Posts Tagged ‘Adventure’

Mt. Taranaki

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

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 If you missed Part I: Gearing Up or Part II: Quality Ocean Time click the links.

We motored around the corner from Smugglers Cove and passed about three random surf spots that Cit said were of little significance compared to where we were going.  I had to take his word for it being that I had never been there before.  All I knew was I wanted to hop off the boat and take advantage of some of the fun rights I saw.

Pulling up to the actual spot was as much invigorating as it was disheartening.  Here we were out in the middle of the ocean in one of the most remote places around and sure enough there were ten boats in the cove.  One was this half a million dollar yacht from Huntington Beach with about ten guys on it.  They had all the fixings, hot tub, big cabin, bbq, probably a nice galley with refrigeration, a shower, and lord knows what else.

Meanwhile we pulled up on our barely sea worthy sailing vessel with nothing more then a hot plate, a cooler and a couple of boards.  We were pirates as Cit put it and he was not pleased with the crowd situation.  The lineup was easily twenty five guys deep, everybody hassling and frustrated.  You could hear the jeers from the boat.

I decided to cook us breakfast, scrambled eggs and bacon.  Let me take a moment to describe exactly what cooking on a boat is all about, especially in the ghetto ass little galley I had to work with.  I had never cooked on a boat before and all I can say is that it is as challenging as it gets.  Imagine getting knocked around by waves and pushed in every direction while attempting to chop, sauté, boil and sear food.  How I managed to keep from getting burned or lacerated is beyond my comprehension.  Its funny because all the pots are designed to clip into the range so that you don’t have to worry about a pot of hot water or even worse hot oil bouncing off into your face.

I think I made some pretty decent meals considering what I had to work with.  It’s a ton of work.  I kept getting knocked over by waves and was on a constant battle with seasickness.  Cit was overall pumped on the quality of the meals and it’s always good to keep the captain happy.

After breakfast he jumped in and paddle over to the line up.  I hung back to finish my food and clean up the galley.  I sat there and watched as this perfect 6-8ft + A-frame came out of deep water hit the reef and just went perfectly in both directions.  The left was good for about three to four turns before ending up on dry reef.  The right was a perfect wall bowling around the reef with anywhere from four to eight hit sections depending on the wave.  It was not really a barrel but a perfect wall with just enough lip to get gnarly on.  Cit said you could not ask for a more rip able wave and I would have to agree with him.

According to Cit there was a landslide 200 years ago or something like that and it created this perfect reef pass.  He is not a geologist by any means, but he seemed to know his shit about the island.  If you looked at the way the place was laid out there was nothing but sheer cliff all around and then this small rocky beach with a perfect wave in front of it followed by more cliff.  There was enough evidence for me to accept his reasoning.  Truthfully I did not give a shit how it got there. All I cared was that it was there and I was about to rip the fuck out of it.

It sort of reminded me of Hammonds but with out the shifty lineup and a bonus killable left.  The crowd slowly began to thin out as the early morning crew slowly made their way in to eat their own breakfast, “the bacon effect” as Cit called it.  I jumped off the boat and the water was a surprisingly warm, 65 degrees.  Hurting from the previous night I took my time paddling over to the peak.  Cit was sitting way outside and not looking to mix it up with the pack yet I sat with him.  Then a set came in.  Cit went on the first one leaving me out the back and in perfect position for the second.  I turned and burned to the chagrin of everyone out there.  One dude even yelled “way to just paddle out and snag a set wave”.  Shoots I don’t know how he was going to get it anyway if I was in the perfect spot for it.

Right off the drop I did a huge vertical tail free reo, which I recovered backwards in the white water.  I thought I lost the wave but then bottomed turned right into the next section perfectly and banged out another three good turns.  After that wave I hung on the inside and scraped a ton of fun lefts and rights.   I stuck a nice front side air reverse landing nose pick only to spin around staring dry reef in the face.  I bailed and swam up to face to avoid taking the rocks head on.  Still I got worked pretty good on them and learned that urchins live on those rocks the hard way.  I calmed down a bit after that thinking it would not be a good idea to get injured that far away from proper medical attention.

I paddled back to the outside to focus on the sets, but I think the crowd was still rather salty that I snagged that set wave off them.  I got a really nice right super deep off the pack.  This Long boarder tried to paddle on me, but in the process created a perfect section.  I hit it, launched a nice clean three foot backside gap air, landed perfectly on the other side, coupled by a few good hits and finishing with an air reverse in the shore pound.  Upon paddling back out no one had shit to say to me any more about anything.  Instant respect.

