Riding Full James on the Waikato River

Locally known as Full James or “FJ”, is a standing wave on the Waikato River downstream of the Aratiatia Rapids. It is large enough for a kayaker or even the odd Jet Boat to surf and stay on.

By Matt Hern - Team Rafting New Zealand kayak athlete & Rafting New Zealand Raft Guide

Nga Awa Purua (River of Springs), Waikato River, Taupo

Many kayakers visit this wave from international pros, to beginners and kayak clubs. The wave has hosted many freestyle events including the World Champs in 1999 and usually an annual event catering for local and international paddlers.

Locally known as Full James or “FJ”

Best Flows for surfing are achieved between 180 and 250 cubic meters of water per second (cumecs). As the flow increases, so does the height and size of the wave and an optimal flow is achieved at around 220 cumecs.

Flow levels can be obtained from the comfort of your couch before heading out, by calling the Mighty River Power flow phone on 0800 820 082 and following the automated options for the river flow below Aratiatia.

To get there drive south from Taupo and at the SH5 and SH1 roundabout continue on SH5 for around 1km then turn right towards the Aratiatia Dam. Continue over the Dam (if the water is turned on it is worth stopping for a look) and take the next left and make your way towards the National Equestrian Center.

Once past this turn right down towards Rapids Jet and continue to the locked gate at end of the road. If you have collected a key from Canoe and Kayak in Taupo (gold coin donation) you may continue down this shingle road to the turnaround area above the wave. If not, park your car taking care to hide all valuables, and scramble down the river bank. Paddle 5 or so minutes downstream to the Full James wave.

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