18 November 2009

Not Surfing in New Zealand (Whatipu)

The flight to Auckland via Sydney seemed endless, but I did get a chance to watch The Cove (an excellent movie which I'll review later). Qantas codeshare LAN Airline from Oz to NZ served the most bizarre vegan sandwich ever: margarine, peppers, green onions, tomatoes, lettuce and cukes. While Scott and I had made our mid-morning connection to Auckland with time to spare, my surfboard and his suitcase stayed behind in Sydney for an unscheduled layover, leading to an anxious time of "Where's Nemo?" Qantas promised that, having missed our flight, the bags would be on the following one soon after. But they weren't delivered until 9 am the next day, postponing plans for a morning surf with locals Geer, his son and a friend, until we'd had a chance to explore the city and have another good night's rest.

Driving carefully from the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road, I followed Geer's crew in their SUV from Auckland on the east side of New Zealand to Whatipu on the wild west side. As we got farther from the city, the road grew narrower and narrower, and 9 km from the break it gave up any pretense of having two lanes. We forded a shallow stream and turned uphill into a dripping rainforest studded with ferns. With 5 km to go, the road gave up being paved and became a gravel track. Have to hand to the Kiwis though: there was a welcome toilet at the end of the road.
Unfortunately it seems the weather conditions may have been more favorable the day before, when Qantas was still shuffling my surfboard and other gear around the southern hemisphere. Despite a driving rain and fierce wind, the Kiwis suited up and were on it without looking, like thirsty men on a desert puddle. As he jogged past me on the beach trail in the pouring rain, Geer's mate said cheerily, "Welcome to New Zealand!"

Heavy rain flew so thickly that for a moment, with the large droplets falling from my rain jacket white in the light, I thought perhaps it might be snowing. Not that any amount of rain would discourage me from surfing (hey, you're wet anyway, right?), but at the ocean, the offshore wind nearly blew me off my feet, and it sent low-flying clouds of powdery black sand scouring the beach. I had some difficulty getting back to the trail with the strong headwind, and doubt I could have held on to my surfboard; the wind would have torn Nemo from my grasp and thrown it down the beach toward the choppy sea. Regaining the gravel car park, I ended up wet, bedraggled and dusted with fine sand, coating even my ears. Ah, well, still days to go in New Zealand.


  1. Hard work in that strong offshore. The Southern Ocean is pretty mean (or maybe its called something else there?)

  2. I think it's just the Tasman Sea off of the North Island.

  3. I've been watching the "Drive Thru" surf series on Fuel TV (both New Zealand and Australia). Lots fo pro-surfers get sunked during their trip too. Good to know skunking knows no ranks. :)

  4. But the real pros can just get back on the jet and fly off to find better waves!