Trans-Tasman crossing by kayak - take two

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After being forced to abort his first try at a trans-Tasman crossing by kayak in 2014, Kiwi adventurer Scott Donaldson has a redesigned craft for another attempt.

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When New Zealand weather guru Bob McDavitt gives the word, sometime in March or April, Kiwi adventurer Scott Donaldson will set off on another attempt to become the first person to successfully kayak from Australia to New Zealand.

If the name rings a bell, it was Donaldson, 47, who first attempted the crossing in 2014 and came agonisingly close to completing the trip after 84 days at sea. After paddling half the Tasman with an unrepairable rudder and riding out a once-in-40-year storm while looking at Mount Taranaki 80km off the coast of New Zealand, Donaldson’s protocol dictated it was unsafe to continue and he aborted the attempt.

The New Zealander will again depart from Coffs Harbour, NSW, and aim to make landfall on the Taranaki Coast; a distance of 2200km although he will likely paddle 3000km.

"This time around it’s about that last 80km that didn’t get done last time, it’s about finishing the job off," says Donaldson. "There is still a lot of water to cover before we get to that point, but it’s about the challenge. No one has done it solo by kayak before."

Donaldson is a former athlete of various talents in multisport, triathlon, cross country, adventure racing and more, including representing NZ in several including the Commonwealth Games in triathlon.

For 12 years, he owned a coaching business that centred on swimming from learners to elite. That expanded to various sports, particularly ultra-endurance and "outside the box" events.

Donaldson decided it was too much talking and not enough ‘doing’, and from there the Tasman challenge evolved.

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"I’ve coached people to do various crazy things such as the Cook Strait swim and ultra-distance running and cycling. It’s time to put those coaching theories to an extreme test," he said.

"This kayak attempt was fairly obvious to me as I’ve got the skill set to do it. There have been 15 attempts in the past, which have all finished in various forms of failure from the worst type through to my last attempt which got very close."

"It’s a bit like training for an ironman, once you go over the eight hours of exertion you’re into serious endurance range, so the only thing I have to do on top of that is make sure my body doesn’t break down, which is the tough part both physically and mechanically such as skin integrity."

Being an asthmatic, Donaldson has linked with Asthma New Zealand to raise awareness of the condition.

"I have had asthma since childhood – and now my own son has it as well," he said. "I am living proof of what you can achieve. Actually, the sea air, without pollen, is pretty good. I will have no issues out there."

Donaldson’s biggest hurdle during his attempt will be Mother Nature.

"The tricky part of the Tasman is the weather," he explained. "You generally get two days of good progress followed by two to four days of the Tasman trying to push you back."

If weather conditions are favourable, Donaldson aims to paddle for about 16 hours a day.

"You just waste energy if you’re paddling into wind of more than 20kts," he continued. "So the aim is to deploy the sea anchor, slow down the rate of drift and hopefully try hook into a favourable current."

Donaldson will use satellite phone to communicate with his shore team, with text messages exchanged from weatherman McDavitt and daily check-ins with team leader Nigel Escott at base.

His original kayak has undergone some design improvements from the original craft. The new vessel has a length of 6.3m and beam of 0.76m, is half the weight and has a bigger cabin for extra comfort and shelter, plus more room to store food, water and provisions.

During the attempt, Donaldson will initially burn roughly 11,000 calories per day, but his body will become far more efficient at around 6000 calories. His nutrition is via a mixture of protein shakes and Radix dehydrated food, while drinking water is from a small desalinator.

"Last time took 84 days, but that was half the Tasman without a rudder, so I expect to be a little quicker than that. Though, you can’t afford to expect anything in the Tasman, as the weather is in control of what you do and how much progress you make," he said.

To follow Scott Donaldson’s progress, click on


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