Coming soon: The epic story of one woman’s determination to conquer the entire NZ coastline, solo

This is exciting. Earlier this year I helped the legendary Lynn Paterson (aka Red) to write a book on her epic solo kayak around New Zealand. It’s a thrilling, heroic, spellbinding tale of a woman’s determination to achieve a long-held dream, and in the process ‘conquer’ the rugged NZ coastline and do something NO ONE had done before. Lynn is self-publishing the book and it looks unreal. It will be released in February but Lynn is taking pre-orders now (the pre-orders all count towards the costs of publishing). Here’s an excerpt from the book. A link to Lynn’s email address is at the end — contact her directly for details on how to order signed copies of the book.

The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today. Which means, no matter how much you feel like you’ve failed today, it will give you something to build on for tomorrow.

That couldn’t have been more true on Day 220, when I finally got away from Mokihinui River. It was cold and windy, as usual, and as we drove to the beach in Cussie I thought there was no way I’d be able to paddle. Wind gusts rippled across the water. When we wandered down the track to look at the ocean up close, it was Jason who was groaning in horror. It was better than the day before, but not much. I had knots in my stomach again. Normally, when you’re stressed or nervous you don’t eat. But when you’re facing a 70km paddle you have to. You jam it in your guts even though you don’t want to eat anything at all. Meat, potatoes, kumara, oil. When you’re jamming it down first thing in the morning it just tastes like shit. I stood and chundered.

Kirsty and Paul, the beach walkers from the day before, were back with their dogs and they helped us get ready and into T2. I pushed off quickly and made it out without even a wet face. The only problem was I’d left my iPhone in my jacket and paddled without phone communication. It was no big deal though and I was able to push on for a 47km paddle to Karamea Beach. I was dumped on my way in, which was no major drama to me, but it was later in the afternoon and Jase had the sun directly in his eyes. He couldn’t see me or T2 and actually stood with a couple of tears on his cheeks as he thought he’d lost me to the ocean. Never fear mate, she spat me out of a wave and onto the beach, together with T2. Just a crash test dummy landing. I’d under-achieved but I was also happy to at least be heading north at all. The best part of the day was sharing whitebait fritters with the caretakers on the Karamea Domain campsite. What a cute little place that was and what a great way to end the day. Totally amazing.

The waves were so big the next morning, Day 221, that if I was going to get out we were going to have to be crafty. Sometimes you have to take a breath and side step Mother Nature. We backtracked 17km, to the mouth of the Little Wanganui River, and launched from there. The problem was, I launched from inside the reef where I couldn’t see the waves. Jason had to sit on the roof of Cussie, watching the sets, just so he could call over the VHF when it looked okay to paddle. Out I went, blind, and I paddled as if my life depended on it—heart racing and mouth dry, just waiting for a wall of water to come and smack me in the face. My heart rate was out of control as I got out the back of the huge west coast waves. It took me 4km just to feel normal again. I talked with Jase for a couple of minutes once I got paddling, just to try and calm down. Then for the next three hours I paddled up towards Karamea for the second time in two days. It turned out to be a beautiful day on the west coast. Blue clear skies, green mountains and cliffs, flat blue calm seas. As I passed Karamea though I could see that we’d made the right decision to backtrack. The swell and the waves crashing into the beach were intense. Spray was being blown back off the waves like a thin veil. I was so glad I avoided trying to get out in that.

On I pushed. It was always going to be a short paddle today, because the idea was to position well for the next push up towards Kahurangi Point. My goal was just north of Kohaihai Bluff at the base of the Heaphy Track. The only access to the beach from the land is via a 15km hike, and Jason’s plan was to meet me at Nettle Beach where we would camp for the night. It looked fine for a landing on Google Maps. But what have I said before about Google Maps? I soon arrived at Kohaihai Bluff and it looked calm, from where I was sitting in my kayak. Jase assured me it wasn’t so pretty from where he stood. So, stick to the plan, Red. I pushed on a little further up to the small bay at Nettle Beach and sat on the water waiting for Jason to arrive after his 15km hike. I’d promised that I would wait for him before attempting a landing. The waves passed beneath me. Time dragged on. T2 was loaded with all our overnight gear so that Jason could hike with only a backpack. I watched the waves and counted.

‘Fuck, I can get across that,’ I thought.

I started to paddle in. Big wave, another big wave … I got over and down and started to paddle through 20m of bubbling water. It was only then that I realised I was in a massive rip. All the water was being sucked out to fill the monster wave forming behind me. I had no traction. I was like a beetle scrambling on the water. I was swearing at myself to get to the beach, as this wall rose up …

I got hammered. A mountain of water smashed me right where I was. Suddenly there were rocks underneath me. Thankfully the paddle was still in my hand. Another wave smashed me. Then another. A third one. I looked up and saw T2 on the beach. I was smashed again. Eventually I got out and onto the beach. I was unhurt, but I couldn’t say the same for T2. The back tail of the kayak had been hit by the first wave and holes had been blown out of the hull on both sides, as if a grenade had gone off inside the kayak. No gaffer tape was going to repair it this time. T2 was finished.

Jason appeared out of the bush and came strolling onto the beach. He had a big smile on his face.

‘You’ve landed! Congratulations!’ he said.

‘There’s no congratulations,’ I said.

I had tears running down my face.

‘It’s fucking ruined.’

“FINDING SOLO”

PRE SALES are now available, for the book and will be launched Feb 2019.

lynn@redznzjourney.co.nz