When we last heard from our surf adventuring friend Kooky Kyle he was getting ready to cruise out of Raglan in search of greener pastures and new emprise in Taranaki (read about his last entry “A Change of Venue“) . Taranaki for me was a very magical place. It is basically one big semi circle type peninsula that was formed by the volcano Mt Egmont or Taranaki as it is more popularly known. As a result the entire coast line is made up of volcanic rock reef breaks with a few point and beach breaks thrown in. The beauty of Taranaki is that the coast runs 180 degrees in direction allowing for different wind and swell directions to work with different spots leaving lots of options.
As far as surf spots go there are upward of I would say at least 1000. Access to some is quite easy where others involve long hikes through cow pastures, over electric fences and ample beach and rock hikes to get to. Its usually the ones off the beaten path that allow for some of the best experiences. I know when I was there, I went for two weeks on one occasion and then three on the other. I surfed in total close to 50 different waves. I mean there are lefts, rights, barrels, mellow waves, slabs, monsters, you name it Naki has it. The only downside is all the driving that one has to do to explore the place properly. Gas was not cheap when I was there seven years ago. I can only imagine what it cost a liter now.
It really reminded me of a rocky version of the Outer Banks, North Carolina as far as different coastal facings, open space and crowds. The beautiful imagery of the place is amazing. Before I let Kooky run away with this thing let me paint a mental picture for you while you read about his endeavors. Imagine waking up, whipping the dew off your window and looking out over green grass and hedges. You clean off your wind shield and head to whatever spot the current conditions seem best for. Its all a crap shoot any where there since the weather is so erratic and changes hourly at times. To your east is Mt Taranaki in all its ominous splendor.
As you drive you think about how it is still an active volcano and for all you know could erupt and level the place at a moments notice. There is snow at the top of it. Winter is on its way easily discernible by the cold dewy mornings. Soon the entire mountain will be covered with snow. You turn west at a giant boulder with the words Stent Road painted on it. At the end of the that road is a rather fun right point break, a handful of A-frame reef breaks and a few left reef breaks as well, although Stent is the gem. Driving the 2km it takes to get there you pass nothing but cow and sheep pastures with to odd modest little farm house.
Nearing the end of the road you see the azure blue of the ocean, the color amplified by the black rock beach and bottom. In the grass parking lot there are a handful of cars. The waves are chest to head and glassy. You made a good choice. Once in the water there are wispy clouds in constant motion overhead to remind you just how small you are out in the middle of the ocean. Behind you is the giant volcano in hibernation and in front of you is a perfect right hand peeler about to dredge and barrel. Things could not be better. ..Chris
Taranaki is basically a big wheel with tons of little tiny fingers of boulder reef jutting out into the ocean. No wind protection, only a change in the orientation of the coastline. Man, there are a ton of spots there not in the surf guide. The Thursday after my last post I hopped in a rental car and booked it down there. A guy I met at solscape had a house in Opunake and said I was welcome to crash at his place if I was in the area and felt so inclined.
I took him up on the offer. The only problem was he didn’t have a cell phone and only left me his email address. It was cool though, I had met a French Opair who said I would be welcome to stay with her in New Plymouth. The plan was to stay with her and when I got in touch with the other guy to go to his place. As it turns out she was busy and couldn’t get me a place to stay. She insisted before I left that we must meet up for tea or beers (We met up for tea). Here is the million dollar question, leave your opinion in the comments. Do you think Kooky banged her out? 5 to 1 odds that he did not. I spent the night at a local back packers, woke up and went straight to Stent Rd.
It was super fun, a little overhead, slight offshores and never more than 7 guys in the water my whole session. Half way through, who paddles out but the guy from Raglan. He told me how to get to his place and to pick up any groceries I needed in New Plymouth. When I showed up at his place it turned out he had no kitchen,no electricity, and no hot water. It was basically camping in a makeshift back building of the house he owned and rented out. Not quite the Lisanti Palace. It was all good, a free place to stay makes those dollars go a lot farther.
Down in the southern portion of Taranaki I had a hate session at Sky Williams. Sky Williams is a left hand reef point that looks sick from the parking lot but is one of the most frustrating waves to ride I have ever come across. It is like Lead Better but a left. I scored a fun time at Arawhata (Arawhata is a right reef pass with some other scattered reef passes up and down the beach. Its very consistent and playful although never epic), got yelled at for walking down the trail after my session at Mughume (Mughume is a right reef on the other side of Sky Williams that throws pretty hard although is very shifty) and surfed a few secret spots. The first secret spot was only a little outside of Opunake and was a lined up right reef that had a solid wall and the odd barrel. I left with a wind storm looming on the horizon.
On my way down into Taranaki I saw a sign for a wood turning studio, needing a wedding present for my cousin I followed the signs and went in. It turned out that the guy was coming home from work, but his wife invited me in for a ginger cordial while I waited. They were very friendly and he offered to make me a piece by tuesday and told me if I need a place to stay I was more than welcome to stay with him and his wife. After the swell faded out of Opunake I cruised on up the coast and took him up on the offer.
I killed the day by surfing and exploring the coast up in Urenui just north of New Plymouth. It was small, but this wave would hit the seacliffs at the end off the beach and bounce back out to sea. As it did, it would feel the bottom of the beach and wrap back in and break like a little right point. If another wave was coming in at the same time, it would wedge and pitch out in the form of a super square stomach to chest high barrel. It was really cool. After my surf I took a wander up the coast and found three spots that with another meter or two of swell have incredible potential, none of these are in the surf guide. Ask me in person and I will draw you the treasure map.
That night I had dinner with the wood worker and his wife. We talked about where I was going in life and how he had done his travels on the backpackers trail through South East Asia. We talked about his time in the military and how he would always figure out the best way out of work. He was also a coxswain when he was younger(the person who steers a crew boat and yells at everyone). As it turns out he was one of the craftsmen for the Last Samurai that was filmed in Taranaki and he even got to be in the film for a few seconds. He is pretty sure it is because he is short and wouldn’t make Tom look his real size.
After a lovely dinner and great conversation I spent the night in their guest house. In the morning I drove all the way up to Piha, a surf spot on the West coast just outside of Auckland. A tropical system was lashing the east coast with 30 kt on shore winds and those were offshore in Piha, which was throwing out some solid left barrels. Piha is a good wave. It sort of breaks in the middle of this semi protected cove thing with a huge rock in the middle of the beach. It is usually rather crowded due to its proximity to the city. I managed to not kook it on two but most either went fat or I got swallowed up when I pulled in. Anyways I only have a few days left and I will update everyone on what happens when I get back to the states in a week…Kooky Kyle