Interview: Around New Zealand in 432 Days

Lynn Paterson has nearly finished her dream of circumnavigating New Zealand to raise awareness about depression. She has loved kayaking Northland’s coastline and is pictured at Taiharuru. 28 December 2016 Northern Advocate Photograph by Michael Cunningham

On New Years eve, Kiwi sea kayaker Lynn “Red” Paterson paddled into Auckland, NZ, completing an epic personal challenge that took her over a year to achieve: The 54-year-old had paddled around New Zealand’s North and South islands, a distance of some 3,500 miles.

“I approached this journey with an open fresh mind, a big heart and utter realness,” says Paterson, who admits on her website the final push to make the trip came when a family member suffered a bout of depression in 2014. “I was living my dream and who in this world does not wish to live their dream?”

Paterson’s reverie was protracted by several extended weather delays by the interminable winds of the Tasman Sea. She was landlocked on the west coast of the South Island for over a month, and during a six-month span last year she only took to the water 23 days. But this was no hardship for Paterson—just part of the experience of getting to know the nation of islands she calls home.

We recently caught up with “Red” to learn more. What was the inspiration for kayaking around New Zealand?

Lynn Paterson: It’s a story that goes a few years back. I used to see numerous cyclist touring the New Zealand roads and one day mentioned I thought it would be a fun way to tour NZ. My partner looked at me in utter horror and uttered a couple of rather terse comments. I quickly rethought my initial comment and declared I agreed with him—there are far too many hills to pedal up! We were looking over a very calm and blue coastline. Right then I came up with a far better idea: I would kayak around New Zealand. He gave me a look that said, “You are utterly crazy.” The seed was sewn and the dream just grew from that day—more than 15 years ago. What was the hardest part of the trip?

Paterson: It was waiting for good paddling conditions, realizing that the journey would be longer than I initially thought. While waiting I truly discovered a new level of patience and a connection and oneness wit Mother Nature. The physical hardships were always easier to deal with than the things I could not control. It sounds like you received tons of support (and met plenty of new friends) along the way. Why do you think people were captivated by your journey?

Paterson: It was an off water adventure as much as a paddling adventure; some of the best stories of this trip we’re actually off-water adventures. Also the local knowledge was incredible and meeting new people every day along the way created new stories and daily smiles and laughter. My motto was to live day by day, and see and meet the real New Zealand. What did it feel like to finish?

Paterson: It was an absolutely amazing feeling. I do not have the words to truly describe this final paddle day. The day was so beautiful. But like the end of anything as massive as this I did shed some tears of sadness. It was not really till the next morning I totally believed I had finished. What’s next?

Paterson: At the moment it’s tough enough just to reintegrate into what others call a “normal life”! But I’m keeping my eyes and ears open to discover the next challenge.

More on C&K

—Read an Unfiltered interview with legendary Kiwi sea kayaker Paul Caffyn

—Freya Hoffmeister completed a 70-day circumnavigation of New Zealand’s South Island in 2007

The article was originally published on Canoe & Kayak

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