Category Archives: NZ Surf

Massive cyclone swell, I finally got to see the potential of the east coast wave machine, New Zealand

I’ve been without a Vehicle in New Zealand for the past 3 weeks.  This had made surfing difficult as I have had to rely on friends to give me rides to the coast.  Luckily I have made some great friends here that are avid surfers so getting out to the surf only requires a phone call and I can usually find someone super keen for a session.

I took several trips out to Muriwai Beach, which is just north of Piha, and one of the closest beaches to Auckland.  It is on the surf rich west coast, and most days there is swell.  Usually its timing the session with the winds which are fickle and change quite often.  One of the best parts of Muriwai is that you can drive on the beach with a 4×4 and head miles in either direction to find a bank that is working and a peak all to ourselves.

4x4 on Muriwai Beach

4x4 on Muriwai Beach

After several missed east coast swells, frustration and feeling stranded at times, I was finally able to rally a few guys to head up north to the east coast to meet a big swell event.  Over the weekend a good sized tropical cyclone hit the pacific islands and Fiji got rocked with 230 kph winds (142 mph).  This whipped up a massive fetch that sent heavy ground swell in a NWN direction on a collision course with the ragged, point and river bar laden east coast of New Zealand.

On Wednesday a friend, Alex and I drove north 2.5 hours to catch the forerunners of the swell.  We went to Ocean Beach near Whangarei, a spot I have surfed before and a known swell magnet.  The sets where lully, and the tide was low by the time we arrived in mid afternoon.  The beach was closing out a bit, but we decided to paddle out anyway and try our luck at dropping into close-out barrels.

The water was warm, and absolutely crystal clear.  The sun was shinning and bouncing through the barreling waves, making shimmering silver tubes that looked like postcard wave shots.  I dropped into one particularly big set wave and had a chance to pump twice down the wall.  As the wave threw over me, I slide my hand across the vertical barrel wall, seeing through the back of the wave.  The silver tube closed around me and I punched out. The the view that I got in the barrel will be forever seared into my mind.  It is a vision I will take to my grave.

The next day we headed back up north close to Langs Beach, where I did all the fishing earlier in the summer.  Mark’s Family has a bach (vacation house) and we were going to crash there for the night.  We headed to a beach called Te Arai near Mangawhai.  Mangawhai has a famous river bar break that can hold solid swell. Te Arai is a shallow point and we decided to try here as the crowds would be less.

As we pulled up, a massive double over head set rolled in, and the breath was taken out of the car.  The point and beach at Te Ari where completely closed out….but we paddled out anyway.

The waves where massive and not really ride-able except for the occasional smaller sets.

After the surf we stopped in Mangawhai to look at the bar…its was thumping!

Mangawhai Bar Break

Mangawhai Bar Break

Mangawhai Bar Break

Mangawhai Bar Break

Mangawhai Bar Break

Mangawhai Bar Break

Mangawhai Bar Break

Mangawhai Bar Break

Mangawhai Beach Break

Mangawhai Beach Break

Mangawhai Beach

Mangawhai Beach

The next morning we awoke to miniature swell. The east coast is crazy like that.  One night massive, the next morning almost completely flat.  I’m just glad I got to see the East Coast work before I had to leave!

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Langs Beach and a Man Sized Fish

Langs Beach from the Staple's Bach

Langs Beach from the Staple's Bach

The very next weekend after my amazing fishing trip with the Marshall’s I was invited to go out on another fishing excursion, this time with Scotty Staples at his family’s bach at Lang’s Beach.

Langs is about an hour and a half north of Auckland on the east coast of the island.  The Staple’s home here has an amazing view, sitting atop a rolling hillside overlooking an beautiful crescent beach and the Whangarei headlands across the Breen Bay.

Kaipara Harbour Sunset.  This is the largest harbor in New Zealand. It is on the way to Langs.  The evening we drove up there was an amazing sunset.

Kaipara Harbor Sunset. This is the largest harbor in New Zealand. It is on the way to Langs. The evening we drove up there was an amazing sunset.

