As a baby Bob McLachlan had big hands and correspondingly big feet. You could say he was born to grip a paddle and his Hobbit-sized hooves gave him stability in the mountains and the ability to pedal a bike along at speed.
Paddling some form of boat formed the cornerstone of Bob’s life as he grew up kayaking, before embarking on a career as a professional raft guide. Living the endless summer dream he worked on some of the world’s most beautiful rivers. It was around this time that he earned himself the nickname Big Water Bob.
Bob also rafted competitively, winning New Zealand, Australasian and world championship titles in teams.
His down-time was spent on pioneering kayak missions descending remote and difficult stretches of water.
Later in life he took up waka ama (outrigger canoe paddling) and pursued it to world championship level. He holds numerous national waka ama titles.
Bob has also worked as a guide for trekking, mountain biking, sea kayaking and canyoning companies internationally and in New Zealand over the past 27 years.
A move from Motueka to Wanaka in 2008 meant there were new adventures to be had. A mountainous playground in his backyard meant his other loves – mountain running and biking were integrated into his active life.
It was in Wanaka that Bob began adventure racing. The bulging talent pool in the small Southern Lakes town meant there was always an abundance of strong athletes heading somewhere overseas to race.
Highlights included winning the China-based Wenzhou Outdoor Challenge with Team NZ Adventure in 2014, racing with top Kiwi athletes Braden Currie, Dougal Allan and Jess Simson.
In 2015, Bob also enjoyed racing with Simone Maier, Marcel Hagener and Hamish Fleming in China’s Baise Outdoor Quest, where they placed second.
Bob also developed a love of rogaining (a navigational checkpoint-finding race) and has teamed up successfully with five-time Adventure Racing World Champion Nathan Fa’avae.
He also took his navigational skills to the snow and won the National Cross Country Ski Rogaining Championships. A little more time on the cross country skis saw Bob claim two national age group titles.
Conditioned to sleepless nights courtesy of his two young children, in 2013, Bob decided to compete in New Zealand’s gruelling, multi-day, non-stop Godzone Adventure Race. It started in Mount Cook and the teams of four mountaineered, hiked, mountain biked, canoed and kayaked their way over a 500km course to finish in Queenstown. During their five days of racing, Bob’s team operated on a total of about six hours sleep and finished fifth out of 50 teams.
It was an incredible way to learn how to manage sleep deprivation; create efficiency moving through the transition areas; know what gear to wear and take; food to eat for each discipline and how to operate with three other team members.
The team returned the following year under the banner of Torpedo 7 Adventure Race team. They finished second behind Adventure Racing World Championship-winning Team Seagate.
Bob continued to race with Torpedo 7 Adventure Race team in the Godzone event the following two years, finishing third (but unranked due to missing a checkpoint in 2015) and then third in 2016.
Aged 44, Bob decided to have a crack at the World Multisport Championships Coast to Coast Longest Day. He achieved a remarkable second overall and convincingly won the veteran category.
Heading overseas later that year, Bob raced with United States-based team Adventure Medical Kits in China’s X-Trail adventure race, where they won silver.
A change in focus for the first part of 2017, saw Bob captain and navigate a team of three novices – including his partner and mother of his two girls, Cat Pattison – to second place in the Godzone Adventure Pursuit Race.
Last year, Bob had the call-up to the dream team of adventure racing and joined defending World Championship-winning Team Seagate (Chris Forne, Stu Lynch and Joanna Williams) to compete in China’s X-Trail race in June.
They comfortably won this event and then set their sights on racing the Cowboy Tough World Adventure Racing Championships in Wyoming, United States in August 2017.
Bob and Team Seagate completely dominated – winning the 725km race through the Grand Teton National Park from Jackson Hole to Casper, in 79 hours 30 minutes and 13 seconds, on just three and a half hours sleep!
Bob’s adventure racing retirement plans were put on hold, when shortly after he returned to New Zealand as a World Champion, he was asked to race with one of New Zealand’s greatest-ever All Blacks Richie McCaw in the Godzone Adventure Race in March this year.
The PWC-backed team for the Fiordland race also includes ultra-experienced Wanaka adventure racer Sarah Fairmaid and New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association boss Rob Nichol.
The team split up into twos to do the Red Bull Defiance race in Wanaka, in January. Bob and Richie were stoked to win their Sport category in the gruelling two-day multisport race and finished an impressive sixth overall.
They then banded back together as a foursome for the ARC 24-hour race in the Coromandel in February. Battling their way through the mud and rain, team PWC came away with a win.
PHEC – Pre-Hospital Emergency Care first responder’s first aid certificate
Raft Guide – Grade 4/5
SKONZ Sea Kayak of New Zealand Guide