Paddle for purpose

Three brothers and a mate embark on an epic kayaking quest and encourage others to find solace in the great outdoors
Found in: Stories

It’s about connection. 

The connection of man and sea. Of brothers and mates. Of physical and mental health. Of exercise and nature.  

“Part of the reason is simply the challenge of a trip of this magnitude,” says Kurt Stewart, one of three brothers who along with their good mate Cared Blackham set off from Cape Reinga in early March 2024 and 75 days (about 2 and a half months) later, paddled into Wellington Harbour.  

Another motivation was to explore the beautiful country and coast from a vantage not many get to enjoy.  

But the main reason behind their quest was to share the message that our environment can have such a positive effect on our mental health.  

It doesn’t matter if it’s the moana (ocean), the ngahere (forest), the awa (river), or the maunga (mountain), whatever taiao (environment) you feel connected to, use that to connect your mind, body and soul, and become kaitiaki (guardians) for these natural spaces so they’re there for future generations to come." ~ Kurt.   

Of course, undertaking such a big challenge promised a lot of highs, but plenty of lows too. 

Drew Stewart explains that with the support of the group each mental hurdle became an opportunity for gratitude.  

Mental Health Foundation

“I remember on one of the last days I was feeling pretty rubbish in the morning with low energy as we were heading around Cape Palliser, but we decided to stick close together and close to the shore,” he says. “Battling strong headwinds for around three hours meant there was no time for my mind to wander, I had to stay focused in the here and now and near the end of that day the scenery was stunning and there was some amazing wildlife, and that contrast of highs and lows made it a really enjoyable day.”  

Kurt agrees, recalling a day when he was finding it tough going and they then paddled into a pod of 200 dolphins, and he was reminded of why they were doing this – to inspire and empower others to find solace through exercise and nature.  

75 days and 2200 kilometres after setting off, the group were welcomed onto the beach Eastbourne in Wellington by a large crowd and a waiata by the Muritai School kapa haka group.  

Together, they raised $17,000 to be shared between the Mental Health Foundation and Live Ocean, a charity doing amazing mahi in making our oceans healthier.   

But it’s the countless kōrero they had along the way with people who offered them kai, fixed broken gear, stitched up a gash in a leg, and kept them inspired with their own passions for conservation and mental health that will stick with them, long after the journey has ended. 

Watch to discover more about why these intrepid travellers decided to embark on this journey for charity. 

And in this video, discover what an average day on this far from average journey looked like. 

If you’re inspired to take on your own Move for Mental Health challenge and raise vital funds to support the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand click below.