Kaipara Harbor Sunset

Kaipara Harbor Sunset

Langs Beach

Lang's Beach

Langs Beach

Lang's Beach

Langs Sunset

Lang's Sunset

Staples's Bach

Staples's Bach

Scotty took a few of us out on the family boat, and headed to his secret fishing spot.  They had been having luck catching Snapper here all summer, and our trip out was no exception.

Launching the Boat

Launching the Boat

Scotty on the Tractor

Scotty on the Tractor

On the Sand at Langs

On the Sand at Langs

Matty's Catch

Matty's Catch

Mikes Catch

Mikes Catch

We where all getting bites, and I finally caught a fish on the rod I brought to New Zealand.  But the big excitement of the day was Scotty’s catch.

Big Snapper In The Net

Big Snapper In The Net

Scotty's Big Fish

Scotty's Big Fish

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21.3 Pound Snapper

21.3 Pound Snapper

Here is some video of Scotty reeling in the monster.  Sorry about the language (boat talk).


I have officially learned how to fillet a fish, and done it enough times that I think it is ingrained .  Its a great feeling being able to provide for yourself, and prepare your own catch.

Filleting Catch

Filleting Catch

Finally getting the hang of it.

Finally getting the hang of it.

After the morning catch, we went a few houses down to the Von Roy’s family bach and played this interesting Swedish beach game that semi resembled horse shoes….if they where made of wood.

Swedish Game Called Kub

Swedish Game Called Kub

Hanging near the Von Roy's

Hanging near the Von Roy's

Beers on the deck at the Von Roy's bach

Beers on the deck at the Von Roy's bach

After some games and drinks Scotty, Matty and I headed back to the house and Scott cooked up the best meal I have had so far in New Zealand.

Scotty Cooking

Scotty Cooking

Curry Snapper

Curry Snapper

Outside dinner to end the day magically

Outside dinner to end the day magically

Another great fishing trip in the books…..now, just waiting for surf.

Finally Some East Swell!

After my north trip, I headed back to Auckland.  I was invited to stay at a few of the kids flat that I went to the Great Barrier Island with, and I took them up on there offer.  After a few days of hanging out and  going to a massive music festival, the surf report finally indicated some significant east swell was headed for the island.  Two of the guys from the flat where headed north, about two and a half hours to Ocean Beach near Whangarei.  They told me that this spot was a good swell magnet and would pick up the due east swell very well.  They where headed up with another friend that had a little wave jumper pontoon boat, and had room for one more.  So at 5 a.m. I followed the truck and boat up to Oceans and hallelujah, there were waves!

Ocean Beach with East Swell

Ocean Beach with East Swell

After a mediocre morning surf because of the tide and wind, the boys decided to do a little exploring.  We drove up the coast and launched the boat in an estuary.  We strapped the boards to the front of the 12 foot speed dingy called a thundercat and headed for the ocean.  To get out past the surf, we road the estuary current, past a bar break.  We had to dodge surfers, rocks and sandbanks, then time the throttle to punch out between sets.  I tell you the Kiwi’s are fearless.  I am still trying to figure out if they are reckless, or just very knowledgeable.  We made it out fine, and where skipping across the water, with 5 of us crammed into the boat with legs basically locked and no room on the deck.  Two of us held the boards in place as we pitched over 5 foot sea swell rolling into the shore about 1000 meters to our left.  I wanted to take my camera out in the water housing, but I had no way to protect it on the bumpy boat ride, so it stayed behind.  I wish I had pictures.

We pulled up next to a point / bar break that was reeling left.  We beached the boat, hopped the current out and got sucked to the break.  By the end of the session I couldn’t lift myself.  The boat ride back was bumpy, and with noodle arms I had a hard time controlling my body as the boat pitched and rolled through the sea.

Once we had the thundercat out of the water, the other guys headed home. I decided to drive back to Ocean Beach to camp for the night to get a dawn surf as the swell was peaking overnight.  Once back at Oceans I made dinner at the van, and ran out for a sunset shoot.

