Teva’s Dawson Sets Up Worlds Toughest Slalom Course on New Zealand’s Kaituna

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What would you do if you were an extreme boater living Down Under in New Zealand and vying for a spot on the Olympic Slalom team to compete this summer in London? If you’re Teva team member Mike Dawson, you hang up gates on a flooding Class V Kaituna to train on perhaps the toughest slalom course in the world…

“This project sat in the back of my mind for some time,” says Dawson. “For the past two years, I’d planned to run a specific whitewater section with Czech kayaker Vavra Hradilek to train for the London Olympics, and last month we finally did it.”

With the adrenaline duo’s original location shut down due to the high water levels — spill gates released hundreds of tons of water down the river – they switched plans and headed to the Kaituna on the North Island of New Zealand. “We thought we were going to have to postpone the trip until 2013 but our back-up location—the Kaituna River—proved equally as good as the original plan,” he says.

The Kaituna was running three times higher than the commercial rafting cut-off level, so at lease they didn’t have to dodge any rafts when stringing and slaloming through gates. Then it was game on Kiwi-style. “It kept us on our game as we attempted to race through slalom gates down the waterfalls in the gorge,” he says. “The crux of the project hinged on attempting to put up gates and complete a course on the infamous Trout Pool Falls.”

Adding to the chaos was the fact that instead of being in creek boats they opted to paddle what they’d be paddling in the Games: carbon-fiber slalom kayaks. “The backwash was so intense that if one of us got caught our boats would break apart around us,” he says, adding that they put a safety crew in place in case that happened.
For footage of the training session, visit Southern Underground Productions