By DAVID HILL
Sam Milne is living the dream. The former Kaiapoi High School student has been training competitors on the Hurunui and Waimakariri rivers ahead of this weekend’s Coast to Coast races.
Meanwhile, he is planning his next winter adventure, whitewater kayaking in North America. “It’s an awesome lifestyle, and with the seasons, it works in perfectly.”
Sam took up kayaking while at school, enjoying whitewater adventures on local rivers before completing an outdoor education degree at the Christchurch Polytechnic.
For the last six years he has run Canterbury Kayaking, which puts him out on the water almost every day for nine months of the year, training around 100 people each season.
He takes budding kayakers to the Hurunui River in spring to teach them the basics, before moving to the Waimakariri River to train on the 70km Coast to Coast kayaking course over the summer. “We have quite a few guys in it (the Coast to Coast), but for most of them they are just hoping to finish,” Sam says.
“Most people will train for six months for the paddle, building up their strength over the winter, and then they come to us and we take them out on the water in the spring to teach them the basics. Then we move on to the Coast to Coast route.”
North Island competitor Andrew Sclater has been spending time on the water with Sam in the lead-up to Saturday’s “Longest Day”, as he seeks another podium finish.
Sam has also trained two-time women’s race winner Jess Simson, of Wanaka.
He also has several international competitors training with him before the Coast to Coast.
“If we can prevent them from falling out of the kayak, that can save them 15 to 20 minutes of race time for each time they fall out. That’s why we get some of the elite guys coming back for a week or two, to make sure their skills are rock solid.”
Sam is not a competitive kayaker and the Coast to Coast kayaking course is rated only grade two. “In the off season it’s my time to play. We just go where the water is.”
He says he waits to hear about the spring snow melt in North America to determine where the best kayaking will be on grade-five rivers. In recent winters he has kayaked his way down rapids in California, Washington State, Idaho and Colorado.