Ocean Beach Rocks

Ocean Beach Rocks

South Oceans

South Oceans

Oceans

Oceans

Oceans

Oceans

Shore Break

Shore Break

Shore and a Lone Tree On A Point

Shore and a Lone Tree On A Point. I ran down here close to sun down to take pictures of the shore break, the tree on the point and an island behind it because it looked exactly like a sketch I did years ago for a painting or tattoo. I couldn't believe how similar this scene was to what I had drawn. Unfortunately the clouds rolled in when I was shooting and obscured the island in the background. I think I will re-draw this....maybe my first tattoo?

Surfer

Surfer

Golden Sunset

Golden Sunset

Golden Sunset Dunes

Golden Sunset Dunes

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The Next morning I awoke in no particular hurry and got suited up to have a surf, as I approached the beach I saw a large event tent and realized that there was a damn surf contest on.  I was pissed!  I had to head way north up the beach, and paddled out at the spot we surfed the morning before.  It worked out, I was alone and dropped in on some of the biggest peaks I have ever attempted before.  It was a great session!

After the surf, my arms where shot, and I drove back to Auckland, exhausted and smiling.

North of the North Island….The Search for Surf

The north of the north island becomes quite a different region compared with the rest of New Zealand.  It is sub-tropical, and used to be home the largest kauri trees on the island.  The beaches here stretch for up to 50 miles and some of the purest silicon sand in the world is found.

I am traveling here in the summer months, so its warm and humid.  It feels great after a year and a half of winter.

Far north is one of the best surf areas in New Zealand, and some say that on its day it can be one of the best places in the world.  There has been a wave ridden here that was recorded over 1k, or about .6 of a mile.  The most well known break in this area is called Shipwreaks.

I decided to drive up to this area from Whagamata because my friend Mike was headed into the area and had been there many times before.  To access most of the breaks there is a 4×4 track around 2 large points.  The road is over sea rock and sand, and across two sprawling beaches.  Along the sea cliffs there are 300 ft (100 meter) sand dunes that can be seen from space.  The road (really just a track) can only be driven during low tide, and is a pretty hairy drive.  I knew the van wouldn’t make it, so to meet up with the crew already out at the spot, I need to try and hitch a ride.  I packed up a tent, camera gear, wetsuit, and a surfboard and started to walk the road.  after about 20 minutes a local guy in a Ute (pick-up truck) picked me up.  Unfortunately I got off at the first camp I saw, which ended up being about a half mile away from the actual guys I was looking for.  I finally walked up on the Kibblewhite’s, the friends I was meeting after about another 45 min of walking, and plopped down to wait for the tide to drop to get a surf in.

The swell was medium for the area, and we got a few decent waves.  Just looking at the area you could see the amazing potential that the series of points had.  Just to imagine that each break could link up to make a super left-hander that can rope for over half a mile (1 k) made me shiver.  I hope I get a chance to see this place working before I have to go.

This is half the area up from Shipwreaks bay, the start of several K's of reef and point breaks that can all link up to make a super long ride-able wave.

Super Tubes

The next day the swell died, so I ended up heading to the east coast to check another beach.  The waves were very small, so I made the decision to head north to the northern most tip of the island called Cape Reinga.  Here 2 oceans meet right off the point.  The Tasman and Pacific oceans collide in brilliant color ridges and massive swirling currents.  You can literally see both oceans combining.

The Cape

Cape Lighthouse

Cape Reinga, Where Oceans Collide

Lone Tree

The Tasman and Pacific Oceans meeting

On the way, the most pure silicon sand in the wold accumulates in massive bright white dunes.  From the distance I thought it was the white water of massive surf.

Purest silicon sand in the world

Speedy’s (Rowan Marshall) Birthday in Whangamata. Fishing on the Big Boat

After the Great Barrier Island trip, I hung out in Auckland at the Uneuku Lodge, the same hostel that I stayed at for a month when I first arrived.  I needed to catch up on work, the blog, looking for work in Australia, where I’m thinking of going to next.  I caught up with some old friends, and even got a chance to fix up and clean out the van.

