Buller Fest

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Murchison paddler Rob Hervey showed his class in winning the men’s open Astral Boater Cross race at the Buller Fest white water kayaking and rafting festival, based at Murchison, at the weekend.

Rob won the opening event of the three-day festival held on Friday, advancing through the heats of four kayakers before prevailing in the final on the Matakitaki River.

Murchison’s Jess Matheson finished second in the open women’s final to Toni George of Rotorua.

Mick Hopkinson competes in the kayak slalom at Buller Fest on the Buller River on Saturday. Photo: Barry Whitnall/Shuttersport
Mick Hopkinson competes in the kayak slalom at Buller Fest on the Buller River on Saturday. Photo: Barry Whitnall/Shuttersport

Jess was also second in the NZ Kayak School kayak slalom held on O’Sullivan’s Rapid on the Buller River on Saturday. NZ Kayak School operator and legendary paddler Mick Hopkinson finished second in the veteran’s men’s category, while Marahau’s Phil Palzer showed great balance and skill to win the Fergs Elite Stand Up Paddleboard race, also held on O’Sullivan’s Rapid.

“It was quite a feat to get down the rapid standing up – only three of the paddlerboarders got through,” one of the organisers, Aimee Macdonald, says. “There was quite a bit of water in the Buller so it made things interesting – it made a couple of the gates in the kayak slalom very challenging.”

Aimee says about 250 paddlers from all over the country competed at the festival that also included a rafter cross race and a fun Cardboard Cup event.

“We had a good number of entries including 24 juniors all the way from Alexandra and a good turnout of spectators. We had good weather and good flows, so it was a good weekend all round.”

One of the highlights of the weekend was getting former Murchison rafting guide Jezza Williams, who is a tetraplegic, into a raft for the Rafter Cross. Jezza became a tetraplegic after suffering a spinal injury in an accident in Switzerland.

NMIT won the inter-polytechnic competition based on the number of points gained by competitors and volunteers.