New Zealand


WCKA Newsletter - December 2005

December has been a month of tremendous excitement and adventure for WCKA. We experienced multiple helicopter river-runs and epic ocean-surfing. After our last day in Murchison we drove to Hokitika to set up our final base camp. Luckily, the area experienced a good deal of rain, which opened up many river-running opportunities to us. Our first run was the Kakapotahi. The run consisted of some fun boofs and a sliding waterfall. The second run, the Styx River, required a two-hour trudge up a beautiful jungle river valley. When we reached the put-in, some students were pumped, others frightened. A few kids put in on the upper section, others hiked down to the lower put-in. The Styx was the hardest river-run the group participated in all year. The river was steep, rolling over giant boulder gardens.

During the majority of our time in Hokitika, students prepared for finals and took the exams. After exams began, we did not paddle for two days in order to focus on our studies. After two rainless days the Arahura River dropped to a desirable flow. We postponed our final day of exams in order for some students to run this epic river. We met the helicopter at nine o’clock in the middle of a cow pasture. When the helicopter left after its final trip, we knew the only way out was down the river. The Arahura is ingrained as a favorite in my mind: the bright blue, crystal-clear water flowed over perfect boofs, through slots, and over waterfalls. We completed our last day of finals and everyone was relived and ecstatic to experience our final days in New Zealand—school-free.

The following day we all flew into the Whataroa. This river was glacier-fed, and accordingly was high-volume and full of opaque blue water and exciting rapids. We enjoyed lunch in the giant moss-lined, smooth granite gorge. After lunch the run continued with fun wave trains and surf spots. The following day some students flew into the Perth. The most advanced students put in at Scone Hut, and they insist it was one of their favorite runs in the world. Other students put in below the “gnar” and ran some fun rapids.

We spent our final days in Hokitika writing our final exams, handing in our final papers, ocean-surfing, and doing some Christmas shopping. We then drove to Christchurch and the following day flew home.

What a wonderful experience New Zealand has been!

—Jake Sakson, Carbondale, CO

WCKA Newsletter - November 2005

We began the month of November at the Kaituna. In our final week and a half at this choice destination, we organized and participated in many competitions, including a downriver race with teams, a triathlon, and a rodeo. The downriver race teams included one veteran, who attended WCKA last year, and two newbies. The racers were spaced by one minute and began on the bank at the put-in, then paddled the 1.1-kilometer run as fast as possible. The competition was a close one — Chiseki and Zack came in fifth; Jesse, Adriene, and Phil got fourth; Keith Miller, Billy, and Ryan styled into third; the boys from McCall: Glen, Alex and Ian raced into second; last but far from least, Reid, Evan, and Jake paddled their way into first!

The triathlon was even more exciting and physically grueling. It began with roughly a 100-yard swim in which Keith Miller, the accomplished swimmer he is, beat the majority by around a minute. Adrienne, however, also an outstanding swimmer, came in a close second. At this point all the students put on a minimum of paddling gear regardless of the bitter cold water. Keith had a minute lead on everyone, but Billy, Adrienne, Ian, and Jake put on head-to-head. Billy and Ian, being the beasts they are, pulled ahead leading Jake and Adrienne. They were head-to-head for a few minutes but Billy prevailed. Adrienne and Jake finished a few boat lengths apart. At this point the students shouldered their boats 100 feet to where the vans were parked. Many students felt dizzy from the cold water and exerting themselves.

The students had laid out their shoes and socks at the vans. Keith was long gone. Billy geared up second, leaving a minute before Jake and a minute and half before Adrienne. Jake passed Billy a quarter or so through the race during the relentless hill climb. Seconds after Jake passed, Billy lost his lunch of grilled cheese and tomato soup on the trail. However, he trekked on. The final results were: Billy in third, Jake in second, and Keith Miller in first.

