Sunday, February 20, 2011

Surf, Sea, Sun and Fun.

Surf Sea Sun and Fun

Before this weekend I harboured a secret and irrational fear that the sea is a brooding menace, lying in waitto swallow me down into Davy Jones’s Locker for all eternity.

I also have the grace and poise of a chicken on roller skates, so the thought of embarking on a two day surf tour leaves me feeling slightly uneasy. The four of us, all beginners, are picked up from central Whangarei on Friday afternoon by Simon Clowes, our guide and the owner of Surfaris, a Northland surf school that offers everything from day lessons to week-long tours.

As we wind up through Northland I forget my reservations and start asking questions. Surfaris operates on the adage ‘The best surfer in the world is the one having the most fun.’ Accredited by Surfing NZ and based on the Tutukaka coast, they also pick up from Whangarei and the Bay of Islands. Such is the rich diversity of surf breaks in Northland they can sniff out suitable surf for all abilities on any given day, using years of local knowledge to avoid the overcrowded breaks.
We arrive at YHA Ahipara, set up camp and chill out on the beach with fish and chips, say goodbye to the day with a gorgeous Northland sunset. The next day it’s a fresh and sunny morning; we grab breakfast and head off to Ninety Mile Beach for our first lesson. On land we learn surf theory before being released into the waves, where surfing definitely does not seem as easy to put into practice as it is to explain. I spend a few brief seconds on my feet, more on my hands and knees, though the vast majority of the time I am face planting into the surf like a puppy chasing a stick. Then it’s time for a drive up the beach to Te Paki Stream for and boarding and lunch, followed by lesson number two at Rarawa, a beautiful and remote white sand beach on the East Coast of the Aupouri Peninsula.

We recap the morning lesson and are helped out with a few hints and tips here and there. Before you know it I am on my feet at last and flying down the wave, bling and weaving all over, but I’ve done it! It’s an amazing feeling, and all four of us are buoyed up and buzzing with the feeling of accomplishment as we head back down to YHA Ahipara, stopping off at the Kauri Kingdom on the way.

Over dinner and games I learn more about the history of Surfaris - why start a surf company? Originally from Cornwall in the UK, Simon surfed three continents before deciding on NZ as his favourite country. With three coasts, in Northland you are never more than 40km from a beach; it’s heaven for water babies. After a successful career in sales and marketing he finally gave in to the call of the surf and decided to put his 20 years of experience to use. All guides hold an International Surf Coach Certificate, and the emphasis of the company is on education, participation and fun. Surfaris commitment to sustainability is heartening, and the guides take steps at all times to ensure we take nothing but experience from the environment.

Day two and we’re back on 90 Mile Beach, all managing to surf and having a great time. There is now a sense of camaraderie within the group, lots of encouragement and laughter. So much so that I realise I’ve forgotten all about Davy Jones and his locker. After lunch we stop at picturesque Mangonui for a well deserved ice-cream before heading out to the wide and stunning expanse of Taupo Bay for lesson two.

Going south we stop off at Ake Ake Vineyard near Keri Keri for a taste of their sumptuous Chambourcin
Syrah before returning to Whangarei It’s hard to believe that the weekend is over already. Not only have I been reminded once more of the beauty and diversity of Northland, but I’ve had an amazing time learning to surf with some brilliant people. A truly unforgettable experience that comes highly recommended.