Coaching at Arawa includes paddlers at all levels - from beginners to through to National representatives. There are three branches of coaching at Arawa – Multisport, Sprint, and Juniors. Each of these is dealt with separately below.


Club coaches offer their time and expertise on a voluntary basis to provide members with the opportunity to develop their skills in a friendly, supportive environment.

Multisport Coaching

Much of our club membership is made up of paddlers who are either recreational paddlers, or are involved in multisport racing for events such as the Classic River Race or the Coast to Coast. If this is you, then please consider our Multisport Coaching Sessions below. We have some great coaches who would love to help.

Multisport Beginners/Trial Sessions

Saturday - 9:00am to 10:00am

Our beginner training sessions are aimed at those new to our sport and are free of charge for members. If you want to try kayaking, you can attend three sessions free of charge before we ask you to join the club. We can supply kayaks, paddles and life jackets, but be aware, if you are using club gear you will need to get there early, as it is "first in, first served" and people have their favourite items! We have a limited number of club beginner boats. he first time you come down it pays to arrive around about 15 minutes early. This will allow time for our team to show you where everything is and to help you select an appropriate boat.

Arawa Beginner Sessions Include:
  • A tour of the club facilities.
  • Education around safety and the rules of the Avon River (lifejackets must be worn by beginners – no exceptions).
  • Instruction in the selection and use of club equipment.
  • Instruction in basic paddling technique.
  • An onwater lesson – Sessions are held wet or fine. If conditions do not permit getting on the water, the lesson may be conducted upstairs at the club using the paddling ergometers.

You must be over 15 years of age to attend. We do ask that beginners are able to swim and have a reasonable level of water confidence, to the extent that they can get to the bank in the event of capsize.

The main focus of the beginner sessions is getting good habits built in at an early stage – power and speed come later.

Most of our beginner session paddlers are aiming for the Coast to Coast, so the coaching is broadly structured around that goal. If you intend to do the C2C, get started with your paddling as soon as you can – April/May/June will ensure you get enough paddle skills and miles under your belt to ensure you enjoy the Waimak, rather than grovel and swim your way down.

What to Bring
  • Towel
  • Cap (to keep water dripping off your head)
  • Change of Clothes
  • Water Bottle
  • and maybe a jacket

In the cooler months thermals and socks are a great idea and in the summer you may be lucky enough to need sunscreen! Booties (wetsuit) are a great idea. Check out what everyone else is wearing to figure out what will best suit your needs. Don’t forget your smile and remember – this is a water sport, so don’t let a bit of rain put you off!

Progressing from Beginner Level

If you have been attending our beginner sessions, and wish to take your paddling to the next level to be able to participate in Weedies sessions and possibly do some racing, you may like to engage a coach. Check out our find a coach section, or our networking section (coming soon) which may be of help.

Advance Your Paddling Technique

If this is what you are wanting you will find a list of commercial operators below. This details some commercial operators with whom you might like to make enquiries. The list of commercial providers has been compiled from direct contact with the companies concerned. Please be are aware that there are other providers in the marketplace. No representation is made as to the quality of services provided, this is simply a list of those who have got back to us. It is the responsibility of the individual to satisfy themselves of quality before committing to a provider. The order in which providers have been placed in this list is in no way an indication of quality or preference. Providers are simply added to the list in the order that we receive them.

Contact our Coaching Coordinator for personal advice

Advanced ‘Weedies’ Interval session

Thursday 5:30 - 7:00pm

The Weedcatchers sessions are almost as old as Arawa!  These sessions are held on Thursdays at the first downstream bridge at 5:45pm. You’ll want to leave the club no later than 5.30 to give yourself time to reach the bridge. You don’t want to exhaust yourself before the session starts!

Weedcatchers is a high intensity interval session for more advanced kayakers. Coaches change weekly, and each coach has their favourite sets, so be prepared to be challenged differently each week. Although you can just turn up to these sessions if you wish, we do want your experience to be a good one. You want to be stable in your boat and be able to paddle on your own for at least an hour.

