New Zealand had been on my bucket list for some time now… so when my wife Ashley got an email from Scott’s Cheap flights advertising a $700 round trip flight to Auckland, we freaked! We ALMOST booked it immediately… but decided to sleep on it. The next day I went surfing with my best buddy Alex. By what seemed like fate, he brought up going to New Zealand together. We took this as a sign and booked it!!! 12 days in NZ was only 2 months away… we began to plot logistics and pray for surf!
First stop Degree 33 for a new Weapon shortboard
12 hour red eyes are the worst. But the flight had a solid selection of surf movies… so we mostly stayed up and got psyched watching Momentum Generation and Proximity. We landed in Auckland on a Friday morning, snagged our rental car, and booked it to the coast. Out first stop was the Coromandel region. This leg of the trip was meant to be tropical snorkeling and sightseeing with our wives… but a last minute rare cyclone developed and the forecast was calling for bombing swell… so plans changed from tourist tours to wave hunting. Good thing my wife Ashley and Alex’s wife Kara were down to drop everything for us to score waves… shout out to Ashley and Kara!!!!!!!
As the cyclone arrived, we headed north to Otama, a typically flat beach break rumored to fire on a big cyclone. We showed up to SUPER heavy beach break barrels… but too heavy. As the tide pushed, Otama became a shorebreak. I didn't want to snap my brand new Degree 33 Weapon… or my neck… so we resorted to whomping shorebreak. I got a few much needed chiropractic adjustments.
Showing up at Otama
Even though the whomp was all time, we were itching to score still. So we headed south to meet up with Logan, Alex’s buddy from Christian Surfers and a NZ local. Logan and his crew showed us around Mount Maunganui. The next day, we packed up two cars with a squadron of local groms and headed to “Hawai”, pronounced “HA-WHY”... not to be confused. But even by the name we were hopeful. Like Otama, Hawai is a fickle noveltly wave rumored to be a perfect right point on the right cyclone swell. The crew had just tried to score it a few months back and just missed it. So they had a seeming vendetta out to score it. We trekked two hours south to get there. Upon arriving, Hawai was barely breaking. SHOOTS. Looking fun enough, we paddled out. I took out a 5’6” Keelfather Fish that I’d never even ridden before… but the homies at Degree 33 hooked it up for the trip. I paddled out with zero expectations. Within minutes, the wave of the day came right too me. The fish went like a dream. The wave peeled down the point and got 4-5 super fun carves in. I’ve been riding fishes my whole life and that was probably one of the funnest waves I’ve ever had on a fish!!!! The rest of the session kinda shut down and I didnt get another wave like that… one was enough. Stoked. Shout out to Logan (@shaka.brah) , Carmen and crew for showing us around!
After Hawai we headed west for Taranaki. On the way across the Island, we stopped for a 12 mile hike to Mordor from Lord of The Rings… at the top of the mountain a BRUTAL and unexpected storm arrived and we got so so so worked. It was actually pretty scary and life threatening… after the hike we all decided to stick to surfing instead of hiking. It was a good call.
Thanks to another good friend from Christian Surfers, in Taranaki we got hooked up with a place to stay right on the water with 3 left breaks out front to choose from. Shout out to Nev and Rusty… Legends.
Finding some quality surf at Taranaki Reef
Over the next three days we surfed our brains out. In full grom mode, Alex and I surfed 3 times a day. Waves were head high and super ripable and fun all over. My 5’9” Weapon went epic. I switch it up to quad which was a game changer for the lined-up, overhead Taranaki reef breaks.
Here is me at Stent Road, a bowly/punchy sling-shot-of- wave.
The last leg of the trip was Raglan. Surf prayers answered, Raglan was 6ft and pumping when we arrived. Raglan is one of those waves that every surfer dreams of.
I managed to sneak into a little tube at the inside section of Indicators:
Another fun one. The Weapon worked so good in the pocket!
Over the next 2 days we surfed out brains out at Raglan. By the last day, I could barrely paddle.
New Zealand was the trip of a lifetime! Stoked and grateful, we headed back home to SD. YEW!
