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Outdoor adventures with William Pike

William is a well-known Shore identity, a sought-after motivational speaker and an accessible role model to New Zealand youth. He was one of two young climbers caught in a volcanic eruption on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu in 2007. William is passionate about the outdoors and education and has worked as a primary school teacher on the North Shore. However, an exit from teaching has seen William set up the William Pike Challenge Award which is a popular Intermediate and Middle School outdoor education programme run over one school year. He is a monthly columnist for Channel Magazine.

Why you should unwrap the cotton wool and get your kids outdoors!

Our group was in a dramatic setting of vertical rock, river and valley. I was standing on a wooden platform in the bush and below me a crystal clear river bubbled away. Looking up into the sky, I watched 12-year-old Rebecca abseil towards me.

I was interested to hear what she had to say, because her nervous and teary-eyed tantrum 60 metres above us at the top of the abseil indicated that there way no-way she’d step over the edge. As her feet hit the deck, she said in a typical teenage girl tone ‘Oh-my-god, if I can do that then I’m going to be able to do anything from now on...’ I responded with a high-five and said ‘Good on ya, Girl!’ She had made my day, and I’ll never forget that moment.

Rebecca reminded me of why’s it’s so damn important to get outdoors and have a regular dose of challenge, adventure and fun in our lives. Not only did Rebecca overcome her fear of heights, she proved to herself that she can do anything if she puts her mind to it. When she comes across a challenge in the future, I’m sure she’ll think of the day she took that step over the edge, and remind herself she can do anything. Ironically, Rebecca went on to choose ‘Rock Climbing’ as her new sport, for the William Pike Challenge Award she was participating in.

For youngsters, having a focus and direction – like a sport or hobby in their lives is exciting, and essential. In New Zealand especially, the outdoors provides bucket loads of activities that might just keep kids from wandering down the wrong path. It’s not just the ‘activity’ itself, it’s all that comes with it: friendship through clubs and groups; camaraderie and relationship building; interaction with elders; respect and empathy for others; and physical challenge for a good blow out.

If you live in New Zealand, you’re ridiculously lucky. We live in one of the best places in the world for access to the outdoors, with a variety of environments right on our door step. Guaranteed, wherever you are in New Zealand, you are less than an hours’ drive from a picturesque reserve or national park. And the best thing is – it won’t be crowded.

With easy access to these outdoor environments, we often see accidents and mishaps that could have been avoided through education and experience. Getting kids into the outdoors will help them develop commonsense for the outdoors, and an understanding for risk. A simple bush walk at Okura, mountain bike at Woodhill, or kayak in the Hauraki Gulf will help kids identify and avoid risky situations in the future. One day, they may save a life, or their own.

Time in the outdoors can only raise awareness for conservation and sustainability. There is no better way to teach the preservation of our environment than by putting our younger generation into picturesque environments. With education and simply by taking students into the outdoors while they’re young, it has the advantage of influencing their understanding and attitude towards conservation, before misconception or the influence of their peers takes a firm grip.

Although we live in the biggest concrete jungle in the country, that’s no excuse for not getting out and about. The benefits far out-weigh the perceived risk of some outdoor activities, so unwrap that cotton wool and put aside a few weekends over summer. Call it bonding time, adventures or whatever you want. Give yourself and/or the kids some time to play, explore and experience the outdoors together. At end of the day, just have fun and bring back some stories to tell, and make the most of what we have in our backyard.

Check out the William Pike Challenge Award Facebook page for some ideas for local adventures: or visit:

by William Pike