Posts Tagged ‘surfing’


Alex: Raglan Surfing

October 26, 2011

Two weekends ago now, a group of friends and I stayed and surfed in Raglan. The experience was the type of surreal that I am quickly running out of creative ways to describe.

I came to New Zealand with three things in mind that I needed to do before leaving. The first, my real reason for being here at all is to conduct research. The nature of that research has mutated over time, but I have certainly done quite a bit of that. The second was to get a ta moko. I’ve made an appointment. The third was to go surfing, at least once.

When we (finally) arrived in Raglan, we stayed at this adorable, very hippy, hostel. The rooms were all old converted train cars, and the woman running the desk was this French woman who carried a duckling around most of the time. Like I said: adorable place.

We drove out to a point to see some fantastic views, and split into two groups. My group went down to the beach. I swam in the ocean which was surprisingly warm for mid-spring. I think I can finally say that I have gotten the hang of swimming in an ocean. Keeping mouth closed: check.

That night we went to a bar to watch the Irish get defeated by Wales, and watch Les Bleus beat the English. I was exhausted from swimming and being exposed to sunlight, but we stayed. In between games a few of us wandered around Raglan (not a difficult task, there’s not much to wander). We found a skate park covered in graffiti that made me pine for my skateboard (bad pun, sorry).

The next day the real fun began. We went surfing.

I live, and have always lived, in a place that is thousands of miles from the nearest ocean. One needs to drive for days without sleep to reach salt water from my home. Surfing for me has always had sort of a magical mystique. I suspect this is because it was so foreign, but also owes something to my love of other board-sports.

Surfing always seemed so serene and almost transcendent. Transcendent is not a word I use lightly. In my mind surfing was the perfect way to connect with the world. Floating out in the ocean, there are no distractions. There are no deadlines, no assignments, no worries but the tide and the waves.

Before my trip to New Zealand, I could have counted on one hand the number of times I had seen an ocean, much less been in one. I am always excited to spend time in the ocean. That said, I thought I was going to die there. Within the first ten minutes of surfing, I got in over my head and was swept out past the wave break. I had no idea until I noticed that even the experienced surfers were further in than I was. I spent the next hour frantically paddling my way back in. Moments before I became exhausted and was about to start screaming for help, I caught a lucky group of waves that brought me in.

I could not wait to get back to surfing.

So I did, with limited success. I had made the mistake of choosing a board that was short and therefore difficult to stand up on. I had also wasted a significant portion of high tide out at sea.

I didn’t manage to stand up, but it was still one of the most fun experiences I’ve had. I cannot wait to go again.

Kelsey: Surfing with snow on the ground

August 23, 2011
Today I learned how to surf in 45 degree (F) water and it was AHHHHHMAZZZINNGGG.

We set up our surfing trip with our new friend Dan (who was our guide from the ski trip I talked about last weekend) and we rented some wetsuits from the Unipol recreation centre on campus and Dan hooked us up with some free surfboards. I woke up at 7:45 (after pressing the snooze a few times of course) and ate some breakfast before Victoria got here and we struggled to pick what clothes to wear underneath our wetsuits and struggled to get them on. Once we were ready, Dan came to pick us up and we headed through the windy roads in the hills to get to Long Beach because that’s where Dan said the waves would be the smallest.

After getting all of our stuff out to the beach we got the rest of our wetsuits on and did the classic quick lesson on the beach before we actually got in the water. Dan taught us how to paddle and how to put our feet when we were getting up. Soon after our lesson, it was time to head into the water, which to say the least, I was slightly dreading. It ended up not being that bad with our wetsuits but the only thing that was painful to bear was the hands and the head when they got wet, but it wasn’t terrible. For awhile Dan was just helping us find which waves to take and how to catch them so we were getting tossed around but it was good. After a substantial amount of time not being able to feel our hands, we decided to take a break and lay in the sun (in our thick wetsuits of course haha) after a few minutes of shivering we decided to run/walk along the beach and collect shells (well, I was the only one collecting haha) and check out the caves at the end of the beach that Dan said during the summer they put disco balls and stuff in and bus people from the Octagon and they just party in there haha. We spent a little more time walking along the beach and chasing the birds (well actually, again that was only me.. hah) and warmed up our hands as much as we could and we headed back out there.
By this time we pretty much had the skill of “catching a wave” down and so now it was all about getting enough speed to stand up and ride the wave. After a few times practising and getting tossed off of board, I finally stood up! Granted, I didn’t actually RIDE the wave and really only stood up enough to say that I did and then fell, but I did it a few times so it wasn’t a fluke! Me and Victoria had set goals before we set out and mine was to stand up so mission accomplished and Tor was kicking some major butt too so we agreed that our surfing adventures were very successful!