We ended up surfing till round two when the wind came up.  A decision needed to be made on whether to hang around for the wind to go offshore and have an evening session or cruise to the Santa Barbara side of the island and go for a hike.  Cit had his heart set on the latter, I really did not care either way, almost wanted to just sail home so I could get back to the Barb.  The ruling was to go for the hike.

We docked in a place called little scorpions that was supposedly a safe anchorage.  Thanks to a sudden change in the wind it became hell on water.  I cooked us up Spaghetti and meatballs as a celebratory meal.  Exploring the island was a total trip.  Turns out there used to be a ranch settlement there in the early 1900’s and as a result the parks department has a chill little museum and old farming equipment set up.  The place really was amazing and I am very fortunate for the opportunity to get there.  On the way back to the beach to claim our skiff and paddle back to the boat we passed this random group of people hanging out.

“Hey, you guys want a cocktail?” a voice chimed.  Well you folks know that one does not have to ask me twice and I think Captain Intoxication who was already five beers deep and a glass of wine felt the same.  These people opened up a cooler that contained a properly stocked bar.  Then they busted out a bit of chronic as well.  At that point I had a feeling we were not getting off the beach.

Normally I’m not one to indulge super hard (ok that’s a lie), but as I looked at our boat getting rolled around in the distance I knew I needed all I could get in me if I was going to make it through the night.  The stars were stunning.  I had not seen a sky like that since my New Zealand days.  Our new friends were hired kayak guides who spend five days on the island, two days off.  In a way I almost envied them.

Cit and I decided to cruise as our wits gradually came back to us.  As we were walking away he tripped over a rock and fell flat on his back.  Some how he managed to miss hitting any rocks.  Good old fashioned drunken luck strikes again.  We sloppily attempted to push our dingy back out into the water through the by then dicey shore break.  In the process we ended up springing a leak in the bottom of the hull.  To get back to the sailboat it was a quarter of a mile row through what now had become some very rough seas.

This was all going down in a beat up five foot dingy.  A few minutes passed and I felt a tingling in my feet.  The first thought that came into my head was “man that was some really good ganja”.  Then Cit yelled, “We are talking on water”.  I looked down and sure enough I was in water up to my ankles and growing.  Luckily there was an empty milk carton in the dingy.  I ripped the top off and started bailing to literally save our lives.  Its shark water out there, the night was cold and we were drunk.  I am pretty sure if the dingy sunk I would have drowned.

The Gods were smiling on us that night cause we got to the boat with the skiff barely afloat.  Immediately we pulled it up on deck and gave it a quick epoxy, during which I passed out.  I awoke to Cit freaking out at around 3am as the boat was getting tossed back and forth by five foot seas.  It was too dark to set sail but way to uncomfortable to sleep.  The two of us sat there in the dark sick from the rocking and drinking, just waiting for the sun.

At 5am we set sail.  The wind was howling and it was a different kind of scene then the previous day’s.  It looked so angry, like a scene out of Hemmingway’s Old Man In the Sea.  The sky was dark gray, the sea a bellowing deep greenish blue.  There were white caps everywhere.  Once under way Cit handed me the till.  He was exhausted and very hung over.  Turns out he did not get any sleep that night.  I was feeling bad too, but Cit definitely needed a nap.

I grabbed the till and held a steady course.  I had to work it so that the boat rode up and down the swells evenly to keep as minimal water from splashing over the bow as possible.  At first it was daunting.  Then I got the hang of it and I was cruising.  It became quite salubrious out there in the wee hours of the morning.  There was not a boat in sight except a giant barge being pulled by a tugboat and visibility was limited.  I could see the island getting smaller behind me and the ominous gray horizon in front of me; my trust was in the accuracy of my compass to get us home.

We moved at a humdrum pace towards Santa Barbara, yet I was ok with it.  I was in need of some time to be alone with my thoughts.  That has sort of become a common theme for me these days.  I am not going to get into that now.  There will be plenty of time to come for Lisanti revelations. All I can say is I cherished every minute of “Quality ocean time” as Cit put it the very first moment we left the harbor.

After four hours I could make out the big while buildings of City College and knew our time away from the stain of man had come to a close.  Cit woke up, came on deck and we lowered the sails.  The sea went completely calm just a few miles from shore and we motored it back to port.  Just like that it was back to reality.  Its good to escape from life sometimes, I do it a bit more often then I probably should.  Its not like my life is real by any means.  Most people are like why do you need to escape?  Lisanti Land may be a fantasy for you my friends out there in internetville but for it is reality and every so often I need a break.

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