Many people have gone over the falls either intentionally or unintentionally with some surviving the event and some not.
In 1936 A workman was swept over falls and drowned after trying to fill a kerosene can of water for his car upstream.
In the 1980s two kayakers were carted off by the police and fined $10k for their attempt. This sparked a series of discussions nationwide championing the ‘right to adventure’.
1989 Peter Plumley-Walker’s bound body was found just below the falls with the presumption that he had been thrown over. This initiated a murder investigation with Dominatrix Renee Chignall acquitted of murder after three trials.
In 1993 A kayaker died in his attempt.
In 1996 Nikki Kelly was the first woman to kayak the falls.
In 2010 Huka Falls jet rescued a dog that had presumably been swept over the falls and scrambled into a cave near the base.
Many experienced kayakers have kayaked the falls. They catch the water flow at a manageable level usually at a time when there are few tourists about supposedly to avoid the police being called.
A Ngāti Tūwharetoa story
The source of the Waikato river is on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu in the volcanic region of Ngāti Tūwharetoa. According to tribal accounts the famous Mt Tongariro and Mt Taupiri (of the Waikato people) are brother and sister. After Tongariro defeated the warriors of the mountain clan, Taupiri left the Volcanic Plateau with her husband Pirongia, but it wasn't long after she arrived at her new home that she fell terribly ill. Her husbands clan summoned the tribe's healers to cure her sickness, but to no avail. However, Taupiri knew the only cure was the healing waters from a sacred spring back home. She sent her servant, a supernatural being to retrieve the magic waters from her brother Tongariro. When the servant reached Tongariro he informed him of her sickness. Tongario immediately raised his staff to the heavens and struck the earth's surface. Suddenly, water gushed from the mountain side and the servant quickly filled his calabash. He rushed back to Taupiri. As she sipped the water from the calabash, the life returned to her eyes and she smile at the servant.
Tongariro then commanded the trickle of water to follow the servant back to Taupiri so she could have an endless supply of healing water. The current meandered across the land, charging through a narrow ravine creating the mighty Huka Falls. The river flows past Taupiri and pours into the ocean at Port Waikato.
He iti kōwhao waka e tahuri te waka!
A little water through the lashing-hole shipwrecks the canoe!
Tamatea-arikinui was a great navigator/explorer who travelled across the ocean from Hawaiiki to Aotearoa, New Zealand. After navigating the Whanganui river he and his people travelled across Lake Taupō and down the Waikato River. Ngātoroirangi, high priest and navigator of the Te Arawa canoe warned Tamatea and his people of the big waterfall ahead. Tamatea scoffed at the idea of disembarking and said,
"A! Tē aituā mai i Te Moana nui a Kiwa! Taka rawa ki te wai kōwhai waka nei ka tahuri!"
A! We had no accident in crossing the Great-ocean-of-Kiwa, but when we come to this river that would run through a lashing-hole of a canoe we are shipwrecked!
From this incident has come the whakatauakī, 'He iti kōwhao waka e tahuri te waka' A little water through the lashing-hole shipwrecks the canoe.
In this incident it is said that Tamatea-arikinui was drowned.