Aaron Johnson | GODZone Adventure Race - New Zealand

GODZone Adventure Race - New Zealand

April 26, 2016  •  1 Comment

New Zealand is at the top of many people's lists of adventure destinations for good reason - these two small islands are an adventure paradise, with a thriving outdoor sports culture, huge mountains, glaciers, endless rivers, golden beaches, and spectacular coastlines. It is also considered the birthplace of the sport of Adventure Racing decades ago, and Team Adventure Medical Kits wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to come to the sport's place of origin to race in what has become perhaps the highest profile adventure race in the world: GODZone. More than 70 four person teams, many representing the home country alongside a healthy number of international teams, were to tackle 500+ km of mountain biking, kayaking, trekking, and canoeing around the Nelson Tasman area of the South Island. Team Adventure Medical Kits brought me along to document as much of the race as possible, with the goal of being with them during the race to capture the incredible surroundings and the true nature of the sport.

Team Adventure Medical Kits: Rob Preston (Australia), Mari Chandler (United States), Kyle Peter (United States), Jarad Kohler (Australia)

The race begins!

The race began with a coasteering and kayaking stage.

Thanks to a very supportive (and trusting!) race staff, I was given special permission to join the team during the trekking sections, with the understanding that I would not aid or influence their race in any way, as well as be completely self-sufficient, with all the necessary safety gear and GPS tracker / emergency beacon. The first trek was approximately 55km through a very rugged and remote area known as the Red Hills. This trek would start barely 10 hours into the race, around 10pm, so I knew the team would still be fresh and would be moving quickly. Keeping up with them was my primary objective - my safety depended on it! As expected, they set a fast pace, leapfrogging with other teams in the top 10 throughout the night, as we navigated a series of high, exposed, crumbling ridges. High winds and rain, not to mention darkness, kept my camera in its bag throughout the night, but I was able to snag some decent shots with the GoPro.

The next day, more fog and rain blocked most of the views, but I sneaked in some shots between the clouds. We were given brief glimpses at the grandeur that surrounded us.

All said and done, that first trek clocked in at 40 miles, 14,000 ft. of elevation gain, and took 22 hours. My legs were destroyed, but thankfully I could rest that night, while the teams had to keep going!

The rain finally stopped on Day 3.

The final trek was what I was waiting for - Mt. Owen. We were promised incredible terrain and scenery, and were not disappointed.

We gained the summit of Mt. Owen right at sunset, minds blown.

After it became dark, my job was done, and I just had to hold on for dear life as the team blazed across some more ridges and down into the TA, finishing at 3am. This one was less beastly than the first - only 14 hours, 24 miles, with 8000 ft of vert - but I was still happily destroyed, ready to rest and get those photos edited!

The team finished very strong, moving from 7th place to 4th on the last day. They were the only team in the top 10 NOT from New Zealand, a testament to the strength of the local adventure community!

Huge thanks to Team Adventure Medical Kits for bringing me along. Also a huge thanks to the race organizers and media team for putting their faith in me that I wasn't just some dumb American who would get in to trouble out there and allowing me to travel with the team, through some dangerous and remote terrain, to capture the images not possible to get in any other way. This race was the best-run adventure race I've ever been to, and the amount of local support was unlike anything I've ever seen in the AR world, with national news coverage, people out on the streets cheering, and literally every single shop owner, cab driver, farmer, EVERYONE knowing exactly what the race was and supporting it.

Looking forward to coming back for next year's GODZone in Queenstown!



Excellent report! Gorgeous pictures! Thank you!
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