CRNZ Blog

Taris’ road to recovery

Author -  Karen Simpson

After standing down from the men’s elite squad earlier this year following a mysterious heart condition some might have assumed it was the end of the kayaking road for Taris Harker.

Taris’ road to recovery

After standing down from the men’s elite squad earlier this year following a mysterious heart condition some might have assumed it was the end of the kayaking road for Taris Harker.

taris 2.jpeg


After standing down from the men’s elite squad earlier this year following a mysterious heart condition some might have assumed it was the end of the kayaking road for Taris Harker.

But despite the huge personal disappointment of no longer being a part of the programme, the nuggety Karapiro Kayak Racing Club paddler has not given up on his kayaking dreams and made a successful return to the sport at Blue Lake 2, finishing a highly-respectable fourth in the open men’s K1 200m event.

“I didn’t have too many expectations (at Blue Lake 2), it was more about getting back on the water and seeing what I could do,” explains Taris, a five-time World Championship age-group representative for New Zealand. “I was pretty surprised with my heat (which Taris won) In the final I would like to have done a little better (than fourth) but we have nationals to come (in February), so we’ll see what happens there.”

Selected to be part of the developing CRNZ men’s squad since 2016 he featured in the men’s K4 500m - alongside Max Brown, Kurtis Imrie and Ashton Reiser - which finished 12th overall at the 2018 World U23 Championships in Bulgaria.

Yet after returning to training following his end of season break he quickly discovered something was amiss.

“My heart rate was a lot higher than it should have been for the effort I was putting in,” explains Taris, who was born and raised in Christchurch before the family relocated to Tauranga following the 2011 earthquake. “I also saw my resting heart-rate was between 70 and 90 (beats per minute) which was abnormal as well. After every session my heart-rate wouldn’t settle and I woke up on a morning feeling exhausted.”

His heart rate would spike to 120bpm for no apparent reason. He would feel hot and light-headed. He sought answers but despite receiving the very best medical support from HPSNZ finding a solution to his heart issues have so far proved elusive.

“The hardest part was sitting in the doctor’s office and asking when I would return to train and they said “I don’t know?”

After being decarded in March his former HPSNZ Life Advisor Nathan Twaddle quickly helped find a job as a quantity surveyor in Hamilton.

Taking on the role eased the pain of no longer being able to kayak but after the heart issues began to settle down in the middle of this year he eased back into gentle kayak training from August.

Adopting a sensibly cautious approach the former surf lifesaver tries not to over-exert himself in training and if feeling excessively fatigued he will cut the sessions short. Linking up with former coach Scott Bicknell, the Cambridge-based paddler returned to full training six weeks ago.

Juggling 30 hours of work as a quantity surveyor with seven on water sessions and three gym sessions a week has proved demanding. Having lost a lot of fitness and strength during his enforced absence has made the journey back to full fitness tough but Taris is also highly motivated for the future.

So is the muscular paddler planning to focus on the 200m – an event he has enjoyed success at in the past?

“I haven’t fully decided,” he explains. “I think with Scott we might take a different approach to how I train to avoid any heart issues. It might be working on less distance (than in the past) but with greater intensity.”

He has not ruled out one day returning to the CRNZ training programme but he is not getting ahead of himself and is wisely adopting a sensible approach.

“Maybe in 2021, but my main focus is on myself and being healthy,” he adds. “The Nationals are only eight or nine weeks away and the boys will also get fitter and faster in that time, so we’ll just see how it goes.”

Article Steve Landells

Photo credit Dscribe Photography


Taris’ road to recovery

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