Little did I know the adventure wasn’t done! Turns out my wetsuit zipper was like broken or something and I was stuck in my wetsuit for a good 10 minutes while Tor and Dan tried everything in their powers to get me out, including yanking, breaking a shell and manoeuvring Dan’s car keys to break me loose of the wetsuit haha. It was soo nice to get out of that wetsuit and into some dry clothes which actually made us realize how nice it was outside.  Which made it confusing to think about the people who were at the beach with us (not many) in winter coats! But they were also watching us swim in the ocean so that probably made it a bit colder for them haha.

Overall it was one of the best experiences I’ve had so far here! I had SO much fun so we vowed to go out again soon. Ahhh what a great morning! Now we’re off to the Dunedin Rail Jam downtown which should be cool to see!

Alex: Piha

August 20, 2011

I have been wanting to go to Piha since I decided to come to New Zealand. I’m told it is one of the most beautiful and most popular surfing beaches around. It did not disappoint.

One of the things on my must-do list while I am here in New Zealand is learning to surf. I got it in my head that Piha would be the place to do that, so when I heard the tramping club would be going on a day trip there, I was pretty excited. Certainly I wouldn’t be able to surf, but I could at least have a good look around.

So I woke up at seven-thirty in the morning, having forgotten to set an alarm but having a propensity for waking up early despite myself. I packed a bag and used my meager rations to cobble together a slim facsimile of a portable lunch. I got dressed in my tramping shorts (which I regretted later, but I didn’t bring any non-denim pants save pajamas) and headed out into the unseasonably cold and windy Auckland winter. After a short walk down to the library, I met the group assembled at the time, two of whom were Canadians whose almost-familiar accents comforted me somewhat.

The rest of the group assembled, and I learned throughout the day that they were all quite interesting people. There was a Norwegian girl with whom I bonded over our lack of melanin and resistance to cold temperatures. I learned from another member of the group, a native of Singapore, that Singapore has mandatory military conscription. There were many more people with even more stories, but I suspect they were much more interesting to me than they would be to you, dear reader. The important thing to note is that I did not know a single person on this trip when I left my apartment that morning, and now I have no qualms about calling a great many of them my friends.

There were twenty or so of us, and swe split up into cars for the forty-five minute drive to Piha. Our driver, a German, clearly had much less fear of winding mountain roads than I do. But, we arrived safely and totally intact, although a bit well-shaken.

Fighting off the bitter cold and driving wind, we trekked across Piha beach. Piha is famous for two things: great surfing and black sand. I have been on two other ocean beaches in my life, both of them standard-issue brown. I was aware, intellectually, that sand could be black, but I had never witnessed it. It was glorious. It was not the color of black I was expecting. It’s not the color of obsidian and midnight, but closer to the color of moon-lit asphalt. It was the color of well-loved band tees and better-loved engines. And it shimmered. There were tiny bits of shining particulate in the sand that made the whole mass look like a tiny, shifting night sky. It is a good thing that this sand was so beautiful, because the driving wind drove it soundly into every orifice and wrinkle of clothing I possess. I am still cleaning it out of my ears.

We arrived at another beach, the name of which I cannot recall and refuse to break my writing stride to look up. At this beach, a group of three of us climbed to the top of a small hill that looked out over the ocean. It expanded in a huge green-blue arc in front of me. It was as if the whole world was rolled out in from of me like an algae-colored red carpet. It sounds silly, but it made me feel okay. It was as if I understood at that moment that there is a whole big world out there, and it is just waiting for me to grab it by the horns. Standing there on this hill, trying my damnedest not be blown off by gale-force winds, I had a revelatory moment. The world is awesome, and it is mine for the taking. Moments like this make all the work and school and money trouble and all of it worth while.

At this beach, in the driving wind, a small group decided to go swimming. Although I had brought my togs, the idea of changing on an open beach was not appealing, and walking back wet was even less appealing. So I passed, resolving to instead swim when we arrived back at Piha.

After the bitter-cold swimming and a lunch break, we headed up another trail and into the bush. When I say we ‘headed through the bush’ I mean that there was, in fact, a trail but it was slim and ill-maintained at best.

When I first arrived in New Zealand, and first trekked through the bush, I was surprised at how few biting/stinging/cutting/burning/poisonous plants there are. In Wisconsin, tramping through the woods, even in jeans usually means getting stung or cut or whipped by something, but at the time I believed that not to be the case in New Zealand. I was wrong. Although one certainly does not need to worry about poisonous plants like poison ivy or stinging ones like nettles, Aotearoa certainly has its share of barbed flora, which I discovered first hand. Might I remind the reader that I was wearing shorts on this trip. My shins were burning by the time we left the bush, and one nice bright red line had drawn itself sharply across one leg.

