Solo kayak trip around New Zealandís South Island

Painting by Eugene von Guerard

If I just think of the actual paddling, the New Zealand trip had a greater impact on me than any other trip. Paddling the south island was something more than sea kayaking - it was four and half months of open ocean paddling with extreme winds, and waves on the west coast that made it quite a challenge considering how remote that coast is. The trip was somewhere around 1700 miles- counting the miles paddling in and out of the beautiful fiords of the southwest coast. Iíve never had such feelings of absolute awe while paddling along a coastline that is as rugged, untouched and as wild as the west coast. The surf - like anywhere in the world - can be almost non-existent some years and relentlessly pounding the next. I happened to choose a year where the surf was consistently big. The challenge of the west coast is that the weather can hold you down for extended periods of time, during which you have to eat. There are very limited places for re-supply so food can be a problem. And of course thereís the surf. A lot of it is dumping. You canít see the shore from the back of a ten-footer and there is almost no such thing as a sheltered landing on most of the west coast. I broke my boat in half on a remote beach north of Milford Sound and had to get evacuated back to Milford for repairs before continuing on. The trip was extreme and fantastically beautiful. It changed me as a paddler in a way that is calmly reassuring, yet alienating because it is difficult to share the experience unless others have met the same elements of extreme. I now look as the sea with the perspective of having been pushed to levels that I hope not to experience again but am grateful for living through them and knowing what that feels like.

Southern Exposure: In this epic tale of sea-kayaking adventure, award-winning author Chris Duff places readers in the cockpit of his 18-foot kayak and lets them experience the full power and beauty of the South Pacific Ocean and the wild energy of the Tasman Sea as it thunders onto New Zealand's uninhabited west coast. Not just an account of human physical endurance and determination to attempt what had only been accomplished once before, this exquisitely written narrative reveals the philosophical and psychological life of a man who has chosen the sea as the master to sit before and to learn from. The intense and often terrifying sea journey is balanced by serendipitous meetings along the way with friendly New Zealanders and with the diverse wildlife of this tiny and remote island country. Southern Exposure is a force of writing that will captivate the armchair adventurer as well as the seasoned ocean traveler. (Amazon.com)