Waimakariri Gorge: First-Timer's Course

Waimakariri Gorge: First-Timer's Course

Regular price$949
Pay only $237.25 today with code "DEPOSIT" at checkout.

Suitable for Coast to Coast kayakers who have achieved grade 2 certification within the last 3 years, but not paddled the Waimakariri Gorge yet, this 3-day course will provide you with 2 days of skills coaching, followed by a guided trip through the Gorge on day 3.

  • Develop your multisport kayaking skills
  • Experience the Waimakariri Gorge
  • Prepare for your first Coast to Coast race

Course Date:
  • Only 1 left!
  • Please contact us to join the waitlist
Hire kayaks available
Runs in all weather
Reschedule for free with 21 days notice

Doing Coast to Coast, but haven't paddled the Waimakariri Gorge yet?

  • Are you training towards your first Coast to Coast race?
  • Have you recently got your grade 2 certificate, or plan to have one soon?
  • Are you feeling apprehensive about kayaking the Gorge for the first time?

On Canterbury Kayaking's 3-day Waimakariri Gorge: First-Timer's Course, you’ll receive the skills coaching, preparation, and support you need to enjoy a safe and positive first experience through the Waimakariri Gorge.

Make your first Gorge trip a safe and successful one.

Most Coast to Coast athletes understand the importance of paddling the Waimakariri River before the race, but many end up falling out multiple times during their first trip through the Gorge. Without the proper preparation and guidance, kayaking the Gorge for the first time can feel intimidating and dangerous.

During this 3-day course, you’ll be able to build up to the Gorge gradually, refining your skills on easier water over two days first. On the third and final day, you’ll have the opportunity to paddle the Waimakariri Gorge for the first time with the safety support of an experienced guide who knows the river and your paddling ability.

Once you've successfully paddled through the Waimakariri Gorge, you'll be able to relax knowing you have made it down the river and you’ll feel much more prepared for your first Coast to Coast race.

How It Works

  1. Book your dates at the top of this page
  2. Enjoy paddling the Waimakariri Gorge
  3. Know your Coast to Coast training is on track

Meet Your Guide

Sam Milne is the most experienced kayak guide on the Waimakariri River and the founder of Canterbury Kayaking. Through helping over 1,000 athletes prepare for the Coast to Coast, Sam has learned that paddling the Gorge before the race gives competitors a huge advantage.

Over the years, Sam has found that single-day Gorge trips do not provide first-timers with a process conducive to success. If he continued to rush first-timers down in a single day, he knew that many paddlers would have a stressful and potentially unsafe first experience with the Gorge.

That’s why Sam created a 3-day plan to support paddlers through their first Gorge trip in the best possible way. In this course, you’ll receive skills coaching to help you feel ready for the bluffs, boils, and wave trains, then guidance down the river to ensure your first Gorge trip is safe and enjoyable.

After you complete Canterbury Kayaking's Waimakariri Gorge: First-Timer’s Course, you’ll have had a positive and safe experience paddling the Gorge, allowing you to continue training towards the Coast to Coast with confidence.

What do I get with the course?

  • 2 days of skills preparation with Sam Milne, the Waimakariri River's most experienced kayak guide.
  • 1 day guided trip through the Waimakariri Gorge.
  • Pre-Gorge skills assessment and advice on kayak choice.
  • Option to renew your grade 2 kayak certificate.
  • Transport and shuttle for the Gorge day.
  • Exclusive discount on products from our gear shop.
  • Option to hire a boat, paddle, spray skirt, PFD and helmet.


Ideally, you will bring your own stable multisport kayak or lightweight sea kayak to this course. However, we do have lightweight sea kayaks available for hire and multisport kayaks can be hired through River Ninja Rentals if arranged in advance.

You will need to have ALL of the following items (* = hire available):

All required gear is availble to purchase through us at a discounted rate and can be collected at the course.

This program runs over 3 consecutive days and remains flexible based on weather and river conditions.

Day 1: Meet at 8:00 a.m. Lake Rua in Harewood, Christchurch. After a flatwater session, the remainder of the day is based on the Waimakariri River and finishes at around 4:00 p.m. at Waimakariri Gorge Bridge near Sheffield.

Day 2: We will meet at 8:30 a.m. at Waimakariri Gorge Bridge. You will paddle on the lower 15 kilometres of the Coast to Coast kayak route until around 4:00 p.m.

Day 3: We meet in Sheffield at 8:00 a.m. You can leave your vehicle in Sheffield for the day and we will provide transport for you and your kayak for a Gorge trip from Mt White to Woodstock (upper 55 kilometres of the Coast to Coast route). We will finish at 4:30 p.m. in Sheffield.

Yes. If you are unable to pay in full at the time of booking, please enter the discount code DEPOSIT during checkout to reserve your spot with just a 25% deposit. We will invoice you for the balance, which will be due 21 days before your course.

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Customer Reviews

Based on 13 reviews
Charles Douglas (Albury, Australia)

We had some whitewater kayaking experience and wanted to do the Coast to Coast but had never had never been in multisport (or even ruddered) kayaks before. This course was an invaluable introduction to paddling in these not-so-manoeuvrable boats. The course also gave us the opportunity to check out the Waimakariri River and test our equipment and organisation before race day, in the safest possible way.

Luke Shadbolt (Hamilton, New Zealand)

This course was awesome. Learnt plenty of new stills, corrected a few bad habits, nailed some new techniques. Sam and his team were excellent, providing patient instruction. Culminated in a dry run down the Waimakariri Gorge which was great preparation for C2C and has provided plenty of confidence. Highly recommended.

Paul Broadley (Adelaide, Australia)

Just completed this course with Sam and found it to be an excellent follow on from the grade 2 course. Sam is very knowledgeable and the course is well structured. To take someone like me from relative inexperience to a swim-free run of the Waimakiriri gorge in 3 days is a testament to the quality of the instruction.

Jess Malone (Dunedin, New Zealand)

We just completed the 3-day course.
This course is perfect for linking grade your grade 2, with what you'll face on C2C race day! All the way down to gear selection and some tips and tricks.
Sam and his team were amazingly helpful, and even accommodated us on the course at short notice AND as a tandem team in our Duo, by arranging additional guide support on the river - this made a bit of a daunting task for us, into a really good learning experience.
We're coming back for more with a Waimakariri Gorge trip in a few weeks.

Chris Gillon (Auckland, New Zealand)

Just finished this 3 day course and found it to be hugely beneficial. I have been training solo and tended to take the easy lines but Sam and Will challenged me to really commit to the fastest lines and it was awesome knowing they were there to pick up the pieces if I pushed it too far! Sam and Will together are an awesome combination of instructors. They each have their own style and between them they can cater to every learner. So cool to hang out with people so passionate about kayaking and sharing skills. Looking forward to my guided Gorge trip with the Canterbury Kayaking crew in January. Thanks team.

Canterbury Kayaking is an approved training provider, officially recommended by the Kathmandu Coast to Coast.

Our safety systems have been independently audited and certified by AdventureMark.

All our coaches are qualified through the New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association.