These sessions are a great way to meet fellow paddlers, test yourself, and push yourself that bit more than what you would on your own. The format of the session is designed to accommodate different paddling abilities so just ask who is coaching and have a chat and they’ll put you in the appropriate group. The first Thursday of every month the Weedies Crew converge on the The Bealey Steak and Ale House for a post Weedies catch-up and a bite to eat.  We do tactfully suggest that if you've been for a paddle you take a shower first!

Grade 2 Certification

Arawa do not provide coaching or examiners for Grade 2 certificates. If you are interested in this, please contact one of the providers readily contactable through the internet. Most members looking to complete a Grade 2 Certificate are doing so for the purpose of competing in the Coast to Coast multi-sport race. The race organisers maintain a list of current certification trainers and assessors. List can be found at the following link: River Kayaking Instructors and Assessors.

As an organisation, Arawa does not make any endorsement of the providers listed and encourage members to do their own research in selecting a provider that meets their personal requirements. We do encourage the support of the sponsors who support the Classic River Race. A list of current races sponsors can be found here: CRR Sponsors

Sprint Kayak Coaching

Kayak sprint is a very fast and exciting Olympic sport raced over distances from 200m to 1000m. Events are raced in single kayaks(K1’s), and 2 and 4-person team boats (K2’s and K4’s). New Zealand is currently enjoying a high level of success in this sport at an International level.

At National level, Arawa teams race in all categories from 13years, 14years, 16years, and 18years and under, to Open, to Masters, to Novice. Opportunities also exist for paddlers to involve themselves in marathon kayak racing over much longer distances. There are several competitions that we contest each year locally and also in Twizel, Rotorua, and Cambridge (Lake Karapiro).

As New Zealand’s top club, we offer a structured development program, with quality coaching, catering for a range of paddlers from children and complete novices, through to NZ representatives.

Involvement in our sprint programmes is predicated on a philosophy of giving back to the club and wider community, and accordingly much of what we offer in terms of coaching is driven by the athletes themselves. The following diagram outlines the current iteration of our development structure for young paddlers and those whose initial interest is in sprint racing.

Junior and Tyro(U13) Coaching

These sessions are run by athletes already engaged in our development programme. They are aimed at providing newcomers with the opportunity to give paddling a go, and if they decide to pursue it, to work to establish a sound foundation for future development. Sessions are run at the club on Saturdays and Sundays at 10.30am. There may be weeks where coaching is not provided due to athlete commitments, so it is important to contact coaching@arawa.org.nz if you are intending to come along.

U16 Sprint Racing Squad

This squad is the next progression for younger paddlers who have developed the ability to paddle a K1 sprint kayak, and who are interested in trying their hand at racing. This squad is currently coached by Tilly Pritchard, and sessions are run on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4pm, and Sundays at 8am. Entry into this squad is at the coaches discretion. Contact coaching@arawa.org.nz if you would like to be considered for this group.

K1X Training Squad

Once a paddler becomes proficient in paddling they are welcome to advance to this squad to join in structured training sessions. New paddlers to the club who have paddled previously are also encouraged to join this group in the first instance. The group is provided with a weekly program, and sessions are led on a daily basis by the more experienced athletes whose role is simply to help people get on the water and ensure that club rules are followed in the interests of safety. Sessions are otherwise self-driven. Individuals have the freedom to decide how many sessions they wish to commit to each week, and for variety, athlete leaders may from time to time provide alternative options in the form of cross-training. Sessions operate Mon to Thurs at 4.30pm, Saturdays at 4pm, and on Sundays a technical session is offered at 10.30am.

Talent ID Squad

Athletes who express an interest in racing, and who require a little more support than is offered within the K1X training squad to aid in their development, may be offered an additional technical session on a Saturday at 3pm, and occasionally be linked with the Development Squad for activities. Coaches regularly discuss the progress of athletes on the Arawa program, and if they feel it is warranted, an athlete may be invited to join this group.

