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Winding the rapids . . . Sam McCulloch, of Alexandra, crosses the top wave whilst slalom training at the Tekapo White Water Course. PHOTO: Tekapo White Water Trust

South Canterbury paddlers are set to get a national event standard whitewater course in Tekapo by Easter.

The Tekapo White Water Trust has been granted more than $31,000 from the Mid and South Canterbury Community Trust to install electronic timing equipment at the Tekapo White Water Course.

Chairman Alan Hoffman said the timing equipment would enable the trust to hold national and international qualifying events at the course. The first one – the Whitewater Nationals – is to be held at Easter.

With qualifying times coming down to 1/100th of a second, the modern equipment was required to make sure times were properly recorded, he said.

The course was first set up in the 1980s, after many natural rapids were lost from the region when the hydro power stations were set up.

The flows from Lake Tekapo are released down the course, on the Tekapo River, up to 30 times a year, giving slalom kayakers, recreational paddlers and other river enthusiasts the chance to make use of the flows up to about 22 times a year.

Mr Hoffman said the course was popular with whitewater users from around the South Island, as well as international slalom competitors.

Being able to offer the course for national events would benefit the region, as whitewater events would bring hundreds of competitors, coaches and supporters to Tekapo.

“This will be a fantastic opportunity.”

He was grateful for the support of Genesis Energy, which controlled the releases through the river, describing the power company staff as a “fantastic group to work with”.

While the trust hosted a variety of events on the course, including a Masters Slalom Camp at the weekend, it was also open to the public.

However, Mr Hoffman wanted to remind people that while there were some pools on the course for beginners, it was made up of grade 3 rapids.

Despite that, people did travel down the river on inflatable tubes, boogie boards and even a few inflatable mattresses, he said.

“It’s all good fun.”