Alex and I took off last winter for an overseas surf mission: Tonga (Ha'atafu Beach), New Zealand, and Fiji (Seashell Cove). We got engaged just before leaving home, and without waiting for the marriage vows, we went straight to our honeymoon: such a good thing. Since we had some money to burn, we skipped college and work for 6 months, and went on tour. I packed my 6'10" Rowley round pin - the "Pepsi Board", and a Shannon 6'2" fish - the "Hummer"; Alex brought her new 6'10" XCape fun-shape and a backpack full of soap and peanut butter (and other travel essentials thank goodness).
We had insane reef surf at a wave called "ET's" in Tonga - first boat trip surfing I'd ever done. Heavy overhead south swell juice on razor-sharp coral reef. The wave was heavier duty than any I've ever surfed, certainly more of a thump than anything surfable in Canada. I got thumped, and survived…and got a few through to the end and thanked my lucky stars for getting me there. Saw some fellas owning it, like you see in the vids. On the way home from NZ, we spent a week in Fiji - I missed epic Cloudbreak by a day apparently (said the crew at Seashell Cove). We arrived Sunday, and Saturday is Tavarua's changeover - the day the low budgets and everyone else, can surf there. Heard all about it, as you do, eh. However, I did surf Wilkes Pass, which wasn't as hairy as Tonga, but still a cool place to be.
I want to tell about a particular weekend we had in NZ, to make the long story short. We spent a total of 5 months in NZ - bought a sweet Toyota Hi Ace and went on search. Surfed heaps - all the big name waves (Raglan, Shippies, Piha, etc) and even more of the low-profile waves (Magnet Bay, Pungarehu, Taranaki, etc). NZ is full of horny farm animals, dead possums, friendly locals, three-meat barbys, and long, reeling point breaks. There are so many good waves in NZ - check it out - and here I will tell you about two particular right-hand pointers.
Kaikoura is famous for it's Crayfish, Paua (Abalones), swimming with Dolphins and Whales, bountiful scenery, and Mangamaunu's - one of the poster waves of NZ. I saw a beauty photo of this wave in a mag when we first arrived to NZ, and I made a mental note of the scene. I knew I'd come across it in the travels. Three months later, we were in Kaikoura for a week or so, surfing the little beachy named the Meatworks. Then, of course, the day we were planning to move on south, a new swell arrived - the biggest in three months as the crew reckoned. It was an unexpected swell on some Saturday morning; the crew, hazy from last night's drunk, took a surprising long while to figger out that Mangamaunu's was goin' like gangbusters!
We were camped at Meatworks near Manga's, so, knowing the swell hit, I was there by 8:00 am. Two hardcores out already, no other cars in the lot and I'm stoked on the size and push of these waves reeling down the point.
This was like one of those power days that comes along now and then - so many empty waves going by because there's hardly anyone out. The weather wasn't so hot, and there was a crosswind, but the waves were "goin' orf"! My first paddle out wasn't too bad and I immediately hooked into a nice one. It was a smooth easy big-size take-off; cruising down the big line and pumping, sticking with it cutty after cutty, I managed to milk it through the slower sections, race it all the way through the speedy sections, and into the shallow end of the bay. Now, I'd heard the stories of fellas having to kick-out early from the burn in their quads, but it had never happened to me before this day. I didn't kick out - I rode these waves, quads afire, all the way until the bitter end where it doubles up on the beach backwash, and you can step right off onto the rocky shoreline without messing your hair. Ommigod what a wave! I replayed it repeatedly and watched the other fellas coming in behind me, for the whole 15 minutes it took me to run back up the beach to the put-in.
I counted ten laps of the bay that day: that is, ten waves ridden. It was a 2-hour session, most of that time spent riding or running back up the beach! The crowd was just arriving as I was relishing and toasting my session with an 11:00 am Mac's Gold.
We had been planning to run south for Christchurch on Monday, with Saturday night and Sunday spent at Gore Bay - some off-the-track bay between Kaikoura and Chch. Alex had a photo that her mom had sent of a garden in Gore Bay, which was half the reason we were going there. The other half was to find the mysto point at the south end of the bay that was not even mentioned in my NZ Surf Guide. Dude, this wave topped-off the weekend, if you know what I mean.
Saturday night: we established our camp spot and went for a bit of a tour. The camp was in about the middle of the long Gore Bay, where the waves were heavy beach-break and not appealing. I had the binocs out, trying to picture the scene in that south corner. Soon enough we went for the drive and found the top of the high cliff overlooking this wave, which it turns out, is called Port Moresby. In the fading afternoon light, I could see potential, but I wasn't totally fired up. In the morning, it would be epic. Best return to camp and celebrate the day with a bottle of Kaikoura Red and a fine pasta dish, cooked up on the back deck of the Toyota.
Sunday morning dawned fresh and sunny. After a quick brecky, Alex chauffeured me anxiously to Port Moresby, where I was astounded to see four cars in the lot, and dumbfounded at the sight of perfect, glassy, overhead swell. Alex content, left me with it to pursue her garden attraction, and I energized, started for the trail down to the beach. As I got near, I could see a crew perched on a viewpoint close to the shoreline. What's this - about ten guys with flags and air horns, looking like judges and competitors? What's going on, I said, I didn't expect to see a crew like you here so early on a Sunday? Are you having a comp or something and if so, can I still surf (please, I'm praying)?
"Yeah mate, get out there! We're just up from Christchurch for the day - we're the Christchurch South Sunday Goofy-foot Shortboard-riders Club." Those crazy Kiwis have clubs for every darned thing, I swear! "Don't mind us ay, go for it bro. It's good out there, she only breaks like this maybe twice a year, ay!"
So I paddled out, into the impromptu, friendly surf comp and the cleanest, finest waves of the trip so far. Four guys were out: heat one of the comp. It was a long paddle out, which gave me a chance to warm-up and stoke-up for the impending session. The fellas were riding nice and having a blast. As soon as I got to the line-up, we heard the loud blast from the beach, signalling the end of heat one. So the four fellas paddled in! So I'm out there - alone in epic surf! And so the session went: every twenty minutes four new guys would paddle out, surf for twenty minutes and paddle back in. I got so many waves in super fun, super sunny, big and fun conditions.
Alex arrived after her garden tour midway through the session. She told me later that, because of the distance, they were having trouble telling who was riding which waves. "Rider up, nice wave - Is that Green? Who is that - is it Red?"
"Naw mate, that's that uvver guy, that Canadian feller ay. They got surf in Canada?"
It was a killer session and a killer weekend and a killer six-month surf trip. This was the weekend that topped the surf-trip off, as we were to head to Chch to sell the van, spend the earnings on a week in Fiji, and then return home to our precious Vancouver Island. If you are thinking of a surf trip, or a trip-travel anytime, think of New Zealand and her relative South Pacific Isles. It's a good trip. Every good Canadian surfer needs an overseas surf mission at least a few times when they are young. It's so good to bring home some surfing lore from some faraway beaches.
||Dave McCallum is a long time resident of Nanaimo, a 3rd year TRMT student at Malaspina and a staffer at coastalbc.com