For the weekend, I planned to head out to Whangamata, which is at the base of the coromandal peninsula.  This area is well known for its very good sand bank left, and quality beach breaks on north east swells.  I was invited to this town because it was Rowan (Speedy) Marshall’s Birthday.  Speedy in one of the guys that I stayed with in Dunedin.  He was having a party at his families batch (kiwi word for vacation house) and was planning to take the family boat out for a fishing day trip.

Marshall Family Batch

Marshall Family Batch

View from the batch

View from the batch

I was super excited to check out the town and get a fish in since I haven’t really had a chance to do any fishing while I’ve been here.  I had also heard roomers about the boat, and it sounded like a pretty nice setup.  I headed down a day before everyone else and got to meet Speedy’s parents and had a mellow night hanging out before the day of debauchery.  For dinner we had white bait fritters, which I already experienced in the south island, but these  where even better because they where home cooked.  I had a comfy bed to sleep in, which was a treat as I have been living on couches and out of a van for over 3 months now.

The next morning we went to the beach and ran to the store for supplies before the rest of the party showed up.  The beach is amazing, but there was absolutely no swell.  So the only thing we could think of doing was to start drinking.  Speedy is a man from my own heart, and we both love Jameson Irish whiskey, so we started the day off with that.  Once the rest of the guys arrived, it was pretty full on and the rest of the day and night get pretty fuzzy.

Whangamata Beach North

Whangamata Beach North

Whangamata Beach South

Whangamata Beach South

Whangamata

Whangamata

The next morning we all woke up, and headed out to the boat for a day of fishing.  I was super excited, and when I saw the vessel we were embarking on, I knew it was going to be a memorable day.

The Andari, The Marshall Family Boat

The Andari, The Marshall Family Boat

The Andari is a 48 foot Riveria Boat.  Speedy on deck doing his best boat pose.

The Andari is a 48 foot Riveria Boat. Speedy on deck doing his best boat pose.

On way out of the marina

On way out of the marina

Captain Pete's Wheel House

Captain Pete's Wheel House

Once we got out onto the fishing grounds, we noticed these large splashes and disturbances in the water.  I was told that these where called work-ups.  Its where larger fish work bait and school fish up to the surface and all have a feed.  It is usually a very good place to fish, and these work-ups where all around us.

work-up

work-up

Rigging up the Poles for a Fish

Rigging up the Poles for a Fish

Mike with the First Catch

Mike with the First Catch

TG with an impressive catch

TG with an impressive catch

looking back at the land

looking back at the land

8 pound snapper.  Biggest catch of the day.

8 pound snapper. Biggest catch of the day.

Speedy's birthday cake in the cabin.

Speedy's birthday cake in the cabin.

Pete Filleting One of Our Catch

Pete Filleting One of Our Catch

Filleting the Snapper

Filleting the Snapper

We tried a little fishing around the work-ups with no luck, so Captain Pete (Speedy’s father) took us to some of his fishing spots.  He has been fishing these waters since he was a boy, and his father had fished them before him.  As soon as we dropped our lines in, we where getting bites.  Although we seemed to be on the juveniles.  We all ended up catching something, and the lone girl fishing got the biggest one on the day.

That night, after a small wave surf, we fried up the fish and went to the local stand and bought chips.  It was the freshest fish and chips I’ve ever had!

Whangamata Surf

Whangamata Surf

Barrel

Barrel

MK Surf

MK Surf

In the Water

In the Water

The next day, most everyone had headed back home, but I stayed around to hang with Speedy for another day.  We took all the recycling (beer bottles) to the local dump, and smashed them all on cement walls.  I took a picture of a mound of plastic bottles.  Plastic really is the new plague on the planet, and I’m feeling more and more compelled to figure out how to tackle this problem.

Plastic Waste

Plastic Waste

After the dump, Speedy took me to a few of the surrounding beaches, it is a beautiful area, and I really want to head back to this area when there is some solid east swell.  After the beaches, Speedy took me to a really sweet rope swing into a fresh water river.  I have been waiting to do something like this in New Zealand!

