24 Hour World Record Full Report
Tim Taylor 21. April 2015
As you are aware, this challenge had been booked in for anytime after Easter Weekend. I’d chosen this period for a couple of reasons…
1. It gave me significant time to train
2. The support boat had more availability
3. It was cooler and hence easier to regulate my temperature.
When the week of the challenge arrived I was greeted with mixed bag of complex lows and nasty fronts. Sitting in Tauranga, with the weather fine, it was very difficult to stay on track but I knew from experience that I needed almost perfect conditions, so I was prepared to wait it out and take the opportunity when it came. This was often very difficult because many people would comment on how good the weather might be at a particular hour, unintentionally trying to second guess my decisions, without realising that I need a complete 24 hours of good weather. Luckily I have experienced this sort of thing when I was circumnavigating NZ, so I was prepared to stick to my guns and only start when I was 100% happy with the forecasts.
In the final week leading up to this challenge, the biggest thing that changed was my intended route. My dad quite rightly predicted that I might not get my exact desired conditions, and suggested that I consider thinking up plans B and C. I wasn’t too happy about this idea, mainly because I liked the idea of paddling from Auckland to Tauranga, but the more I thought about it the more I changed my opinion. Ultimately it became very clear to me - all I had to do was paddle so who really cares what direction I go in.
Thursday the 16th arrived and with it a relatively stable high-pressure system. I knew that this would be bringing winds from the southwest so I decided the route would be from Tauranga, up to the Coromandel, and back to Tauranga. All going well I would get a little push up there with the wind, then it might die out over night, leaving me to coast back to Tauranga.
I kicked things off at 8am from Pilot Bay. It was a cold morning but I was pretty excited so I hardly noticed the temperature. Leaving the Tauranga harbour I had an outgoing tide so I whisked out the entrance and up the coast toward the Coromandel. For the first three hours I had elected not to stop, so I tried my best to find a rhythm and settle into the paddling. What actually happened was that I struggled to control my excitement and I consequently charged off at an extremely fast pace, with a heart rate that was well above the zone that I wanted to sit in. I was concerned that this could ultimately cause me to crash and burn, but I reasoned that I felt good so why try and fight it…if my body wanted to go fast then thats what I’ll do!
Photo: the first hour heading out along Matakana Island. Credit Lyn Taylor.
Passing Waihi beach and setting my sights on Whangamata, I’d now settled into a good rhythm and I was beginning to enjoy things. I was a little concerned that the wind was getting quite strong (about 15 knots at some points) so upon reaching Whanga I elected to cut in closer to the coast to gain a bit of protection. This worked a treat and I was rewarded with a pleasant 10-knot tail wind, which allowed me to surf but not burn excess energy. During these hours my routine was to concentrate on a prominent landmark and just concentrate on my paddling technique. It was arranged with the support boat that on the hour I would stop for a decent drink and something to eat, so when I heard the boat engine rev up I knew that it was getting close to my rest time. They would maneuver in front of me, trying not to cause too much wake, then I would paddle up and grip onto the rubber tender which we used as a buffer between me and the alloy stern.
Photo: taking on food during a rest stop. Credit Lyn Taylor.
During the paddle up the Coro coast, I didn’t have too much to excite me as things were going relatively well. At one point I passed a school of free-jumping albacore tuna, which was pretty cool, and at another I almost ran over a one metre long shark. Probably the most exciting moment was when I fell out while trying to adjust my SPOT satellite tracker. This was actually a bit of a non-event but the story goes I was paddling along just fine at around 4.30pm. Over the radio I got a call from my support boat telling me the SPOT had stopped working. To fix this I had to unclip it from behind me and fiddle with the buttons, which required me to come to a complete stop. It was while I was turning around to grab it that I rolled out. Now I’ve practiced for this situation on many occasions so it wasn’t much of a problem except that I was a lot more tired than what I usually am. My first attempt at getting back on saw me getting up, then falling straight over the other side. Then next one I nailed and I was on my way before the support boat could even get along side (I didn’t fancy too many photos of that little mishap haha). After getting going again I thought to myself “well it had to happen at some stage, so at least I got it out of the way”.