Written by Richard Mattingley for Degree 33
Photos courtesy of @karareynoldsphoto
What was it like surfing for the very first time? Do you remember? How old you were? Which beach you were at? I have a few vivid memories, and even one I wish I could forget: trying a on a wetsuit for the very first time in the height of summer, sweating it up in some changing room thinking my surfing career was about to end before it even started. But besides that instance, the rest of the experience is filled with pretty fond memories.
When we were little kids, my family always camped at the beach in the summer and the routine was pretty epic: wake up to the sound of the ocean, breakfast, beach time, quesadillas at lunch, back to the beach, snow cones, back to the beach until sunset and then ride bikes at night and throw sticks at your friends until your parents told you to go to bed so you could do it all again the next day. I think I was somewhere around ten years old and I remember being down at the beach with my boogie board one day and paddling into a wave that had a bit of a shoulder to it, and I got up to my feet before it all closed out, standing on the board looking at the face of the wave thinking, I’M SURFING!
I ran straight in to claim it to my family, of course morphing this ankle high wind chop into overhead Pipeline in my version of the story. But what surfer, or fisherman, doesn’t stretch the truth a little when talking about their waves? I begged my parents to rent me a board from the nearby surf shop that week so I could ditch the boogie board and start surfing for real, because hey, by the sounds of my boogie board story, I was practically pro already.
When we arrived at the surf shop I had this feeling like I was being allowed into a secret club. Which board did I want? Was I a long boarder or a short boarder? Look at all the different graphics! The shop owner asked where we were surfing and suddenly my surfboard buffet was narrowed down to an old long board covered in duct tape. Probably a wise choice.
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Getting back to the beach, my dad began giving me some instruction as he had been surfing since he was little, explaining to me things like, “When you are paddling out, making sure your board is pointing straight at the wave = good, board parallel with the wave = bad!” And waxing my board up for the first time felt like something of a religious ceremony. I was so excited.
Trying to pick up my huge board with my tiny arms and take it down to the water probably looked similar to a construction worker swinging around a piece of lumber not knowing where he was going, but in my head, I might as well have been the third guy in the Endless Summer. I finally got down to the ocean and I was so relieved to get this log off my head and floating in the water.
Luckily, paddling the board was way easier than carrying it. It felt like I was skimming across the water every time I paddled, and mind you, I was only able to get half my fingertips in the water owing to how wide this board was.
And then came the first challenge, making it past the break. I remember thinking, step one, point the board at the wave, check! Step two, hold onto your board like it is a bull in a rodeo…uh check! Step three, lose rodeo battle with board and get tossed, check! Step four, get butt back on board, ignore stinging of water in nose and keep paddling, check! Oh great, another wave.
This little dance went on for a bit, but finally the sea subsided and I found myself in the place every new surfer looks for, out past the break. I was sitting there watching the waves roll past, going up and down with the movement of the ocean feeling like I had already accomplished something. I still crave that feeling of calmness sitting on my board staring out into the sea.
But back to surfing.
My dad started giving me some tips. “When you see a wave, sit back on your board and egg beater your feet to turn around.” This was easier said then done for the kid whose feet barely wrapped around the edges of the board, but I improvised, and eventually got it down.
And then it happened, a little three foot roller appeared with no one else paddling for it except me. I started paddling for the beach like my life depended on it, trying to get this Cadillac moving to match the speed of the wave.
I felt the wave pick me up and hopped to my feet. With a solid center of gravity and a death grip planted into the wax with my toes, I dropped in to my very first wave. What did it feel like? I remember watching the water splashing underneath my board, and the wave continuing to form and glide my board and me across the surface. I could see all the way to the bottom, floating past rocks, seaweed, reef and sand. I was stoked!
But my first wave did not go unnoticed. My mom was on the beach and she began to wave as a loyal family member would, but suddenly so did a lot of other people. Like, a lot of other people. Could I really be as good as I pictured I was? I took the wave all the way to the beach and hopped off into the shallow water. I high fived my mom and remarked how awesome it was that so many people were cheering for me. She acknowledged that I did a really great job, but then quickly pointed out that while my surf skills were something to cheer for, even more impressive was the huge rip down the back end of my board shorts which must have happened when I attempted to sit on my board and wrap my legs around the edges. So while I didn’t manage to hang ten on my first wave, I did manage to hang cheeks that day. Needless to say, I am still pretty popular at that particular beach ☺
And that is the beginning of my surf story.
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