One of the beaches in the area

One of the beaches in the area

Speedy in the Forest

Speedy in the Forest

That night I heard that Mike was heading way up north to another one of the best surf spots in NZ.  It was a 7 hour drive, and he was headed up there at 5 am.  I made this trip to New Zealand surf so up and out I went at 5 am.

The Crew

The Crew

Great Barrier Island. Happy New Year!

For New Year, I decided to head over to the Great Barrier Island with all the guys, and their friends I met in Dunedin.  The Great Barrier is an island that is really an extension of the Coromandal peninsula geologically, and blocks the south pacific swells from hitting the city of Auckland, making it such a good harbor.

Great Barrier Location

Great Barrier Location

Great Barrier Island Map

Great Barrier Island Map

The Barrier is very isolated from the mainland of the North Island.  All supplies must be ferried or flown in.  This makes it a very rustic and rugged place since there is not much development on the island.  This also makes the supplies on the island like petrol and food extremely expensive, so the idea is to take as much over with you as possible.

I had first tried to take my van over, but on the dates I was going the ferry was booked full, plus it is very expensive to take a car over.  I booked my ferry about a month before New Years weekend.  Of course plans changed as they do, and about 3 days before I left, Scotty asked me if I could take over the van, since one of the guys planning to take a car over opted to drive his boat to the island instead.  After a bit of scrambling to change my ferry reservation, and putting the car spot in my name, we were all set to launch for an epic summer new year trip!

The day before our ferry ride, I headed up to north Auckland to the rally point where everyone that was going on the trip was meeting.  The plan was for everyone to drop off their gear, so that I and the other truck going could load up the next day to catch our 6 pm ferry.

About half the gear laid out

About half the gear laid out

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Booze Truck

Truck filled with piss (this is what NZ'ers call beer)

Truck Loaded

Truck Loaded

Van Loaded

Van Loaded

All went to plan, and by 4 pm the next day we where loaded and on our way to the ferry terminal.

On Ferry

On Ferry

Ferry Ride

Ferry Ride

Looking Back at Auckland from Ferry

Looking Back at Auckland from Ferry


5 hours later we arrived in Tryphena Harbor, the port on Great Barrier.  It was 12 am and the road to the camp grounds at Medlands was windy and narrow.  We drove into the campsite at 1 am, unloaded the van, set up tents in the dark, I got the van ready for bed, and we crashed out.  The next week was one that I will never forget.

Medlands Campsite

Medlands Campsite

Campsite

Campsite

The communal area

The communal area

Communal Area

Communal Area

Camp

Camp

In the morning we all went for a dip in the ocean.  The water was still reasonably cold, and was a better wake up jolt than any coffee.  The campsite had a shower, so afterward I rinsed off, which wasn’t any warmer.  We made breakfast, helped set up a communal area at the campsite, and then a few of us headed out for a fish off the exposed low tide reef and the southern end of Medlands Beach.  There was no surf to be had, which was  a disappointment, as this is supposedly one of the best surfing spots in New Zealand.  But it made for easy fishing.

Reef on Great Barrier Island

Reef on Great Barrier Island

Reef and Mountains

Reef and Mountains

First Crayfish Catch

First Crayfish Catch

After the fish, we headed up to another beach that was just a short drive over a hill called Kaitoke.  If I had to draw my perfect surf spot I would have drawn this beach.  It was amazing, but again there was no swell.  We all just played in the beach break.  I finally had a chance to bust out my waterproof camera casing and experimented with it in the water.  I have a lot to learn…..first is how to avoid water drops on the lens cover.

First Mini Barrel Shot...with lots of drops

First Mini Barrel Shot...with lots of drops

In The Line Up on a Small Day

In The Line Up on a Small Day

Seaweed Ball

These weird seaweed balls where rolling around the shore break, not sure what they are, but they are interesting.



The next day, we all headed further north to another beach to chill. Some of the boys went snorkeling and crayfish hunting (we call them rock lobster).  I again took the camera out and played with it.