The weekend after our “extreme” events we enjoyed two other river runs. The first was the Mangorewa where its access was across a farmer’s land. For a price the farmer shuttled us all down to the edge of his property. Most rode on the truck with the boats and more adventurous others tore down to the put-in on dirt bikes. We grabbed around the driver's waist, hardly on the seat, and held on for dear life while we hit jumps on hills and sped down grassy slopes. One was forced into putting his or her life into the driver's hands — fully trusting him. We went in two groups and hiked down the steep trail for thirty minutes into the gorge. When we finally broke out of the jungle we were in a pristine box canyon roughly 10 feet wide. The river had little water and was filled entirely with spring water that was coming directly out of the walls. We were able to flip over and drink it at any time. The run continued, boxed in, over pristine waterfalls and flowing rapids. The day was long but we immensely enjoyed our scenic adventure. That has been the most beautiful run of the entire trip.

The following day we paddled the Wairoa, a school favorite. There was a little more water this time compared to our last excursion, making the run a touch more exciting. The rapids on this river are excellent, dropping down boulder gardens and over boofs. Everyone had really good lines on the main drops, Toaster and Rollercoaster. Some people tried more challenging lines on these two drops.

Tuesday after the triathlon we competed in a rodeo organized by Tom and other faculty. There were three classes: Girls — all female competitors, Adrienne, Whitney, and Jenn; Veterans — all students and teachers who attended a kayaking school last year, Natty, Billy, and Ian; Newbies — the largest class, for all newcomers to a kayaking school. In the Girls class Jenn received third place, Whitney took second, and Adrienne danced her way into first. The Veterans had a very close competition: Natty made it into third, Billy took second, and Ian styled it into first. The Newbies were even closer with a three-way tie for second. In the end Alex took fourth, Jesse third, Polk second, and Reid, throwing huge air loops, flew into first.

The next day we woke up early to pack all our gear and prepare to leave what had been our home for three weeks. We grabbed an early morning run on what had been our “home” river. We met at the takeout and headed down south to Raglan. We set up camp at another Holiday Park right on the beach. Within a 100-yard radius we could be on the beach or a perfect rugby/ultimate Frisbee field or in the kitchen. In the mornings we would grab a small breakfast and head to the epic beach break to catch the prime waves. The first day was excellent and many people began to learn new moves. Some people learned to Pan Am, others to air blunt or roundhouse. The second day was outstanding in the minds of many of the students. We witnessed the impressive surf on the beach below, and everyone became ecstatic at the sight. The waves were the biggest most of us had ever seen. Jesse and Jake began hitting Pan Ams consistently; Alex, Glenn, and Reid hit blunts nearly ever ride, and the veterans were throwing every trick in the book. As a consequence to the massive surf we were forced to punch towering holes after every ride to return to the optimum position to catch waves. Watching from the shore one would see Glenn and Alex popping massive blunts and Jesse throwing his now patented Pan Am. These three insist that it was the most epic day of the trip. On our third day in this warm, balmy environment we packed up for the long drive to the Rangetiki River.

The Rangetiki was running low due to a bizarre snow season. Nonetheless, the river was fun, tight, and technical. There were many boofs and thin slots. During our three-day stay we enjoyed a tour of the Bliss Stick kayak factory. Many students were intrigued by the process, as well as the quality of the boats and the amount of care put into each boat. Glenn, Chiseki, and Zach were due for new boats and took this opportunity to purchase them at an extremely discounted price. Everyone we met at the factory was a kayaker himself and took care with every boat and mold, and made them like they were their very own. We left the Rangetiki after four nights and traveled to Wellington, a city on the southernmost coast of the North Island. We camped at small site in the city and visited the Museum of New Zealand History. As usual we made the most out of our trip and all the students learned a lot.

The following morning we drove onto the ferry to the South Island. The students were thrilled and ecstatic for the days that were inevitably about to come. They had heard rumors of the splendor of the South Island. The ferry was luxurious with an overpriced cafeteria, many decks, sitting rooms, and open observation deck. We did a half day of school onboard. Upon arriving we jumped in the vans, drove off the ferry, and began the lengthy drive to the Rangitata. We reached the Rangitata lodge late at night. The students, delighted to have beds, jumped in the triple-decker bunks and “hit the floor.” The next morning we slept in to recover from the night before. We did half of our classes, then headed out to the river.

