Oz pair complete 3,000km paddle to New Zealand

TWO young adventurers completed an epic paddle of more than 3,200km on Sunday to become the first people to travel from Australia to New Zealand by kayak.

Australians James Castrission, 25, and Justin Jones, 24, spent 62 days crossing the Tasman Sea in their custom-built fibreglass vessel and battled strong winds and tides that spun them in giant circles and forced them to change their original plans.

The two pulled in at Ngamotu Beach near the town of New Plymouth shortly after midday and were greeted by a clutch of traditional Maori canoes. They were welcomed as pioneers by a crowd of about 2,000 kayak enthusiasts.

“NZ, thank you, thank you, you guys rock. This is so cool,” Mr Jones said, as the pair hugged family and drank beers.

Mr Castrission paid tribute to Andrew McAuley, an Australian kayaker who vanished in February last year while trying to make a solo crossing of the Tasman Sea after making a desperate mayday call.

“We have only got a small idea of what Andrew went through out there,” he told reporters. “Some nights when we were out there, we had each other to hold through the difficult moments.”

The pair, who left Australia from Forster, about 300km north of Sydney, on November 13, had intended to make it to Auckland, the country’s largest city, before Christmas but changed plans after being buffeted during the journey.

During the trip, strong currents forced them to make huge circles to avoid being carried far off course, meaning their eventual journey was much farther than the 1,930km they had originally planned.

They were taken for medical checks, amid fears their leg muscles may have deteriorated but they appeared in good health.

They are expected to return to Australia — by plane — in the next few days.

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