Bikerafting 101: Helen’s Journey in New Zealand

 bikerafter helen

Helen navigates some rapids on New Zealand’s Rees River

Would age stop you from learning how to bikeraft? It didn’t stop Helen Nugteren. She signed up for a brand new bikerafting course in her native New Zealand at the age of 68.

Watch her story in “Helen’s Journey” by filmmaker and avid bikerafter, Deane Parker:



Bikerafting is an adventure sport that combines mountain biking and packrafting. It’s growing in popularity all over the world thanks to companies like Alpacka Raft (recognized as founders of the modern packraft) and people like Deane who film and share their excursions.

As Deane says, “It’s one of the most unique forms of human-powered adventure travel. Few places exist in the world that can’t be traversed with a boat strapped to a bike and, conversely, a bike strapped to a boat.”

Deane and his friend, Muel, joined forces with Huw Miles of Packrafting Queenstown to launch New Zealand’s first instructional bikerafting course.

The first person to sign up was Helen. She and her husband were intrigued by a video and book by Roman Dial about packrafting they saw back in 2009, and they had hoped to learn packrafting together at some point. When Helen became a widow in 2012 she knew she’d need other people with her in order to learn.

“It was one of the most exciting weekends I’ve had,” she decided, after completing the course.

helen nugteren, bikerafter

68-year old Helen was the first to sign on New Zealand’s first instructional bikerafting course

There were seven students in the course who’d never bikerafted before, including Helen, along with the three instructors—Huw, Deane and Muel.

On Day 1 they did an introductory session on the river getting familiar with paddling a packraft with a bike strapped to the front. Then they transitioned to the bike and looked at methods of how to carry the boat on the bike, before riding up Rees Valley to the hut for the night.

They camped overnight, then prepared to packraft down the river the next day. Although the students had the option to packraft without their bike strapped on, Helen chose to keep her bike with her. She wanted the full experience!

camping at the hut, new zealand

Camping overnight at the hut, with snow-capped peaks in the distance

packrafting rees river new zealand

The group discusses how to navigate the stretch of rapids

bikerafting rees river, new zealand

Helen is eager to see the packrafting community grow so there are more people she can get on the water with.

If you live in or plan to travel to New Zealand and want to try bikerafting or packrafting, be sure to contact Packrafting Queenstown. They offer several different types of guided tours as well as gear rentals.

What paddle questions can we help you with? Contact our Wisconsin-based Customer Service team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

More for you...


Authors