Hawke’s Bay, Napier and Wine Tasting

6 02 2013

IMG_0058As you know I live in Portland, Oregon – where it’s dark and rainy in December! So I was super excited to take a holiday in summery New Zealand! But I brought the rain with me. It was raining when I got to Palmerston North, and it was fickle – rain/sun/rain the first couple of days. The thing about New Zealand is that if you drive east, over the mountains, it’s often dry and warm from places west. So Paul made plans to take us to Hastings and Hawke’s Bay – his dad and sister live over there. Plus, we’d pay a visit to some of the wineries the area is known for. Sounded good to me!

This was going to be a great day. Paul, Liz, myself and Anthia loaded up and took off east – we’d breakfast on the way. One Kiwi dish that ought to be sampled by visitors are the savory pies. So, Paul had a favorite pie bakery where we’d stop and eat a mid morning breakfast.

Paul and Liz

Paul and Liz


They had all sorts of pies – chicken, turkey, pork, beef, but I chose the seafood. It was delicious! And we had some “doughnut” sweet type pastries, too.

I had to get some cappuccino to go with this. Having a “meat pie” for breakfast was new to me, but these were quite nice.

The irony here is that these pies were made by Cambodians! I think the bakery was named Angkor Wat Kiwi Bakery.

Once we arrived on the east side of the mountains, the sky cleared and it warmed up substantially-with no humidity! Over in the jewel-like suburb of Havelock North, the town was very neat and clean – houses with crisply tended yards, flowers everywhere, purple flowered jacaranda trees – and a blue sea beyond. Hard to resist an intoxicated feeling just being there.


A jacaranda tree – just like in Buenos Aires!

We picked up Paul’s dad in Havelock North and headed up into the coastal hills – to a Te Mata Peak – a place with a panoramic view of the whole Hawke’s Bay area!


View from Te Mata Peak


After a brief lunch visit at Paul’s sister’s house, we drove through Napier, a coastal town known for its Art-Deco architecture, to the Mission Estate Winery.

Napier is definitely sun-splashed. It’s got a mile-wide beach – but it’s not good for swimming as there are dangerous currents. You can swim further north.

Napier was flattened in 1931 by a 7.9 magnitude earthquake. The town was subsequently rebuilt in the then-trendy art deco style and visitors come to see the architecture. It’s a major export port for wool, fruit and wines the area is famous for.

We pass through on our way, stopping at the marina area to the north.


There is someone launching a Feelfree Move sit on top kayak with a fishing set up, and there are Laser Class sailboats getting ready to race. I take a step into the waters and it would have been a decent swim…but we move on.

We check out the Mission Estate Winery – the oldest in New Zealand.

It reminds me of something out of Gone with the Wind, except that we’re in New Zealand. Grand style, grand semi circle entrance, big halls, and beautiful palm-studded grounds with tables set out.IMG_0064

IMG_0067People sitting at the tables enjoying fine food and drink. After some tasting, Paul bought a bottle of Chardonnay, and I a Merlot-Syrah. New Year’s is coming…


Holiday Season in New Zealand

3 02 2013

The first part of my New Zealand trip was to be five days with my friend Paul Lepper and his family, in Palmerston North. This would be a great introduction to Kiwi life. For the first part of my trip, I would spend time with 100% Kiwis – people who live and work in the heart of the country. My flight left Portland, Oregon – to Vancouver, British Columbia. There, I’d catch an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland. Once there, I’d hop on a 60-minute domestic flight to Palmerston North. Total trip length? Two hours to Vancouver and 14 hours from there to Auckland, plus layovers. Total was about 22 hours.

Preparation for grilling!

Preparation for grilling!

I have known Paul and his wife Liz for seven years. Paul designs kayaks for Feelfree Kayaks. I was a USA Brand Manager for Feelfree Kayak USA, which distributed Feelfree in America. I’d worked with Paul on many occasions – in Bangkok, where they are manufactured, or at the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show in Salt Lake City, Utah. We’d trained sales reps. We’d worked on design tweaks. We’d discussed where the market is going. We’d talked manufacturing schedules. We’d shown boats to countless dealers. We’d tipped more than a few pints in Bangkok or Utah. But I had never been to New Zealand! Paul had told me many times I have to come and visit. The timing was right this time!

View from Paul's house

View from Paul’s house

I arrived December 28th – Liz met me at the airport – and I was surprised that it was maybe 10 minutes to their house! It was SO nice to see her!


Cows out back

Cows out back

They live on 40 acres, have 44 cows, two dogs, several sheep. The house is crescent shaped, partly to deflect wind. It’s a one-story house, so it kind of sprawls to account for the rooms. There is also a view of Mt Ruapehu. Once arrived I went to work tending the cows! This was a good thing for a jet lagged soul. I donned gum-shoes, and set about moving the cows from one paddock to another. The property also has a fabricating facility – and it is there that the kayak designs come to life. I did not take any pictures in there!

