The New Zealand Extreme Whitewater Series is set out to unify New Zealand’s major whitewater events. Taking place over four separate events, back to back in February and March 2024. The first two events will take place in the North Island followed by the next two in the South Island. Keep up to date – follow @nzextremewhitewaterseries

Kaituna Festival
– time trial, boater X + freestyle

February 9th – 11th

The series opener, typically used to only be a time trial event that took place over an afternoon, has now been expanded into a three day whitewater festival! 

Day 1: Intermediate competitors will race a time trial down the top rapids of the rafting stretch on the Kaituna. Advanced competitors will race down the whole rafting stretch. Both manoeuvring around gates with the fastest time winning.

Day 2: Competitors will be taking part in a boater X with each category racing the same stretches of river as the day before.

Day 3: The first of a two-round freestyle series and will be held at the ‘bottom hole’ wave feature, towards the end of the commercial section on the Kaituna. Throw down your best tricks to claim the title of the National Freestyle Kayak Champion!

Wairoa Extreme Race
– time trial + boater X

February 17th – 18th

Being one of New Zealand’s longest running whitewater events, Wairoa Race is a favourite for many North Island boaters – a very intense series of races for both intermediate and advanced padders. There’s camping and live music for all to enjoy!

Day 1: Intermediate paddlers race against the clock down a class 2/3 section. This then seeds your starting position for the extreme slalom style boater X event later that afternoon.

Day 2: Advanced paddlers will race against the clock down the steep class 4/5 section of the Wairoa, which then finishes at the bottom of the biggest rapid, The Rollercoaster! In the afternoon, paddlers race down The Rollercoaster in heats of two, making for a very intense and tight boater X. 

Here are some photos of that! 

Buller Festival
– boater X, raft race + slalom

March 1st – 3rd

Just like the Wairoa Extreme Race, Buller Festival has been around for a long time and is steeped in kayak history. The festival is based out of Murchison in the South Island, the grade 3 capital of New Zealand. Buller Fest offers friendly competitions over multiple days on several rivers.

Day 1: Intermediate competitors will compete in heats of four down the earthquake section of the Matakitaki River. They will have to manoeuver through and around gates and show off their rolling abilities! Following the racing, crowds fill the little town of Murchison to take part in the Awanui Film Awards.

Day 2: Moving down the Buller River there will be slalom racing and raft racing. Live music is held at the campground that evening! 

Day 3: The final day of the festival back on the Buller River. The advanced divisions will race in heats of four in another extreme slalom style event!

Citroen Extreme Race
– time trial, boater X + freestyle

March 9th – 10th

The fourth and final event of the race series! In Queenstown on the Kawarau River you’ll find some of the biggest rapids in the country. This is the biggest and most intense race in the series. Four competitors launch down a large ramp and race down the class 5 Citroen rapid.

Day 1: Starting the day with a time trial, competitors of all divisions will race down a slow and calm moving section of river finishing upstream of the Citroen rapid. This then seeds competitors for the main event. Following the time trial, competitors in the intermediate division will race from the halfway point below the hard entrance to the rapid. Meanwhile, competitors of the advanced division will race from the very top to bottom.

Day 2: This event is the second of the two-round freestyle series and will be held on the Hawea wave in Wanaka. Throw down your best tricks to claim the title of the National Freestyle Kayak Champion!

The New Zealand Extreme Whitewater Series is designed to show what makes the New Zealand whitewater scene unique on a global level. The goal is to promote an open-minded community in which everyone can feel safe and respected regardless of ethnicity, culture, gender, religious views, age or ability. A race series that can be enjoyed by paddlers no matter what level of skill or confidence they have!

Photos by Rod Hill & Ryan Lucas