Kayaker completes epic journey to highlight mental illness

  • 31/12/2016

By Ruwani Perera

An Auckland adventurer made history on Saturday by becoming the first person to continuously circle New Zealand's coastline in a kayak.

Lynn Paterson has endured 5500km paddling on her own around the country to raise awareness for those affected by mental illness.

For the past 14 months her routine has gone a little like this - eat, sleep, paddle, repeat.

"When I left Takapuna I pretended it was a training day - about 430 training days later, I've returned home," says Ms Paterson.

Averaging a speed of 7km/h, the 54 year-old began kayaking around the South, North and Stewart islands in October, 2015.

She's seen some amazing scenery on her travels and delays with a broken boat and wild weather added an extra six months to her trip.

"I learned to work with Mother Nature, learning to work with the ocean and that she's always going to win - and you can't beat her," says Ms Paterson.

Her partner Jason joined her on some of the tougher legs.

"I tell you, there's been some heart-in-the-mouth moments, particularly launching Lynn on the West Coast of the South Island. Adrenaline levels were just through the roof," he says.

Ms Paterson's son suffers from depression and this was her way of highlighting what families of those battling mental illness live with.

"Any challenge on the water I've faced, I still think it was lesser than the challenges most parents or carers of depressed people face. So it just proves how strong you are," says Ms Paterson.

The huge scale of what she's achieved is quite staggering, with her longest day paddling 85km around Northland.

An arduous adventure, but for Ms Paterson, the perfect finish to 2016.

"It feels fantastic, it's a great way to end the year," she says.