Liz and Anthia

Liz and Anthia

I met Paul’s daughter Anthia a and son Glen. Paul has done well for himself. Everyone is so nice and made me feel comfortable. Essentially I was made to feel part of the family. I had a room, and anything I needed don’t ask just grab, whether it be a beer or something from the refrigerator.


Something very down under!

The next day I joined Paul, Anthia and Liz on a journey to the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Hastings/Napier to see Paul’s dad. We would also visit a mountain with a terrific view, and a winery! Anthia lives in Melbourne, Australia and was home for the holidays…she had lots to say about Melbourne!

One thing about New Zealand is they are into sit on tops and there a lot of Feelfree Kayaks down there.

Alder Creek Paddle Festival 2010!

28 04 2010

Demos line the beach at Vancouver Lake

This past weekend I volunteered to work at Alder Creek’s Paddle Festival. Every year Alder Creek kicks off the season with a late  April event – at this event novice and experienced paddlers alike can enjoy free demos of kayaks, paddles, gear and even get instruction all FREE. It’s held at Vancouver Lake, Washington.

I like working paddle events, so I volunteered about tw0 weeks before to help. Suzi Elle, one of the owners of the store, put me on as a coordinator for “First Strokes,” which is the class introducing people to paddling. I worked with Paul Kuthe in helping coordinate, and there were a number of instructors teaching groups of beginners all weekend long. Jerry, Annette and Josh were there all weekend introducing people to the wonderful activity we know as paddling. Saturday, we had both instruction and lots of paddling industry companies on the beach with demos to try.

Feelfree and P&H Kayaks on the beach.

So not only was I helping coordinate classes, but during lulls I went down to the beach to help people find a boat that fit them best. This was lots of fun. To the untrained eye, kayaks kind of look alike. But once sitting in the cockpit, people realized there are noticeable differences. I guided folks to boats most likely to fit

them. It’s lots of fun watching someone return to shore with two thumbs up!

The event got pretty packed about lunch time. I was told to go ahead and take lunch. But right before, in the midst of one of the busier moments, some guy asks me, “do you know if they have any Feelfree Kayak brochures?


My jaw almost hit the ground. I wrote the last Feelfree kayak brochure a couple of years ago. What was this guy talking about?

Well, at the other end of the beach, there was a Feelfree kayak flag flying from the Pyranha tent. Damn! I had to get down there. Jamie, the rep, said yep he was going around the country to events like this and the folks in Asheville had him bring all three brands. There were people on the beach trying Mokens, Moves, a Corona and a Gemini. I made a point to bring back a catalog next day.

For We Love Clean Rivers, and for myself, I was also networking. I spoke with Josh Hoopes, the rep from Confluence Watersports, and Cindi Sherrer, of Confluence (who used to own Alder Creek) as well as with Jim Miller of Werner Paddles and Carl of Kokatat. Looks like I can get dona

tions. Also it was nice that Cindy had read my article on the Clackamas River Cleanup in Sea Kayaker Magazine!

Most industry manufacturers left to do another demo day in Bend, OR for Sunday. Sunday’s activities centered less around demos and more around free instruction. I expected there’d be fewer folks. But it seemed even busier. By late morning we’d run out of paddles, pfds and we had more students than instructors. When an instructor came back after a lesson I had to just throw them at the next class! It was OK, as they seemed to take it all in stride.

There were other classes – wet exits, rescues, towing, paddling destinations, rolling and more. Weather had improved. Like Saturday I found myself down by the lake helping people find boats that might work for them. To me, it’s not work, it’s all about helping people have fun!

Later on, Neil Schulman paid a visit. He asked me if I’d like to try rolling the NDK Triton – a tandem. I’d never rolled a tandem so I figured, why the heck not! So I grabbed a dry suit and got ready. But unfortunately two girls had taken off with the Triton! And they stayed out in it the rest of the day. Fun foiled.

Time to clean up. Today’s activities were over. Kayaks, gear, tables and tents had to be removed. All hands on deck to haul the stuff out. This is where the hard stuff happens. I was told that because of my recovering shoulder, I didn’t need to worry about lifting boats. But I knew my right shoulder was OK – so I went ahead and moved a lot of boats. We were all working pretty hard! Then the boats had to be loaded onto trailers. Once the trailers left it was all about tearing down tents. We set about that task.

I think my paddle is backwards?

Well, it seemed like time for me to head home. Paul said I ought to see Suzi – she might have something for me. So I went over to say good bye. Yep she did have something! She took me over to one of the Alder Creek vans. She told me they had a meeting and decided to give the best volunteer the grand prize from the weekend raffle…and that volunteer was me! She gave me a really nice snap dragon touring spray skirt. That was really nice! I also earned more than a couple hundred bucks worth of store credits. All fun!