Justine Curgenven & Barry Shaw teamed up to attempt a circumnavigation of the South Island of New Zealand. This 1,700 mile journey is along one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world and is also one of the most committing and challenging circumnavigations that can be undertaken in a kayak. The swell on the south and west coasts rarely drops below 2 metres with hundreds of miles between sheltered landings. Gales are common and can arrive quickly so we have to expect many surf landings and launchings. In Fjordland in the South-west there is no road access for 300miles so we will have to be entirely self-sufficient. These considerable difficulties are the reason why only 3 paddlers had continuously circumnavigated the island before 2009, and this includes the very talented Paul Caffyn and Chris Duff. Chris was capsized 13 times in the surf on his circumnavigation.
Where: New Zealand’s South Island. 1,700 miles.
When: Late January – April 2008
Who: Justine Curgenven and Barry Shaw, from the U.K.
Why: The natural mountainous beauty and wildlife of New Zealand are world-class and this is one of the most challenging and committing circumnavigations that can be undertaken in a kayak. We wish to explore this magnificent country and push ourselves by undertaking our toughest journey to date.
How: We’ll circumnavigate the South Island in a clockwise direction, starting from Christchurch in late January 2008. We don’t plan to have a support party and will carry everything we need in the kayaks. We’ll re-supply with food and fuel in shops along the way.
The Challenges: The main danger is relentless surf. The swell on the south and west coasts rarely drops below 2 metres with hundreds of miles between sheltered landings. We expect many surf landing and launchings. Gales are common and can arrive quickly so we have to plan carefully. In Fjordland in the South-west there is no road access for 300miles so we will have to be entirely self-sufficient. These considerable difficulties are the reason why only 3 paddlers have continuously circumnavigated the island before.
In 1978, Paul Caffyn was the first person to circumnavigate the South Island in 76 days (Max Reynolds accompanied him on the first 400 miles around Fjordland). A support crew followed him on land and helped find landing spots. Paul was way ahead of his time with this groundbreaking circumnavigation.
In 1995 Japanese paddler Kazutomi Yoshida paddled from Nelson to Fjordland before a fishing boat pulled him and his boat out of the sea in poor condition. Kazutomi abandoned the expedition and went home.
In 1996 Brian Roberts of Colorado completed the first solo circumnavigation, starting and finishing in Picton and taking 86 days. He was knocked over once and had to swim his boat to shore.
In 1999/ 2000, Chris Duff completed a solo circumnavigation, starting and finishing in Picton. Chris had over a dozen capsizes in the surf and his kayak was smashed on a surf landing. He repaired his kayak and continued.
Prior to 2009, no women had circumnavigated the South Island. In 2009, 2 other women also made separate attempts on the South island. Both women, Freya Hoffmeister from Germany and Barbro Lindman from Sweden, successfully completed their solo journeys. So in 2009, Barry was the ‘token man’ !
Justine Curgenven: Justine is an adventure filmmaker and expedition seakayaker, whos programmes have aired on the National Geographic Channel, Channel 4, Channel 5 and the BBC. She runs Cackle TV and created the highly acclaimed “This is the Sea” series of DVDs. She’s won several prestigious prizes including best ‘mountain sport’ film at Banff Mountain Film Festival. She regularly gives slide presentations and writes magazine articles, nationally and internationally. She’s competed for the England surf kayaking team, winning several of her heats. Previous seakayaking expeditions include the first circumnavigation of Wales, the first all-female circumnavigation of Tasmania (900-miles), a solo trip around Iceland’s West Fjords, a 400mile journey up the Pacific coast of Kamchatka and a 500 mile circumnavigation of the Queen Charlotte Islands.
Barry Shaw: In 2005, Barry paddled around Great Britain with Phil Clegg and Harry Whelan, completing the 2,200 mile journey in 80 days. Barry’s paddled across the Irish sea between Wales, Ireland and the Isle of Man 9 times, a distance of up to 60 miles, and he paddled 75 miles around Anglesey in just 13 and a half hours. In 2007 he paddled 300 miles around the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Barry works enough to pay the bills and spends as much time as possible paddling, usually going out 4 or 5 times a week. He often works as a carpenter or teaches seakayaking in Wales, and at UK and international symposiums. After a day of teaching seakayaking, he likes to spend the evening paddling in the Anglesey tidal races to make sure he keeps “an edge” to his personal paddling.