© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

The Magical Light Show of NightSUP

© NZPocketGuide.com

230 Days on the Road

Watching the sunset in New Zealand is often a wonderful thing. Fiery red colours followed by multicoloured hues in the sky… It’s a pretty magical time of the day. For NightSUP in Akaroa, sunset is just the introduction to a magical night.

After a scorcher of a day on the Banks Peninsula, the clouds finally give us some cover from the brutal New Zealand sun as we make our way towards Akaroa’s main beach. A trailer full of identical stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) waits for the adventures ahead tonight, because, yes, this SUP tour begins around sunset and takes us well into the darkness of the night.

Admittedly, we are here a little early for our tour so we take the time to people-watch on the beach. There’s a dog leaping twice its height to catch a ball, kids refusing to get out of the water despite it being past 8pm, a family still rowing in an inflatable dingy around the harbour… Everyone is really making the most of this last hour of daylight!

SUP boards with a difference…

Our SUP guide, Jamie, arrives to unload the SUP boards and attach a special gadget to them, which he’s eager to show us. He turns one of the SUP boards over and starts attaching two long rows of LED lights, custom made in the U.S. They are strapped onto the bottom of the SUP board with a battery and control pack attached on the upper side of the board for the user to select and change their colour: green, blue, purple, red, yellow, orange, cyan and “disco”. We can’t wait to see what that looks like on the water!

Becoming SUP experts with Jamie

Now, paddle boarding is not your everyday sport. It’s becoming more and more popular in New Zealand, but let’s be honest, many of us non-Kiwis have never done it before, so we are super thankful for an introductory lesson before we head out onto the water.

Once all the lights are attached to the bottom of the boards, Jamie is bringing them down to the waterfront, lining them up and setting his own board facing the line. Life jackets on, we are given a carbon fibre paddle each and Jamie is going to teach us how to use them. First, they need to be the right size, then we are practicing strokes, with Jamie explaining how we are going to get the most power. It’s all well and good paddling, but standing up for the first time is the daunting part. If you get a bit of a wobble-on, it’s likely that you’ll end up swimming with the fish.

The prettiest time of day to have a SUP lesson!

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Supping with a stunning sunset

Jamie goes through an easy step-by-step instruction, making sure each of us is comfortable before heading out onto the water. Meanwhile, that magic moment of sunset is creating the most gorgeous backdrop to our SUP lesson. The red hue of the sun is just lighting up the bottom of the clouds, which in turn is reflecting pink in the water. This evening is all about brilliant colours!

By the time the last 20 minutes of light is in the sky, we are now on the water, some of us standing up straight away, like Laura, and some of us gingerly getting to their wobbly legs, *cough* Robin! *cough*. Although Jamie gets Robin to stand up without falling in the water, the unstable French man is comfortable enough being on his knees…

Saying that, the hard boards do feel extremely stable on the water. Everyone in our group, except Robin, is happily stood on their board despite being complete beginners!

Searching for stingrays

With everyone comfortable, we follow Jamie around the perimetres of the harbour toward Children’s Bay. Not only are we a safe distance to the shore, but the water is shallow enough to see the seabed floor litten up by our LED lights! Each coloured light provides different visibility in the water, creating quite the atmosphere with seaweed floating past in the murkier parts of the water.

Up ahead, Jamie calls the group to look at a stingray lit up underwater… Unfortunately, our SUP skills are not quick enough. Nevertheless, this keeps us super sharp for spotting more wildlife, which we know is in here thanks to all the amazing wildlife tours we have been on out in the harbour.

SUP disco

Playing with our “disco” settings, we boogie on down to flashing coloured lights, reaching Children’s Bay by 10pm in complete darkness. This is where our light-up SUP boards really come into effect, casting pretty colours across the water. It really is a unique sight!

By the time we head back, everyone is pretty cruisy just enjoying the motion of paddleboarding. Onlookers from the shoreline seem to be enjoying the light show too as they “Ooo” and “Ahh” from the sidelines.

Magical fishy moments

Then, finally, we get our wildlife fix! The light attracts several small fish species to the bottom of our SUP boards. The lights shine through the transparent bodies of a long thin fish. Honestly, we could float out here all night seeing what fish we can see. Night SUP really is a unique activity. In fact, this is the only place in New Zealand you can have this experience. For us, it’s just one more reason to love Akaroa.

Pack up the SUP

Back on the shore, we help take the boards (with a handy pull-up handle in the middle of the board) back up to the trailer. Jamie has a long night of detaching lights ahead of him, but the top-class equipment and unique light show undoubtedly makes the setup worth it! We drive back enthusing about our experience all the way back to our accommodation across the harbour in Wainui.

Tomorrow is a pretty special day in New Zealand that we can’t wait to be apart of. We’re going to join the Waitangi Day celebrations in Okains Bay. Join us then!

All of the pretty lights

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See you tomorrow!