When you’re terrified of water, travelling the length of the Cook Strait in a bumper boat sounds like a stupid idea. But not if you’re Jason Gunn, a well-known TV and radio host in New Zealand. “How is this not a good plan?” he grins.
The Classic Hits radio show presenter and his partner in crime, Dave Fitzgerald, were determined to go where no broadcasting duo had gone before – and they succeeded in March 2013, completing the entire length of the Cook Strait in their bumper boats to raise money for Coastguard NZ.
Speaking from Wellington after the gruelling 12-hour trip, Jason said he managed to conquer his fear of open water – even if he’s been left with “Post traumatic sea wobbles.”
“I still feel like I’m in the water,” he laughs, while Dave adds that he’s not loving the fact that everything’s still moving despite the fact he’s on dry land. “It’s not nice,” Jase continues. “But I’m so proud of Dave and myself for doing it, and I still have a healthy respect for the open water.”
The small single-passenger boats had a maximum speed of about 6 km/h and needed to be refuelled several times throughout the crossing.
The pair used social media to keep fans up to date with their progress and at one stage the Classic Hits Facebook page reported they were briefly towed forward by the Coastguard support boat.
“I’m glad it’s over,” says Dave. “We bought good luck charms before we went, and Jase decided to buy a recorder, and learnt the key notes to Celine Dion’s Titanic movie theme song which he played to help break up the long hours at sea., so all I heard throughout the whole crossing was the theme song to the Titanic, which was horrible. My lucky charm was my fiancee’s bra, which I figured could be quite practical if we needed to collect water. It makes a great petrol fume mask too.”
Despite needing Coastguard NZ’s help “a few hairy times” as swells grew to over 3m and threatened to overwhelm the small boats, the majority of the voyage went smoothly. “As a lot of our listeners said on our Facebook page, as stupid as this idea is, it’s something you’ll tell your grandchildren about, and it so was,” laughs Jason. “There were a few times there when things were a bit dicey, like when we saw the swell bang up against the ferry and we realised how small we were and how big the ferry was, but all in all it couldn’t have gone better.”
Despite his terrible fear of the ocean, Jason was always game for the bumpy ride.
“I don’t like any open water, basically,” says Jason, who puts his fear down to the disastrous swimming lessons he had as a child. “And when I went waterskiing once, I fell off, the boat disappeared and all I could see were my little legs floating. But I was feeling pretty confident beforehand. Dave was my wingman, so it was good.”
“You’ve conquered it really well, though,” says Dave. “I’m proud of you!”
The Christchurch radio hosts, who front Classic Hits’ Drive show, decided they needed to do something a little bit dangerous on air. After Jason saw one of his neighbours racing up a river in a bumper boat, the idea was “too good” to ignore. With their kickass trip the boys rightfully enter the ranks of equally legendary and infamous nautical pioneers who:
- Sailed a Bouncy Castle across lake Garda [link here]’
- Sailed a Bathtub across the Irish Sea [link here]
- Crossed the English Channel on an Amphibious Shuttle Bike [link here]
But even though the bubbly pair were “always confident” they’d make it across the notorious stretch of water, their optimism wasn’t shared by their families. “Jason’s wife [Janine Morrell-Gunn] and my fiancee weren’t so keen,” says Dave, who celebrated his engagement to Lisa Berry last week. “Our mothers weren’t good either.”
Jason’s kids, on the other hand, reckon he’s a legend. “I’ve been elevated to hero status,” he says. “My son Louis (8) wants me to buy the boat after we’ve finished.”
The pair say they were always determined to get across the Cook Strait in honour of “all the men in New Zealand”. “It was an amazing experience,” says Dave. “But never again!”
Jase and Dave’s big adventure raised more than $8,000 for Coastguard NZ. Naming rights for the two bumper boats were auctioned on Trade Me with all proceeds going to the emergency service. Waikato’s Te Akau Racing – New Zealand and Singapore won the auction with a $3690 bid to sponsor Fitzgerald’s boat. Christchurch-based Wisker Decorating won the right to name Gunn’s boat with a bid of $4410.
They are planning to auction off the bumper boats in the future, with Jason planning on bidding.
“This whole thing started with me seeing the guy in the river on the boat,” he explains. “So I think it’s only right I have a boat that I can take down there too!”
The two men had not planned their next adventure but “it won’t involve anything nautical, maybe just campervans or cars or something like that”, Gunn said.