Huka Falls boogie boarder Hayley Patuwai says he's done the stunt before video

Hayley Patuwai, 32, boogie boarded down Huka Falls. The Porirua man said it was a personal challenge and the second time ...
VIRGINIA FALLON/FAIRFAX NZ

Hayley Patuwai, 32, boogie boarded down Huka Falls. The Porirua man said it was a personal challenge and the second time he had done it.

A man who shot the Huka Falls rapids on a board no bigger than his torso has been condemned as reckless.

And it wasn't the first time he'd done it.

Porirua man Hayley Patuwai, 32, captured attention when a video of him going over Huka Falls near Taupo on a boogie board was posted online on Wednesday.

"I wanted to remain mysterious": Hayley Patuwai boogy boarded down the Huka Falls in Waikato.
VIRGINIA FALLON/FAIRFAX NZ

"I wanted to remain mysterious": Hayley Patuwai boogy boarded down the Huka Falls in Waikato.

The video, taken in December 2016, had attracted more than 1500 comments and been shared 90,000 times as of Thursday.

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Patuwai - who calls himself Dr Bubbles - said the Waikato River stunt was three years in the planning.

Huka Falls on the Waikato River, near Taupo.
FAIRFAX NZ

Huka Falls on the Waikato River, near Taupo.

"[I] jumped in a year ago to test the pressure. It's 3000 metric tonnes of water per second ... I was prepared," Patuwai said.

Indeed, there is a YouTube video posted on February 16, 2016, showing Patuwai as he jumps into the falls.

"I knew I could handle it. People might ask why I didn't wear safety apparatus, but that works against the water."

Huka Falls are on the Waikato River 4 kilometres north of Lake Taupo. The volume of water flowing through the falls section of the river is about 220,000 litres per second - enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in 11 seconds. The falls are about 11 metres high.

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Speaking from his Titahi Bay home on Thursday, Patuwai, who has no social media account, said he wasn't expecting his stunt to be recorded and posted on Facebook.

"I want to be seen at a distance. I do challenges for myself, not the attention," he said.

Footage of the Huka Falls was posted on the Facebook page BeastMoze with the caption; "This is one of the crazy cats from Porirua the man, the myth, the legend.. #DrBubbles. on his boogie board down the Huka falls in Taupo."

Patuwai has a reputation for stunts. In 2008, he kayaked from Titahi Bay in Porirua across Cook Strait to Picton, sparking a search.

Taupo Mayor David Trewavas said the district's economy thrives on high adrenaline junkies and Huka Falls attracts "all sorts of people".

"But we certainly don't condone that type of thing, putting people's lives at risk - not only the people that go over the falls, but the people that have to rescue them," Trewavas said.

Water Safety NZ chief executive Jonty​ Mills also said Patuwai's actions were irresponsible.

"From a drowning-prevention perspective, which is what we advocate for, it's clearly irresponsible and dangerous and extremely high risk," Mills said.

"It's like playing Russian roulette and ultimately roulette will win in a situation like that."

Mills said it was a good example of why men make up 85 percent of all preventable drownings.

"They overestimate their ability and underestimate the risks."

The Water Safety New Zealand Drowning Report released on Thursday shows a spike in river drownings in 2016 -  24 people died in rivers around New Zealand.

That figure is 60 percent higher than the five-year average of 15 and more than double the record low of 10 river drownings in 2012.

In the Waikato, 53 percent of all drowning deaths occurred in rivers.

"Rivers top the table in the national 2016 preventable drownings statistics, making up almost a third of all preventable drownings," Mills said.

"They are very changeable. They have currents that can be very deceptive, are very unpredictable and can change with the conditions."

 

"Waikato itself, as a region, has experienced a 55 percent increase on its five-year average and more half of those have occurred in rivers. I think there were nine drowning deaths in the Waikato River itself in 2016."

Of the 81 preventable drownings in New Zealand, 69 were men.

The number of young men who drowned in 2016 was at pace with the five-year average, but men aged between 45 and 54 had the highest rate of drownings since 2009 at 17 - 70 percent higher than in 2015.

Drowning in the Asian, Maori and New Zealand European statistics were below the five-year average while Pacific peoples increased from 8 to 13.

Other nationalities - immigrants and tourists - saw a spike in the data from a five-year average of 6 to 13 in 2016 - the highest since records began.

"They may be cultures that are unfamiliar with our conditions and from a culture that is not as aquatically focussed as we are in New Zealand."

 

 - Stuff

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