Twelve Questions – Jo McWilliam

Jo McWilliam

Round two of our new online interview series that we’re running called ‘Twelve Questions’ sees Wellington based architect and keen paddling enthusiast Jo McWilliam (nee Dovey) answer our set of questions.

Who are you?
Jo McWilliam; Jo Dovey till marrying my favourite fella (Hamish) about a year ago.

What do you do?
I’m an architect, doing mostly residential work though I’ve spent a fair bit of time on corrections facilities in the past and have recently worked on a couple of small railway stations. I’m also mildly obsessed with earth building.

Where are you based?
Wellington! Not the best spot in terms of river access, but a great city with no shortage of enthusiastic paddlers.

Jo McWilliam

When did you start kayaking?
Hmmmm… first go was in a Combat in a dirty lagoon at El Rancho in Waikanae… then my enthusiastic intermediate teacher got the class out in Combats again in an eddy on the Hutt the following year… but I really got into it around 2005 ish. I was playing polo and a mate invited me along to the Vic Uni whitewater club, leading to an addiction.

Last time you paddled?
Last river was the Whakatikei with a few mates, just after Wellington’s big storm. Great to get out. 3+ (at that flow), close to home but needs a fair bit of rain.

First Swim?
Probably swam on that eddy line at age 12, but the first one I remember was on the Otaki. It was just me + a raft, I was 17 or so, got bored of waiting for the raft so paddled off (naughty), tipped, attempted to roll but was super nervous, failed + luckily self-rescued before the rafters caught up and spotted me!

Last Swim?
Embarrassing. Playing on a hole near the top of the Hutt Gorge and it really liked Mini Mystic flavour that day; wouldn’t let go. I should have hung on longer and tried a few other things… bit slack really. Did drink wine out of my paddling shoe in penance.

Preferred post paddling beverage and food?
A roast at River Valley, preferably with a beer to wash it down. Amazing how well a pie from the servo goes down after a long run though.

First kayak you owned, and what do you currently paddle?
I bought a Reflex when I was 16 and used it for trips down the Otaki once a year or so and paddling on the harbour and I then bought an Eskimo Nano just before I got into paddling properly. These days I have a Dagger Nomad and a Jackson 2 Fun.

My most valued piece of gear is…..
Not too sure at the mo… I’m not reconciled to the orange of the Nomad yet but do quite like my shiny blue FNA helmet!

My favourite river is…
Rangitikei Gorge. Love it. A good challenge without being too scary (though plenty of potential there if I went in at higher flows). Not too far from home, beautiful wilderness feel and a spa, beer and River Valley roast at the end.

The Dream/Ideal mission is….
Having been in to the Arahura once, when I had a pretty average paddling day, I’d love to go in there again with blue sky, good water and a good crew, feeling strong and fit. A dream mission I was lucky to be on last year involved heading into the Upper Otaki just before Christmas with a spontaneous day of leave (thanks boss!), a bluebird day in the Tararua (a rare thing), good water and a good crew, all paddling a local run for the first time. Cheers Nigel for organising that one.

Who is your favourite paddler to watch?
Shane Quinlivan – style and so much determination evident in those Irish eyes! He’ll catch a billion eddies on the way down a rapid that I wouldn’t even see.

Jo McWilliam

What’s right about kayaking?
Getting to beautiful places (Waihohonu, Makatote, anything on the West Coast, Patagonia) with awesome people while doing something I love. Paddling with people who encourage me to do more than I thought I could, like Dean “Try this line, Jo” Ford and Fritz “This is well within your abilities. I’ll take the car keys” Frohlke. It’s where I’ve met some of my best mates, not to mention meeting Hamish in an eddy.

What’s wrong with kayaking?
Loss. Tim Jamieson RIP and others I hadn’t got to meet yet. The fossil fuel we use to get to the river is a drawback too.

Photos courtesy Garth Low (top and middle photos) Hamish McWilliam (bottom photo)