Wet, Wild and Wicked: River Surfing in Kawarau

One of the many instances that I was sure I wouldn't quite make it.
One of the many instances that I was sure I wouldn’t quite make it.

Wave after wave after wave, they just keep on coming. I’m gulping in more water than I probably should. As fast as I crashed into the swells, suddenly I’m past the rapids and saying hello to surprising peace and quiet. This is just the first round of river surfing — should I still stay for the second round? Hell yeah!

In Queenstown, I was all set for rafting, hiking and skydiving; as for Serious Fun’s River Surfing, this one I signed on a whim. This adventure-sightseeing-on-steroids ended up as the most memorable experience I had during my whole stay. This crazy water sport, basically the love child of rafting and boogie-boarding, takes you on an two-hour ride on Grade II-III rapids, only that you’re riding prone on a boogie-board instead of sitting on a raft.

The first question that popped into mind was, ‘Who the heck was the first person to jump into the Kawarau River rapids with nothing but a boogie board?!’. According to our guides, that honor belongs to a Hawaiian adventurer who itched so much for the surf, that he took a body-board onto the Kawarau River and asked the quintessential, ‘Why not?’. Thank goodness he did jump in, or else we would have lost out on arguably one of the best water adventures in the planet.

All set for a wild ride?
Our guide a few minutes before he backflipped from the crag, onto the river. Yup, this is one heck of a ride.

River Surfing captures the perfect mix for any adrenaline-laden tour — the security that you are with knowledgeable guides who double-checked every nook and cranny to make sure you’re safe, but also that fright that once you’re in the water, you *just* might not make it out.

Getting ready to meet the first gush of water at the head of the Roaring Meg leg.
Getting ready to meet the first gush of water at the head of the Roaring Meg leg.

Well, that was certainly how I felt, sloshing up and down through the waves, doing a 360-degree turn as I edged near whirlpools, kicking furiously when I was certain I was being sucked towards the rocks. We jumped off heading upstream on the Roaring Meg leg of the river, only to be swirled around by the rushing wall of water down to meet the three major rapids in this stretch, namely Maneater, Rollercoaster, and Dead Cow (notice how these names can also be used to call your ex). Magically though, for every near-death experience I’ve met on the ride, I would slide with the flow of the water around the boulders and ride past the waves, gasping for breath but breathing nonetheless. I was expecting something like bungee or skydiving to scare me off my skin, but river surfing definitely takes the cake.

Our happy guide waving at me in the midst of the chaos.
Our happy guide waving at me in the midst of the chaos.

Some time after the third rapid course, I stopped trying to fight the current and simply let it twirl me around. Amazingly, I glided nicely along where I was supposed to go — downstream. It reinforces an age-old wisdom: the more you fight, the more exhausted you will be — that’s for certain. If the instance comes that you DO have to fight, remember that timing is everything, and that you have to give it all you’ve got.

Near the end of the Roaring Meg leg, if you're tired of being prodded around by the water, you can engage in the Kiwi sport of clambering-over-crags-with-flippers and jump off the cliff rocks.
Near the end of the Roaring Meg leg, if you’re tired of being prodded around by the water, you can engage in another QT X-game (i.e. clambering-over-crags-with-flippers) and jump off the cliff rocks.


The Ka-ching Rundown
Serious Fun River Surfing Adventure (duration: 4.5 hours) – NZD 195

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