Back on our original beach, the wind was stronger than ever. The wind on Piha has some interesting behavior, or at least it did on this particular day. The wind comes in off the ocean and bounces off the rocks and the shore and stirs up huge whipping cyclones. If previously there had been any hope of not taking a beach home in one’s clothes, it was dashed by that wind. We prepared ourselves mentally and ran into the icy-cold winter Tasman Sea. The water was actually quite pleasant (said the man who used to jump in holes in the ice for fun), but the wind made coming out of that water practically unbearable. I think I’ve finally gotten used to dealing with salt water. You would think it would be an easy thing, but I have so much experience with fresh water that it is hard for a mouth-breather like me to remember simple things like keeping my damn mouth shut.

Swimming complete, we drove back where about half of us ate ice cream and celebrated our day. We discussed in detail the myriad and exciting ways in which we intended to get clean and warm when we finally got home. Personally, I spent nearly half an hour standing in the shower, with the water as hot as I could stand.

So ended my day at Piha: legs burning, and furiously adding many new friends on Facebook.


Arianna: I Know You All Are Sick of My Words

August 13, 2009

So here is some video footage to change things up a bit.  Australia through my lens…


Arianna: It’s Been How Long!?

August 11, 2009


Okay, I admit it. I’ve been slackin’. I promise it was just an odd, temporary distracted stage, and I am 100% back on track now. It honestly feels really good to be writing in here again. I’ve missed it.

So, what has happened in the past week? Well, let’s see…

  1. I wandered aimlessly around Surfer’s Paradise late last week trying to find the beach due to a premature exit off of the bus. It was my first solo adventure to the big blue sea and I will admit I had no idea where I was going and just followed where the crowd seemed to get off. Whoops. In the end, it all worked out as I knew it would. I popped my head in and out of a few ritzy stores with designer clothes, looked at them pretending I had enough money to afford them, and eventually after a few blocks stumbled upon the beach. And it was nothing short of amazing.
  2. That very same day, I got on the wrong bus and ended up being transported an hour in the wrong direction of my apartment. Whoops #II. Although this time it was NOT out of stupidity, it was simply because I read the number wrong on the bus. I needed to catch the 709, and misread the 703 as 709. As everyone started shuffling off of the bus at what appeared to be the final stop and I was still sitting in my seat, I had a feeling I had made another uh-oh. Thankfully the bus driver, Oliver, was extremely kind and even though he was out of service, he took me to Australia Fair and helped me find my way back. At first I was spazzing out, scared he was going to attack me or rape me or chop me up into little pieces (thanks Mom), but all went well. I felt like the biggest idiot in the world but he still made me laugh and we actually ended up having a good chat. There is something to be said about chance encounters. I am keeping my fingers crossed I will get to see him again before I leave to thank him properly, sans the stutters and mumbles from babbling like an idiot due to embarrassment.
  3. I was almost attacked by a Cockatoo during my run. I’d rather not discuss this in detail; I am still a bit shaken up from the whole ordeal.
  4. I slept with ear plugs in. Yes, you know, the ear plugs you use on a lawn mower or while using a chain saw? Yes, I used them. To sleep.
  5. I went to a Yoga class. I haven’t decided if I like it or not. I am pretty sure I looked like an idiot attempting to gracefully contort my body into obscure and almost inhuman ways but overall I was semi-successful. Admittedly, I was a bit distracted by my lack of grace as I tried to mimic the instructor—if I had to compare it to anything I would probably ask you to picture Michael from the Office attempting yoga and let your mind guide you from there—but I have to say, in the end I definitely think it was worth it.

I know I am forgetting something, but for now, I think that brings you up to pace with what has been going on in my world. Classes are good—lots and lots of reading (and by lots I mean 20–30pgs of reading each week for each class)—but for the most part I have found it quite stimulating. Everyday poses a new challenge for me – as fun as this experience is, it is not always easy. I have learned quickly that problems will follow you no matter where you go. There is no such thing as running away… I am the same person here as I was back home in the states and therefore struggle with some of the same things I struggled with back home. I know a part of me was/is surprised about that, but I think in realizing that fact is helping me to become a stronger person and more honest person about who I am and who I want to be. And I think that’s a good thing.

I send my love to you all and really hope everything is going well…. Someone tell me something interesting/funny/exciting that has happened to them the past week, please? I’m sick of doing all the talking!!!!

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