At around 5.15pm I found myself at Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel and had officially paddled 100 kilometres. This marked the longest paddle that I have ever done and in only 9hrs 15mins it was a very significant milestone for me. My previous best had been during my NZ Expedition when I did 98 kilometres in 13.5 hours...I was always annoyed that I’d never cracked 100! With the sun just starting to set it was an amazing time of the day, and thinking logically about my distance I rationalised that if I could get back to Tauranga I would have officially broken the record as well as having completed 200km. I decided to turn around and headed back towards the night.
Photo: 100 kilometres down and about to head back to Tauranga. Credit Steve Knowles
The night paddle back to Tauranga would have to be one of the most surreal, scary, and satisfying paddles that I have ever done. As it got darker, it became obvious that it was going to be a very black night as there was no moon. I did have a light setup for the kayak but I was worried that it wouldn’t have enough battery to last the whole night so I elected to save it until things got really difficult. I rather timidly headed off into the darkness. The first couple of hours were probably the scariest for me. I knew the coastline really well, so I had a good mental image of the different stages, but it took quite awhile to get used to how the surf ski handled itself when I couldn’t see the water. The problem with this kayak is that it’s designed for surfing waves, so it wants to get up and boogie, but I was worried that if I allowed it to get away from me, I would be rolled out. Ultimately I just got used to the feeling of the kayak moving independently under me, and I just had to trust that it would handle itself, which it did very well!
Paddling throughout the night hours I eventually settled into a good rhythm and started to relax a bit. My body was absolutely humming so I was really happy at how well things were going. The wind was my only real concern because it was still quite gusty and would rocket down unseen valleys and out over the sea. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem because you can read it during daylight hours, and subsequently prepare yourself, but at night you just had to expect it at any time, knowing that it would only last a short distance before the next headland or cliff blocked it.
At around 1am I got back to the start of Waihi beach and I knew that I had a very tough stretch of paddling ahead of me. At the end of the beach is the Bowentown harbour entrance and this has a bar system that stretches out to sea for a couple of kilometres. I’ve be caught out by this before so I wasn’t going to go anywhere near it. The big problem was that in going out and around this bar, I had to paddle right out into the exposed ocean where the wind was very strong (up around 15 knots in some places). Again, this wouldn’t usually be a problem in the day, but at night and coming from a side-on direction, it was insanely tough to deal with. My body was working overtime just to stay upright and I had many close calls where I nearly came out. Thankfully a summer of training in these conditions enabled me to hold it together…just.
At the 2pm marker, when I was square on with the bar, I succumbed to another problem. The cold. With the strong wind flicking all of my paddle spray over me, I’d become saturated and I slowly began to freeze. My body was just working so hard that it couldn’t keep me warm anymore so I knew I had to get changed. Luckily I’d thought to bring my Sharkskin Chillproof pants and top. These are normally reserved for my winter whitewater paddling but on this night they were an absolute godsend. Before changing I was so cold and shivering so hard that my mum was seriously close to calling it quite and ringing an ambulance; thankfully she didn’t because within 5 minutes I was firing on all cylinders again and as I pulled in at the next rest stop I heard someone remark “he’s smiling again so he must be alright.”
It was 5am when I officially knew that I’d beaten the record. The support boat pulled in close and as we ticked over 200km we all let out a big shout of joy. We were not only a few kilometres from the Tauranga harbour entrance (the difference in length coming back was from the longer route that I’d taken by going closer to shore), so we took the opportunity to get photos done and make a plan about the next phase. First we had to negotiate the harbour entrance, which was busy with shipping because it was exactly on the change of tide, then we had to decide where to go. I reasoned that “anything greater than 200km was just a bonus” so I decided to just continue on down the coast and grab a few extra kilometres, all be it at a slower pace.
Photo: 5am and just passinbg 200km. Credit Lyn Taylor.
