Friday, February 23, 2024

On the blue: All Black goes green

On the water, guests receive a snapshot of the area’s history – Maori (Ngati Whiti) heritage, early traders and European settlers – and learn about the ocean and its local inhabitants, such as those at a nearby seal colony.
HELEN PERRY focuses on Chaddy’s Charters in New Plymouth an eco-friendly business as she talks to the owners who have encountered sporting and personal challenges.

Rugby may no longer be a priority for Carl Hayman but, for the former All Black prop and his partner in business and life, Kiko Matthews, fitness and sport remain essential to their wellbeing in addition to their business.

Chaddy’s Charters is unique. At its core is a 35-foot, seafaring lifeboat built in 1953. During the 1950s and ‘60s it was owned by the Bridlington branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution of Yorkshire, taking part in many a sea rescue before being bought by the Sumner Life Saving Society in Christchurch.

In 1992, New Plymouth local David Chadfield bought the lifeboat and launched Chaddy’s Charters, which he ran successfully until two years ago, not only taking visitors out on the water but hosting weddings and funerals as well. He also carried celebrities such as Billy Connolly, Tom Cruise and Jonah Lomu. When deciding to retire, he put the business up for sale just as Carl and Kiko arrived from the United Kingdom – they saw a future for themselves.

Today, with Carl at the helm, this iconic lifeboat takes visitors on a one-hour cruise around New Plymouth’s Sugar Loaf islands. The experience begins with the passenger-loaded vessel launched down a ramp into the sea – quite a thrill as my husband and sister-in-law can attest.

Carl, Kiko & Genevieve Ocean

On the water, guests receive a snapshot of the area’s history – Maori (Ngati Whiti) heritage, early traders and European settlers – and learn about the ocean and its local inhabitants, such as those at a nearby seal colony.

“All this came about when, after many years abroad, particularly in England, Kiko and I decided to settle in New Zealand. We headed first to my Taranaki hometown of Opunake. Coming from London was quite a culture shock for Kiko,” Carl explains. “Then we learned about the charter business in New Plymouth. It had all the elements we were after: the ocean, history, conservation, education and more.”

And, who better to steer this iconic business than a couple whose sporting successes have been many. For example, Kiko set a women’s world record for rowing solo across the Atlantic Ocean from Spain to Barbados in 49 days, seven hours, 15 minutes. The record was not broken until March this year.

“Before committing to the challenge, I had done virtually no rowing so it proved to be a massive undertaking,” says Kiko, who has also taken part in a five-day, 260km run across the Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan, circumnavigated Ibiza on a paddle board (seven days) and cycled nearly 7000km around coasts of the UK and Ireland to raise awareness about the effect of plastics on the environment.

On the other hand, while Carl’s rugby days took place on solid ground – playing for New Zealand and overseas’ clubs as well as coaching – these days he is an avid swimmer, cyclist, triathlete (he has completed two Ironman events), recreational fisherman and now a dedicated seafarer.

This makes the couple ideal for further building Chaddy’s Charters, which also offers kayaking, paddle boarding and biking activities. For some people any one of these activities would likely signal a pleasant way to spend a day, but for Carl and Kiko there is a lot more going on. They are committed to ocean preservation as part of their global conservation outlook and, as such, have instigated educational ocean and land-based tours for schools and more.

Although it appears this eco-conscious couple – now parents to an (almost) two-year-old, Genevieve Ocean – has the perfect lifestyle balance, they have endured several personal challenges, ones which may have deterred others from such a move.

In 2009, Kiko was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, a rare and life-threatening condition causing tumours on the pituitary gland controlling the body’s hormone production. This has resulted in two brain surgeries and what the future holds for her is uncertain. Carl too has faced a range of difficulties, the most recent being diagnosed with early onset dementia.

However, when times get tough, he and Kiko agree they want to look at the positives not the negatives.

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