Teams dig deep for first chopper challenge in Matakana

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Betsy Tipping, of Te Arai,  leading the Rush Coffee team through the mud commando crawl at the first Westpac Chopper Challenge, which was held at Action Matakana last month. Twenty teams of four people tackled the 30-obstacle course and raised $40,000 for the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust.

It would take a lot for most people to throw themselves into chest-deep mud, over a three-metre wall or through smoke-filled crawl tunnels, but 80 people did all that and more in Matakana recently in aid of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust (ARHT).

The inaugural Westpac Chopper Challenge saw 20 teams of four tackle a 30-obstacle assault course and mud run at Action Matakana, off Omaha Flats Road. Competitors included local teams from Warkworth Hireworks and Rush Coffee at Te Arai, as well as three teams made up of ARHT medics and crew.

After a group warm-up and pep talk, contestants took off for two laps of the hardcore obstacle course, much of which seemed to involve almost complete immersion in thick, grey muddy water. Once finished, their efforts were rewarded with hot showers, clean clothes and even an on-site physio for massage and stretching.

It was the first time Brian Wilson of Warkworth Hireworks had tackled anything like this, but he was an instant convert.

“It was a hell of a lot of fun and a challenge,” he said. “None of us had done it before, we just did it. I would recommend any family or group to do it, it’s a good event for anyone.”

Rush Coffee’s Betsy Tipping had plenty of family support on the way around.

“It was amazing, so much fun!” she said. “I loved seeing the kids supporting us, I looked up and they said ‘Go Mum!’. We had such a good team and laughed the whole way around – we’re definitely keen for next year!”

ARHT events manager Leanda Hunt said it went really well for a first event.

“We’ve had a lot of success with our Pier to Pier swim between Waiheke and Auckland, so we thought let’s look at doing something different that more people can take part in,” she said.

“We’re really happy for whatever comes out of this. It’s a great place to be and everyone had a great sense of accomplishment.”

With donations and sponsorship, the inaugural Chopper Challenge should raise around $40,000 for the ARHT, which the trust said would save eight lives, since each mission costs around $5000. Donations can be accepted until Monday, December 16 at

The ARHT is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, making it the oldest civilian rescue helicopter service in the world.

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