Top kayaker Louise Jull drowns near Rotorua
One of New Zealand's top extreme kayakers has drowned in a river near Rotorua.
The body of Louise Jull, formerly of Otaki, was recovered by police at 10am Thursday.
The 26-year-old Rotorua resident went missing while paddling on the Kaituna River, near Okere Falls, 21 kilometres east of Rotorua,.about 7pm on Wednesday.
Her body was recovered a short distance from where she went missing.
Jull was part of a group of three kayaking the lower Kaituna River, downstream of the Trout Pool, when she was separated from the group.
The other kayakers were alerted when they noticed she was missing from her kayak, police said.
The alarm was raised and a number of locals searched for her until dark.
Jull, who was a teacher at Western Heights High School in Rotorua, was the one of New Zealand's top extreme kayakers – the 2014 New Zealand extreme series women's champion after winning three of the four events in the competition.
Her parents, Adrian and Liz Jull, and her older siblings Malcolm, Heather and Isobelle, have issued tributes, outlining her achievements in the sport and calling her "a strong advocate for women in kayaking".
"Louise had started on a career in secondary teaching at a local Rotorua high school this year. Teaching young paddlers was an extra activity that Louise took great pleasure in; this will be one of her legacies to kayaking," they said.
"Yesterday Louise was paddling a lower section of the Kaituna River that she had paddled a number of times without mishap. The incident was a chance accident involving a highly skilled paddler practicing her sport. The two paddlers with her were very experienced, but despite their efforts they were unable to retrieve the situation. The family acknowledges a deep gratitude to the two other paddlers and to the wider community who turned out to assist in the search and rescue this morning."
Jull competed around the world as a kayaker, including Slovakia, Italy and South Africa.
Her biography on her website said she became involved in extreme kayaking after her involvement in whitewater slalom kayaking.
"I have a very strong passion for the sport," she wrote.
"It has introduced me to many amazing people, places and a way of life that pushes all elements."
Otaki Canoe Polo Club president Peter Housiaux coached Jull in her early years through the Otaki Surf Lifesaving Club and canoe club.
She was a strong member of both clubs and a keen whitewater kayaker at Otaki College.
"She used to paddle surf ski with surf lifesaving - she's always liked that type of craft," he said.
Jull was an "extremely talented" kayaker and "lived life to the fullest", Housiaux said.
"She was always a very happy sort of person, very keen to help others, coach others, encourage others to do things," he said.
"And she set a pretty high benchmark for herself as well."
Jull's death has been referred to the Coroner.