A white water kayaker in the Lake Tekapo dam recreational water release over the weekend.
A Lake Tekapo dam’s gates have been opened as a recreational release for canoeing and other white water sports.
The opening of the dam’s gates at the Tekapo A power station, from Saturday to Tuesday, allowed the flow of water at high speed, with around 30 people make the most of the white water. This included top athletes in white water sport from New Zealand and around the world, including Luuka Jones, who won the silver medal for slalom canoeing at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Tekapo White Water Trust chairman Alan Hoffman said it been had good to get back on the water because the number of recreational release days over the past two years have been reduced while the Tekapo power station is upgraded.
With the upgrade almost complete, Hoffman hopes there will be a full schedule of events this year, including the New Zealand kayaking nationals at Easter and the secondary school championship the weekend before.
* Water spill warning as Lake Tekapo passes maximum level
* Plans to build new bridge over Tekapo White Water Course
* Warning to steer clear of Tekapo River bed while lake levels are lowered
Hoffman said the events “will bring 300-400 people kayaking to Tekapo” with the course highly sought after.
“It’s a pretty good site. The bottom end is grade three and is of an international standard for canoe slalom and freestyle,’’ he said.
“Pre-covid we’d get 20-30 people from the Northern Hemisphere come down to New Zealand over the European winter to train in New Zealand. That’ll all come back, I hope, when all this Covid nonsense is sorted out.”
Hoffman said the Tekapo water releases are attended by around 12-15,000 people a year across a wide array of white water sports.
“When we have the recreational releases anyone can come and use it.
“So there are the slalom [canoers] and then there are the freestyle play-boaters [that] do tricks like loops and flips.
“Quite often there’ll be people on pack rafts, there’ll be kickboarders, there’ll be kayakers and people in little rafts and rubber duckies. The Otago University Canoe Club go down there in tubes.”
The trust organises 10-12 recreational release weekends a year and encourage anyone interested to come along.
“When it flows we like to get as much attendance as possible to justify the use of the water,” Hoffman said.
A spokesperson for Genesis Energy, which manages the Tekapo dams, said water for the recreational release is released through a gate in Lake Tekapo and goes back in through the canal and another gate to Tekapo B for power generation, so no water is lost.
Lake Tekapo resident and photographer George Empson said the release brought to mind events of his childhood playing with his friends in the Tekapo riverbed in 1958.
“One of the boys Trevor had only recently had his birthday,’’ Empson told Stuff.
Trevor had been given a trout rod and reel for his birthday but had put it down to climb over a rock.
“All of a sudden one of the boys yelled out ‘water!’ and when we looked up there was a foot-high wall of water racing at us from bank to bank – these were the days before siren warnings.
“We took off and just made it to the bank but unfortunately Trevor’s new rod and reel were gone; he was not happy.’’
Empson said when the dam gates were shut the boys walked for ‘’ages’’ down river looking for the rod and reel to no avail.
“I talked to Trevor a short while ago and he said that one day sometime after losing the rod he arrived home from school and his mother said ‘look what I have got’ – it was the rod and reel; apparently a fellow who worked at the power station found it and knew whose it was.’’