Development Sprint Squad

The Development Squad is a group of competitive paddlers who have made the decision to commit to a set of values, train in a prescribed manner, and aim to be the best that they can be both on and off the water. The group is coached by Paul Fidow. Numbers are kept small to ensure that coaching is able to be individualised and that members are given the best opportunity to develop and learn. Entry into this squad is generally by invitation, and ultimately determined by the members of the group on a case by case basis. Contact coaching@arawa.org.nz if you would like to be considered for this group.

Other Sprint Squads

There are several other smaller groups of Masters and Open K1 paddlers at the club who train together in self-managed groups on a more informal basis. These fall outside the scope of the club sprint development plan


Those who are initially involved with the Arawa Sprint program, but find their interests develop more in the direction of multisport and moving water paddling, are encouraged to view the options in the above diagram. In terms of training they are welcome to continue their association with the K1X training squad for sessions that they may find of value to the types of races they are undertaking.


Arawa is very fortunate to have a committed bunch of wonderful volunteers willing to share their knowledge and experience. If you're looking for help, you've come to the right place.

Join the Team

Coaching is a very rewarding activity. There are always opportunities to learn and develop coaching skills which lead to a greater understanding paddling technique and what it takes to make a kayak go faster for longer. We are always looking for new coaches to help spread the volunteer work load. If you are interested in becoming a coach, have a chat to any of the current team or contact the coaching coordinator.

Commercial Options

Freedom Fitness

Freedom Fitness and Coaching is all about giving you the freedom and expert coaching to help you on your journey to reach your sporting goals – There is no limit to what these dreams may be.

Rosie Shakespeare: Post Grad Dip Sports and Exercise Medicine with credit, Cert PT, RN.

  • Kayak one on one technique video sessions.
  • Tuesday morning interval session for all abilities.
  • Endurance coaching and programs for kayakers, cyclists, runners, multi-sport and adventure racers.

Canterbury Kayaking

Canterbury Kayaking Ltd runs regular four-day skills courses on Canterbury's rivers. We specialise in grade 2 certification, whitewater skills, and Coast to Coast preparation. We believe in learning to roll early, and value a whitewater foundation for successful multi-sport racing. All our coaches are fully qualified through NZOIA, and hold either degree or diploma level awards in outdoor instruction.


The Paddle Clinic

The Paddle Clinic is designed to fill in the gaps for paddlers at all levels. We see the challenges athletes face and provide high quality coaching at great value for money.

Brought to you by Leigh Barker, a high performance coach and Chris Stagg, a multisport white water coach, The Paddle Clinic has you covered for everything needed to have a great paddling career, whatever your goal.

Through 1 on 1’s and small group sessions we will prepare you to:

  • Develop your wing paddle and dynamic skills enabling you to feel confident to join groups such as Freedom Fitness & Coaching tuesday mornings and Weedies Club Training nights in the quickest, most effective way.
  • Be better prepared for your Grade 2 Course to enjoy it and get the most out of it.
  • Take your paddling ability to the next level.
  • Tailoring training programmes for you and/or work with your multisport coach to work in with your existing training schedule.

We have a variety of options to fit your budget. Check out our website or get in touch for more information on how we can help you:

Chris - 021 134 3585


Team CP

Team CP Ltd is an endurance sports coaching company that specialises in Coaching people to complete or compete in the Coast to Coast.

To ensure that you are able to turn up to perform to your potential on race day we need to ensure you are moving efficiently. To do this we put a big emphasis on technique.

We offer small group or individual paddling technique sessions using video analysis to coach you to improve your paddling efficiency.  By doing this you will go faster and enjoy your paddling more!

Contact me at  021 051 0071

Richard Greer; BPhed, BSc
Managing Director

Topsport Kayaking

Topsport Kayaking is a local business owned and operated by Len Smyth. Len has been teaching people to kayak for the Coast to Coast for over 20 years. Len has two coaches working along side him at Topsport - Chris Stagg and Sam Manson. Both Chris and Sam are qualified white water instructors and have a passion for multisport. If you are looking to compete in races such as the Coast to Coast and need your Grade II Certificate then get in touch with our team. During the summer months Topsport runs guided trips down the Waimak Gorge. These trips are highly recommended for first time competitors and those looking to improve their skills and make valuable gains on race day. Contact us today on:


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