There are probably hundreds or thousands of sports out there you’ve not yet heard of, and there’s one in particular that’s starting to pick up momentum across the world, and it’s known as White-Water Sledging, River Boarding, River Surﬁng or Hydrospeeding.
It’s a board sport where the participant lies prone on their board with fins on their feet for propulsion and steering. If white-water rafting has you yearning for something more individual, white-water sledging might be just the ticket. It’s basically a rafting sport built for one, clinging to the grips of a sledge as the river tries to have its wicked way with you.
Accidentally started in the late 70’s by some Frenchmen who floated down stream on bags full of life jackets and polystyrene, the first water sledge was built in 1981. It’s now a professional sport in Europe and gaining popularity around the world and in particular, in New Zealand.
Today, riverboarding is a competition sport and features in adventure races – in fact, it’s said that around one-third of all white-water activity in Europe is on sledges. Commercial sledging trips operate in countries including the USA, Slovenia and Norway, and one adventurer has even piloted a white-water sledge over a 22m-high waterfall in Costa Rica, and gained a Guinness Record for his effort.
Adrenalin-thirsty New Zealand was one of the ﬁrst countries to adopt white-water sledging as an adventure activity, introducing it in the late 1980s, and today there are operators in Wanaka, Queenstown and Rotorua. The classic white-water sledging river in New Zealand is the Kawarau (also the site of the world’s ﬁrst commercial bungee jump), which ﬂows midway between Queenstown and Wanaka after draining out of Lake Wakatipu. This river pitches sledgers through grade III rapids with inviting names such as Man-eater, Rollercoaster and Roaring Meg.