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Circumnavigating New Zealand by kayak

RAIN and rough seas saw kayaker Lynn Paterson stop over in Tolaga Bay 16 days into her solo circumnavigation of New Zealand’s more than 5000-kilometre coastline.

Having set off from Takapuna on October 27, Ms Paterson expects her voyage to take 180 days at 30 kilometres a day. Faced with 20 to 30 knot winds and waves, the 50-year-old athlete joined her support crew Natalie Frew at Tolaga Bay Holiday Park.

“You need to have huge respect for nature. That’s why I’m sitting on the beach and not leaving yet.”

Former Gisborne veterinary surgeon Mike Scanlan coached the adventurer but told her he would not attempt such an expedition.

“He said I needed to see him once a week, just to practise the eskimo roll. He mentored me in being upside-down and back-to-front and trying to do everything you’re trained to do.

“About a year later, he said ‘are you still serious?’

“I said ‘more than ever’.”

Six-day-a-week training scheduleIf you want something, you have to sacrifice something, she says. Ms Paterson spent three years training in the kayak. For 18 months she adhered to a six-day-a-week training schedule with 3.50am starts.

“I left the house at 4.30am, ran for half an hour from 4.50am, went to the gym at 5.30am for strength training, then hit the water and paddled for two hours or swam for an hour.

“Then I’d go to work.”

This sort of commitment gave rise to her personal motto: “Are you made of sugar?”

If darkness, cold and rain made it hard to get out of the car and into her kayak, she would phone her mentor who prompted her with that very question to get out to sea.

“Mike’s voice has been with me the whole way,” she says.

“I can hear his voice talking to me in my head.”

Ms Paterson has kept a blog since leaving Takapuna and she even has a video camera to take with her on the water — but with sunblock and zinc on her face, she feels like a dick, she says.

“Do I look adventurous? No, I look like a clown. It’s not about glamour.”

As she paddled down East Cape, the coastline brought to mind the movie Jurassic Park, she says.

“There are trees right down to the beach. Mountains fall into the ocean.”

Part of Ms Paterson’s motivation to take on the epic challenge was to raise awareness of people affected by loved ones who live with depression. Her son’s depression, exacerbated by drugs and alcohol, moved her to take the cause on board. She aims to raise money for the Mental Health Foundation along the way.

“I want to show you have to find inner strength. It all comes from inside. I’ve had to dig deep.”

• To make a $3 donation to the Mental Health Foundation, text REDZNZ to 2446. To follow Lynn “Red” Paterson’s journey go to www.facebook.com/REDzNZJourney and www.redznzjourney.com


AROUND NZ IN 180 DAYS: Coached for three years by former Gisborne veterinary surgeon Mike Scanlan, Auckland woman Lynn Paterson is on a mission to paddle New Zealand's entire coastline in 180 days. Bad weather meant she had to stop over in Uawa-Tolaga Bay for a couple of days though. Picture by Liam Clayton
Lynn Paterson is kayaking around the New Zealand coast
Natalie Frew with Lynn Paterson