Two men have become the first kayakers to paddle between Australia and New Zealand. James Castrission and Justin Jones battled rough weather and heavy seas for 62 days to complete the journey. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.

James Castrission and Justin Jones enjoyed a heroes' welcome at the end of their long voyage.

They have become the first kayakers to conquer the Tasman Sea.

Sixty-two days after setting off from the Australian east coast, they paddled to shore near the town of Taranaki in New Zealand.

Three-thousand well-wishers awaited them. A fleet of indigenous Maori canoes escorted them into shore, while on land a band played "Waltzing Matilda", a popular Australian folk song.

James Castrission says the welcome was overwhelming.

"Absolutely mind blowing," he said. "From when we saw Taranaki 140-kilometres out to sea all the way in we've just been buzzing. We've hardly slept and we're just so, so excited to be here."

When they left Australia in the middle of November, the young kayakers said their trip would be a test of character.

It certainly turned out that way. Large waves, strong headwinds and powerful currents conspired against them.

Gray skies made matters worse, with heavy clouds cutting the power of the kayak's solar-powered batteries. Choppy seas also soaked the kayak's cabin.

The two men, both in their 20's, suffered prolonged bouts of fatigue and plenty of cuts and bruises, and their boat had mechanical problems. The men developed skin infections that the salt water made worse.

The pair went for days at a stretch without sleep and said they had been "bounced around" as if they had been in a washing machine.

After completing customs formalities, Castrission and Jones received a check up at a hospital amid concerns that their leg muscles may have wasted during the long journey.

Last year another Australian kayaker disappeared after attempting the same record-breaking voyage.

Andrew McAuley, who was 39, apparently drowned in rough seas. His body has never been found.