The run begins in a flat valley with green mountains on either side and luminous snow-capped peaks in the distance. As the river tightens its gradient increases and the big-water rapids begin. There were only two rapids but each was long and consisted of big-water waves, holes, pillows, and boils. The next day's schedule was a replica of the day before, and the following day we arrived in Queenstown.

From our new base camp we paddled the Shotover twice, a very unique big-water run that contains a long tunnel followed by a steep rapid. We also paddled three different sections on the Kawarau, the Dog’s Leg, Roaring Meg, and Citroen. The Dog’s Leg section had a great surf wave and one big-water rapid. Roaring Meg was a tighter canyon full of huge waves swirls and boils. Citroen contained one exciting, steep, big-water rapid. While in Queenstown we also had Thanksgiving dinner, hung out with the all girls' Traveling School, did some intense morning workouts, and went Christmas shopping.

It seemed like we left for Maruia before we arrived. Talk was in the air of a park and huck 30-foot waterfall. The drive from Queenstown to Murchison was a long one. However, it was broken up by lunch and a stop at the astounding Fox Glacier. Our journey ended at a Holiday Park in Murchison. During our first day at our new destination we cleaned up a riverside dump as a community service project. This was grueling and dirty work, but the progress we made was remarkable. The following day we found ourselves at Maruia, a 30-foot waterfall. For the majority of the students this was the biggest drop they had ever run. Everyone ran the drop time and time again, perfecting their plugging skills and having a great time at it. We returned the following day to experience more freefall. After dinner one night we enjoyed a slide show by the legendary Mick Hopkinson, a pioneer in the whitewater kayaking world. The slide show was informative as well as mind-blowing. Well, that leads us up to this day; we are in the car headed to our final destination of Hokitika.

Semester exams loom in the distance and the students are preparing themselves studiously. This last month has been one of considerable improvement and excitement in the kayaking world as well as one of much schooling and learning in the “real” world. Our adventure is coming to an end here in New Zealand, and we are finishing with a bang.

Jake Sakson, Carbondale, CO

WCKA Newsletter - December 2002

We hope this holiday season finds you in the comfort of family and friends. The WCKA team is home for winter break after finishing fall semester in New Zealand. The first two weeks of this month were busy with semester projects and final exams. WCKA administers finals much like a college curriculum. Students prepare for cumulative tests with intentions of swaying semester grades in their favor. The final projects presented by the Fine Arts students were attended by nearly everyone with videos shown, artwork displayed, and music played. The physics students had their own show as they tested their individually designed and constructed bridges made out of bamboo skewers. The objective was to build the strongest bridge for its relative weight. Both World Class and Scotch College students witnessed the show as bricks and buckets of water were suspended by the small bridges. Scotch College, a college preparatory school from Australia, was on a year-end trip to New Zealand ( The three days spent with Scotch College at the holiday park in Murchison proved a terrific cultural exchange as students from both countries learned how life is for teenagers in another part of the world.
The month of December began in Queenstown where WCKA paddled various sections of the Shotover and Kawarau rivers, with the highlight being an epic play run on the upper Shotover. Following our stay in Queenstown was a trip back up along the South Island’s west coast to familiar Hokitika. This journey included a run on the Kokapotahi River and glacier viewing. From Hokitika the group made its way northward to the Karamea river drainage where it took a two day helicopter trip. While everyone was looking forward to the scenery of a national park, whitewater, and the chance of seeing five foot wild eels, the trip became a test in mental endurance. The Karamea is legendary for its sand flies and according to Marty, our seasoned Kiwi guide, we experienced a “10 out of 10” on the sand fly scale during our breakfast at camp. The team took out later that day, stronger and wiser to the realities of thousands of blood sucking insects, to head to Murchison and the Buller River where finals and the final leg of the trip lay. In Murchison those who were able to manage the studying, daily workouts, and rain paddled the Matakitaki River and took several trips to Maruia Falls to practice their waterfall running techniques. The stay in Murchison ended with consecutive days of torrential downpour, bringing a powerful play hole and wave to the Buller River. Everyone is enjoying their well earned rest time over the holidays and gearing up for another semester of adventure in learning.
We are excited to announce that the recipient of this year’s $5,000 Nike ACG scholarship is Matt Stiefel (seen here working on his physics project at the ferry terminal), known at WCKA as “Ivan.” Ivan’s passion for paddling, academic talents, and good nature have been justly rewarded. World Class would like to thank Nike for giving this scholarship opportunity as well as the students for putting so much time and effort into their applications. It is our hope that this enthusiasm will help the WCKA scholarship program grow, enabling more students to take advantage of the incredible educational opportunity the school provides.

