Unlike Bono, who still hasn't found what he is looking for, I have. I found exactly what I have been looking for, and it only took 11 months and thousands of miles of searching the Pacific Ocean... although ironically enough my new favorite place in all of New Zealand is on the notoriously nasty Tasman Sea. But what, you might ask, did I find? I found a perfect left sand point break -- the wave of my dreams -- for the most part, but there is always a catch.
Let's back up a bit. On Friday the 'rents and I drove up to Opua in our newly purchased, super sweet mini van. In Opua (where we and most cruisers make landfall) there is a cruisers rally so we decided to join in and visit friends recently arrived. Of course I brought both my surfboards and an overnight bag just in case an adventure ensued. When we arrived at the marina in Opua we were reunited with our long lost best friends Mark and Yuka on Merkava, who we left with a tearful goodbye in Tonga. It was great to see them. After hearing a talk by Bob McDavitt, the New Zealand weather guru, we began our festivities which included drinking copious amounts of beer and rum and sharing salty sea stories, of which we all have many.
The organizers of the cruisers rally put on a BBQ dinner for all us yachties and as we were enjoying our (free!) hamburgers and beers who showed up but my homies on S/V Architeuthis. They had just arrived and were absolutely ecstatic about making landfall, which made our celebrations all the more sweeter. It was fun to be able to greet them upon their arrival.
After all the festivities I crashed on the boat Sarah Jean because in the morning my friend Bhodie planned to pick me up at the Opua ferry to take me on a surf adventure. A note on Bhodie: he is your somewhat stereotypical SoCal surf bum, but has lived in New Zealand since he was a teenager. He knows all the cool surf spots and is even more stoked on surfing than I am, so he is a good buddy to have.
Bhodie picked me up at 6:00 AM and we headed out to the west coast of the island - to Shipwreck Bay - known fondly to some as "Shippies". A note on Shippies: this is the New Zealand wave that the guys surf in "The Endless Summer" surf flick. Bhodie mentioned something about camping out on the beach if the surf was good, so I brought my sleeping bag just in case, but I was not expecting much in the way of good waves.
When we came around the corner to catch our first glimpse of Shippies we were greeted by perfect knee high peeling lefts. That looked great to me, but Bhodie said, no no, just you wait. We drove down to, and right on to the beach. A note on Bhodie's car: it is an extremely beat up, old 1980's Toyota Corolla station wagon. Normally people only drive on the beach and the rocks with 4WD cars, but Bhodie charged it. We drove over rocks, through the water, and only got caught in the sand three times. Fortunately Kiwis are very kind and towed us out every time.
Bhodie and his surfmobile, waiting for some kind Kiwis to tow us out of the sand for the third time.
The farther our the beach we drove, the bigger and better the waves got. It was not a huge day, the biggest sets were a bit over head, but it was mostly in the chest to head high range. Shippies is also known as a "woman's wave" which means it is a softer and more gentle wave, which I am totally fine with. So were all the people out. Apparently it was also "super crowded" because there were maybe 15 people out at the most crowded peak, but you could easily find your own peak if you wanted.
Bhodie parked the car right on the rocks in front of the waves, we suited up and walked up the beach. We entered the water and surfed our way down the point, surfing different peaks all the way back to the car. It was then that we decided that we would camp there for the night, as the waves were good and it was a beautiful day. We set up a little camp on a nice grassy spot overlooking the waves in front of my favorite little peak. Yes, it is this that I have been dreaming of and searching for for a very long time. But there is a catch: its bloody cold.
Even on the beautiful sunny day it was, the howling offshore wind was freezing and so was the water. Ok, maybe it was not "freezing", but it was cold. In the evening instead of catching one last session before night I decided to climb up the 500 foot sand dune to warm up. A note on the sand dune: it is what makes the wave at Shippies so good. It is a rocky beach but the sand gets blown off the dune to make perfect bars that the waves peel across. After the sun went down I put on ever single piece of clothing I had (which was not much) and huddled by the fire. I managed to survive the night, but only because Bhodie was a gentleman and let me sleep in his car while he slept in his board bag on the grass.
I am glad I survived the night because we awoke to little knee to waist high waves peeling across the peak known as Mukies (my favorite). We surfed it twice all to ourselves before we packed up and headed back to Opua. Yes, this is the side of New Zealand I was hoping to experience. Perfect, friendly waves? Tick (as the Kiwis say). Meeting new, friendly and hospitable people? Tick. Being reunited with old and awesome friends? Tick. Weather warming up as we come into summer? Tick.