Buller Festival is one of Aotearoa’s longest running and most popular whitewater events. This year it attracted people from all ages from 8 years old right through to over 70’s. The magic of Buller Fest is that it has something for everyone. Whether you want to chill out on amazingly scenic grade 2, step it up a notch on big water grade 3, maybe catch a grade 4 rain run, or practice your waterfall running skills on 9 meter high Maruia falls (I wouldn’t suggest starting out on this one!). If you love to party all night long, or if you just like hanging out, catching up with old friends and meeting new friends. No matter what you’re after, Buller Festival will deliver it.

Gorgeous gorges on the middle Matakitaki River

Kayla is stoked to be in her boat

Misty morning on the Buller River

The racing side to Buller Festival is both fun and incredibly intense. The boater X head to head race is on the Matakitaki River. The section you race on is not intimidating which means that every person in every race is sprinting flat out as fast as they can for the finish line from the word ‘go’. The first round is a seeding round, which gives you a good warm up run, especially if this is your first boater X. Everyone then carries their boat back to the top and the knock out rounds commence. From that point on the top 2 go through to the next round and if you’re not in the top 2 you are then relegated to safety and spectating.

River left safety getting ready to do some fishing

Great turnout to the Boater X

Getting ahead in the seeding round

The cool thing about the Bullerfest race is that everyone is so friendly and nice. Its a great place to do your first boater X. It was awesome seeing so many super fast ladies, many of them is super fast RPM’s. It is so hard to beat an RPM on flat water but once you get into the rapids then its on. It was also impressive to see the number of junior paddlers. There were 8 boys in the juniors category and 2 girls aged 14 and 15, half of them were from the North Island and the other half from the South. Pretty cool to see those kids paddling hard and giving it everything.

Andi passing down his tactics to the next generation of paddlers

Kylie LB chasing down Nikki Whitehead

Fierce racing in the Open Women’s class, Jess Matheson’s ninja senses must be on form as she used her skills to avoid concussion

Tai Poutini Polytech won the inter-polytechnic competition and bragging rights for the year.

Gangster versus RPM, which is faster?

The other great thing about Bullerfest is the prize giving! There are a couple of prizes for winning the races but most of the prizes go out as spot prizes and there were so many cool things to win! Prizes included PFD’s, drytops, thermals, throwbags, hats, whistles, clothes, a werner paddle, and a bliss-stick kayak which you had to win in a mass game of paper, scissors, rock!

Kim Dodd winning the day taking home the Werner paddle Mick Hopkinson kindly donated to the event.

Chilling out after an awesome day of racing.

Buller Festival runs every year on the first weekend of March. Put it on your calendar and see you there!