Surfing behind the tinny

Surfing behind the tinny

On The Beach

On The Beach

This was the first time I have taken the underwater housing and my camera out on a snorkel. Still have to figure out some settings, and what I have to set before the camera goes in the housing. Pretty excited to get my diving certification and head to some tropical reefs and clear water.

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Frasier Diving

This is Frasier, aka Bear Grylls, Diving for Crayfish

Frasier is digging into a hole looking for Crayfish. You can see there Antennae (feelers) sticking out of a hole in the rock. He then reaches in and snags them. There is a lot more to it than that, but we will keep it short.

Got one, but its too small

Just rip the weeds out with it.

This ones a keeper!

Diver and Fish

Diver and Fish

Boiling up Crayfish

Fresh Eats! Boiling up some crayfish. In Mexico they boil then split the body in half and grill the meat the rest of the way, then serve with rice, beans. tortillas and butter. In New Zealand we boiled the cray in this case, then ate with butter and mayo, but I know they will often bake or fry the crayfish as well.

Mike Kibblewhite digging into a crayfish.

New Years night was a little fuzzy.  We ended up catching a party bus to a local pub that was also a rugby club.  There was an influx of people like us…new year tourists and locals.  The club was rickety, and actually really reminded me of upstate New York where I grew up, around Sodus Point.  Its weird how something can make you feel so comfortable like home so far away.

I ended up ushering in the new year laying on grassy sand dunes looking up at the most vivid, starlit sky.  The nights here are amazing, and so clear.  There are so many stars visible, and I realized that I am looking at a totally different section of space.  It is an awesome sight. This summer time Christmas and New Years time is a pretty nice change, it really beats slugging around in the slush, wind and cold.  I may need to make this a regular thing!

New Years day we all basically just hung out around the campsite and slept and where generally very lazy.

On the 2nd we drove further north, to a small bay.  Some of the other guys drove the boat up and we spent the day taking shifts fishing and hanging out on the beach.  We where the only ones there, and just swam, snorkeled and cooked the fresh catch.

Our Private Beach for the Day

Our beach

Fresh Fish Again!

Another boat showed up towards the end of the day.

I left on the 3rd, got back to Auckland, and crashed at the flat that I first packed up at.  It was such a great trip, but unfortunately there was absolutely no surf what so ever. I really want to head back when there is swell, so hopefully before March an east swell will hit.  I can’t believe that I only have about 2 more months left in New Zealand, where has the time gone?

Catlins. South, South Island

Purakaunui Beach

Purakaunui Beach

After the Milford Track, Dan and I took a few days to let our feet and legs recover.  We hung out with Ed in Arrowtown and did laundry and relaxed in the semi warm sun of the mountains.

After 2 days we decided to drive back to Dunedin to meet up with Scotty and Mark to plan a trip down south into the Catlins area.  I had been to this area several weeks before after I finished kitting out the van.

Scott and Mark headed down a day before and set up camp.  Dan and I and my old co-worker from Hogwartz backpacker, Gowin, went for a shop, got supplies for a few days and rallied down the coast.

We got in, set up, and noticed that the surf was up and amazing.  The first night it rained constantly and wasn’t too enjoyable, but the surf was fantastic.

Campsite

Campsite

Campsite

Campsite

The second day about 10 other friends showed up.  We spent the day surfing, and climbing the surrounding cliffs and rocks.

Dan on top of Pk's cliffs

Dan on top of Pk's cliffs

Puarakunui Beach from Cliff

Puarakunui Beach from Cliff

Good Waves From Above

Good Waves From Above

On the third day most of the kids headed back to Dunedin, but Dan, I and Gowin decided to drive farther south yet to Curio bay at the bottom of the South Island.  Here we stayed in a backpackers and where the only guests for the night.  Close by was a petrified forest on the sea cliffs of the surrounding coastline.

Curio Bay

Curio Bay

Petrified Log

Petrified Log

Rock Tree Rings

Rock Tree Rings

A day later we were back in Dunedin and Dan and I started our travels south to north back to Auckland over two and a half weeks.