Dark Side of the Wave – by Paul Caffyn
Stewart Island Kayak Odyssey 2nd Edition
Size: 153 x 234 mm, 126 page softcover; 11 maps
Published: February 2022
Publisher: Kayak Dundee Press
Price: NZ $35.60 including p&p or plus RD postage $40
To order, go to Paul’s website: www:paulcaffyn.co.nz
or email Paul: firstname.lastname@example.org
For overseas postage costs, email Paul
Dark Side of the Wave – back in Print
A power of salty water has swirled around Paul’s paddle since August 1979, miles and kilometres of formidable coastline but the paddle around Stewart Island with Max Reynolds ranks up there as one of the toughest. Even though it was the shortest expedition of them all.
Dark Side of the Wave – Stewart Island Kayak Odyssey has been out of print since the 1990s and fetches quite astounding prices on overseas second-hand book websites when a copy surfaces. I had not considered publishing a 2nd edition until July 2021 when I finally got around to transcribing my ‘chicken scratch’ hand-written diaries from the 1979 paddle. This led to an exchange of emails with Lesley Hadley who for the North Island, Great Britain, Australia and Japan paddling expeditions, was my girlfriend and undertook the valued support crew role.
When Lesley emailed to ask if I had heard about the trip by three young local sea kayak guides, whose story had been published in the Spring 2021 edition of the Forest and Bird magazine, I sought more details for I had not heard of the trip. Whilst editing and laying out the NZ Sea Kayaker magazine for nigh on 28 years, my finger had been on the pulse of sea kayaking in New Zealand. However, since gracefully retiring in late 2019, that pulse had fluttered to barely a trickle of news.
And of course Lesley had to rub in the fact that she now knew more about New Zealand sea kayaking than I did, but she did provide an email contact for Gabe, one of the young sea kayak guides. He provided me not only with a diary style account of the paddle around Rakiura, written by the three young fellas, but also attached four photos, one of which when viewed on the 27” screen of my big Mac commuter left me gob-smacked and to a comment of ‘Fire truck’ or something that sounds very similar to that.
The landscape format photo shows the tail end of a monster breaking swell, off the south-east coast of Stewart Island. With no objects to show the size of that swell, it would be just a pic of a choppy sea with a bit of ground swell, however with two tiny paddlers who have just gone over the crest for scale, it certainly raised my pulse no end. So I started to think about a second edition, that not only contained the original text, but I would lean on those paddlers since 1979 who have paddled around the island or have been stymied in their attempt for their high/low-lights.
Rakiura – the Isle of Glowing Skies – for a Paddler
For a sea kayaker, the island offers so much by way of paddling opportunities, muchly dependent of levels of skill and experience. Paterson Inlet and Port Pegasus offer glorious historical tiki touring with no worries about a prevailing ground swell, while side trips on shore allow ascents to the granite tops for stunning panoramic views. Boat charters out of Halfmoon Bay transport kayaks and paddlers to Port Pegasus.
Ramping up to a bit more of a serious challenge, venturing out from Oban along the island’s north coast, which is sheltered from the westerly ground swell, along the granite shoreline to Port William or further afield allows access to several coastal over-nighting huts.
For the expedition paddler, a full circumnavigation is a wonderful challenge. It terms of commitment and difficulty, it is up there with a paddle around Fiordland, albeit much shorter time-wise. Those big deep fjords offer shelter from the westerly ground swell after 2 – 3 hours offshore, and from the fine days with a 25 knot south-westerly sea breeze. However apart from the clouds of viscous bloodsucking sandflies, the Fiordland tide races off West Cape and Puysegur Point are puny in comparison to their counterparts off the south coast of Stewart Island. My experiences of tide races off the coasts of Great Britain, Japan, Greenland and northern Australia have left me in awe of those nasty, nasty overfalls off South West and South capes of Stewart Island.
This modern era of cyber communication gadgets is most beneficial in terms of pre-viewing Google images of the committing bits of the coastline, with both oblique and vertical views. Swell, wind and sea forecasts can be sourced by sat. phones with updates on an hourly basis. So different from the good old days of a nightly Mountain Radio schedule for a marine forecast, or up-zipping the tent door in the morning and seeing if the finger poked out is:
– wet (raining)
– goes white on both sides (a frost)
– or cold on only one side (windy).
Planning, preparation, research and a solid stint of training are the key to a successful island circuit. A measure of patience is beneficial especially when nailed by days of ‘tickle your arse with a feather weather’ (particularly nasty weather).
Stewart Island is a corker place to paddle, and to be able to start a paddle and finish it in front of a pub, is a corker incentive to finish a either a tiki tour of Paterson Inlet or a paddle around Stewart Island,
A s well as the original text, this new edition includes an additional 30 pages with the side-bar stories and new colour photos. Nelson paddler Peter Syms has drafted 10 superb maps showing the paddling route and overnight camps. A 2nd edition preface introduces the side bar story authors and includes a ‘pick of the litter’ informative books about Stewart Island.