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Surfing in New Zealand

One, two, three, surf; riding the waves in New Zealand

Before we start our road trip, there is one thing Kiwis love and we want to learn: surf. Unfortunately there are things who look easy, but are pretty hard. Surfing is something we have tried before. Several times even, but both the waves of (France) and Zarrautz (Spain) were a bit too might for us.

“But it’s really, really simple”, reassures Mark Logie us. The kiwis lived most of his life in Nusa, one of Australia’s most popular surf spots. Recently he moved back to his birth ground, to be closer to his 80 years old mother, now she’s counting down the years she has ahead. Because Mark hasn’t found a house yet, he’s staying – just like us – in Marco Polo’s Backpackers and he is determined to teach us ‘the sport of his people, the Mauris’. “In Nusa I was working together with the amateur world champion surfing. We’ve developed a method that even guarantees success to a 150 kilo heavy girl that has never done any surfing.”

Too good to be true

Mark’s words sound too good to be true. At the same time they scare us a little. If a non-sportive person can learn how to surf, why were we never be able to do it? “Wrong teachers”, Mark reassures us again. “Most schools only want to make a profit. They teach bad classes, hoping people will come back to have more classes. I want people to learn at once, so I can teach more and more. My dad is Scottish, but my mum is from Fiji. I’ve got Polynesian blood running through my veins. Surfing is part of my culture. I like to spread that culture. As a kid we were always taught that: if a boy and girl ride the same wave, they will stay together for ever.

Listening to his words we’re  getting some faith in our mission. So the three of us step into our Toyota Corolla and drive form the East to the West Coast, to Muriwai Beach. It sounds as a long journey, but from the Coast of Orewa to the coast of Muriwai on the other side of the island is only 45 minutes. Within five minutes after we stepped into the car Mark starts his teachings. “When you surf three things are important: one knowledge of the ocean. You guys know the East coast. That’s a whole different spot as the West coast. The east is the female side of New Zealand. Sweet, warm water, nice breeze and an easy ocean.

Knowledge of the ocean

As soon as we have set off for our tide to the West Coast Mark starts to teach us: “Three things are really important when you surf. One: knowledge of the ocean. You guys are used to Orewa on the East coast off New Zealand. That’s a whole different story as the West coast. The east coast is the female part of New Zealand. Sweet: warm water, a nice, cooling breeze and a calm sea. The West coast is the male side: rough, dangerous rocks, cold water and dangerous currents. So be aware and study the waves.”

When we hit Miriwai Beach and stare at the waves and the hundreds of gannets, who fly around the rocks in front of the coast. Mark climbs over a little fence and lays down on his belly. “The second thing that is important is technic. Make sure you are always laying in the middle of your board, so you won’t flip your board over when you stand up, but also don’t make a dive boat out of your surfboard. And don’t be too far to the left or to the right. Perfectly in the mid-line of the board.”

Just stand up and surf

As soon as we hit the beach with our enormous, rented surfboard Mark goes on: “Board in a 90 degrees angle to the wave, paddle, hands next to your chest, lift your upper body up, slide your back leg in, place your front leg in between your hands and just stand up and surf.”

Before I walk into the water I look at Mark one more time. “Wasn’t there a point three as well?” he smiles: “yes, have fun.”

The first five times he wants me to stay down on my board and feel how the waves are pushing me towards the beach. After those five tries he gives me the sign that I’m ready for the real work. I paddle out, wait for a nice, not too high wave, put my board in front of it, paddle as hard as I can when the wave is close, push my upper body up, slight my right leg in position, place my left leg and ….. I stand. I stand, seconds in a row.

What a wave

With a big smile on my face I let myself fall of the surfboard, just before it hits the beach. What a class, what a wave. Will I succeed again?

I try. Time after time. The result isn’t always as good as the first time, but I do ride some waves. Tired, but happy I return to shore. Not it’s Mickeys time to rock the waves. Mark repeats his instructions and to Mickeys own amazement she stands on the board and surfs as well. Easily.  Maybe Mark is right. With good instructions everybody can learn it. Even the two of us.

I wrote this story in 2008; now I'm finally taking the time to translate it into English.

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