WCKA is looking ahead to spring semester which will begin with a flight to Ecuador. The program will remain in Ecuador until the end of March when it returns for the West Coast tour. Thanks to everyone for making a terrific fall semester possible as we look forward to the future.


WCKA Newsletter - November 2002

Happy Thanksgiving! The WCKA team is now on the South Island after spending a month on the Kaituna River in the Rotorua region of the North Island. The North Island offered educational opportunities in every area. In Environmental Science, students visited clearcuts in the forests of Rotorua and studied their effects on the hydrological cycle. To study aerodynamics and drag coefficients in physics, Greg held a contest where the students had to build a non-motorized craft or object. The craft that stayed in flight the longest won. Howell’s English class is memorizing lines from Milton’s Paradise Lost while his Government students are writing letters to their state senators. In Whitney’s World History class, students are studying New Zealand’s history through Maori culture and the arrival of Captain Cook -- her Spanish students are working on Spanish skits.
While on the North Island, WCKA viewed thermal pools and learned how the Maori used them for cooking and everyday life. At the Maori Village, a Haka was performed, a traditional dance ritual used to scare off enemies before battle.

Before setting sail to the South Island, the group spent the afternoon visiting Te Papa (“Our People”), the New Zealand National Museum in Wellington. The museum included modern New Zealand art, greenstone and wood carvings, wildlife exhibits, South Pacific history, and the effects of western colonization including farming and sheep shearing.

The Kaituna River in Rotorua provided WCKA with excellent river running and a perfect playhole. At the end of their stay, a rodeo and a downriver race was held to determine the A and B teams. The downriver race was a six-minute race with a boater-cross for the top four finishers. During the rodeo, paddlers were scoring up to 400 points in a single ride. WCKA took full advantage of its weekends by traveling to Raglan for some ocean surfing, paddling the Wairoa River, and surfing at Full James, the site of the 1999 World Freestyle Kayak Competition. During the journey to the South Island, WCKA paddled the Rangatikei River, a spectacular Class IV run through gorges and green pastures.

This past week, the town of Hokitika on the South Island has been the perfect home base for a variety of paddling adventures. The team was more than willing to hike with their boats in order to enjoy beautiful sections of whitewater on the Arahura and Styx Rivers. In addition to river running, the Arahura, known for its deposits of greenstone, supplied WCKA with an excellent playhole.

In addition to being on the river, the team has been training New Zealand style. Sevens, a form of touch rugby, has proved an effective way to cross-train and have a good time. Other mornings have been spent stretching and strength training.

Many birthdays have been celebrated since the team’s arrival in New Zealand. A big “Happy Birthday” goes out to Whitney, Scott, Ivan, and Petey. Nike gave WCKA another reason to celebrate with a generous $5,000 “Nike ACG” scholarship for spring semester. Students may apply for this scholarship as well as two other WCKA scholarships -- applications are due December 3rd. We cannot thank Nike enough for helping us achieve our long-term goal of becoming entirely scholarship-based.

The last few weeks in New Zealand were kicked off with the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert in Christchurch and a night of dancing. From there, WCKA traveled to the Rangitata River, eventually making it to Queenstown to celebrate Thanksgiving. Other adventures in the south will include a trip to Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, more rivers, and a helicopter trip on the Karamea River. The students will spend the last week and a half in Murchison in order to take finals before heading home for the holidays. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!





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