The sun started to come up at around 6am and with it came an extreme cold. I have to admit that I wasn’t prepared for this and it chilled me to the core. My body also hit the wall and just totally locked up. I just couldn’t lift my arms anymore and I struggled at a pace that was half what I’d done all night. At 7am and after 23 hours I decided to call it quits. We worked out that I’d paddled around 214 kilometres, so I safely had the record, and I reasoned that any longer and I’d be liable to end up with hypothermia.
Pulling up behind the support boat for the final time, I didn’t actually have the strength to climb out of the kayak. The boat captain, Ben, was hold my ski and while I tried to roll over into the boat, I just couldn’t move. He ultimately pulled me out with one hand as he held onto the kayak with the other haha. An hour later and we were back at Pilot Bay and were greeted in by a large contingent of friends, family, and media. It was finally over and we were all on a whole different level of excitement.
Photo: sunrise at around 6.30am. Credit Lyn Taylor.
The Come Down.
The hours following the paddle were a real mix of elation and relief. Facebook was going crazy and my phone didn’t stop all day, but I managed to get a few hours sleep and still respond intelligently to the various media that rang. For me, I was just stoked that I’d managed to live up to the hype and not let anyone down. I felt as though a lot of trust and expectation had been placed on me (deservedly so), and I had to repay that by performing on the day.
Yesterday (D-Day + 1) was definitely the worst for the body. Waking up I felt as though I had the wrists of an 80 year old. I had absolutely no strength in my upper body, so I elected to spend the day on the couch and eat copious amounts of junk food while moving an ice pack around the sore points. Today has seen a huge increase in energy and I’ve been able to get the gear cleaned up and start organising all of the info for the record application. Speaking of which, this will take me a few days, as I have to present it in an organised format. Then it’s just a big wait to see if they agree with me…hopefully they do because I had 7 people witness it!
At this stage I have no real idea what the next kayaking challenge will be. As you are probably more than aware, these things don’t come cheap; they place a huge strain on both my finances and time so I have to consider things very carefully before committing. A few of the longer-term goals that I have is competing (and winning) the Maui to Molokai race, as well as the Yukon 1000. If the opportunity arises I’d also love to give K1 paddling a go, with a goal towards racing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. These races are all possibly a bit ambitious, but given the right support who knows what I could achieve (talk to me if you have nay ideas!)
As for the immediate future, next week I’ll be heading down to Milford Sound for winter so I’ve got 4 months of excitement ahead while working for Rosco’s Sea Kayaks.
The Gear I Used.
Think Evo surf ski from Fergs Kayaks
Millennium Pleaides wing Paddle
Day Two Adventure Racer PFD
Sharkskin Performance Wear Long Top & Pants, Chillproof Long Sleeve Top and Pants, Chillproof socks and beanie, Paddling Cap.
Lowrance Elite 4 HDI Chartplotter and VHF radio.
Neo Gel cushion from Cubro Rehab
Railblaza navigation light and pole
SPOT satellite tracker.
For this entire challenge I was supported by Dave Jaggs from Beyond PT. He was a tower of strength and support, as well as very professional with his training programs.
A big thanks to my amazing support crew who diligently looked after me the entire way.
Lyn Taylor (mum), responsible for keeping everyone feed.
Steph Taylor (sister), responsible for social media.
Paul Taylor (dad), on land and responsible for keeping me on the straight and narrow.
Steve Knowles (Sportz Hub Media), responsible for video and photographic evidence.
Peter Cross (SeaTrek LTD), boat owner and all round paddling supporter.
Ben Poff, boat skipper and independent witness
Gavin Smith, 3 time Guinness World Record running champ, official timer, and independent witness.
John Martin, independent witness, official timekeeper, and back up skipper.
Food and Drink That I Used
plain old water
a mix of sweet and savoury food that was cut up into small chunks. This included lollies, mums biscuits, m n’ m’s, bacon and egg pie, sausages, apple, canned peaches, muesli bars, ham sandwiches, and eggs.