The River People

Snaking through bush-clad canyons, the Kaituna River is a mystical gorge of fast-moving water, steep drops and turbulence. The remote stretch, which carries the outflow of Lakes Rotorua and Rotoiti northwards to Maketu, is isolated by its geography and singular in its sense of destiny for the people that run the rapids.

“It’s an epic section of whitewater,” says Ryan Lucas, one of the country’s top extreme kayakers.

“It’s as committing as it possibly gets. You drop in, here’s the lines, stick the moves, don’t go upside down.

The Kaituna River is Ryan’s playground and his ground zero. It is here that he has spent all his summers since he was a kid. It is here he finds his ultimate joy — going places physically and spiritually most people will never experience. It is also here the person he “loved and cared about more than anything in the world” drowned.

Read: The River People, Life and Death on the Kaituna