I finally got the board taped up and down to Manu Bay in the afternoon. It was low tide and the walk out over the rocks to get to the water was twice as far as the evening before when I was watching at high tide. I sat for a while watching and it was definitely not as good as the day before. Only a few people in the water. The big, powerful overhead waves start far to the left, as you face out to the water. Also known as west. But these waves are so long that I have seen three people each get decent rides in succession on the same wave. They get smaller as they come in, sometimes crashing and reforming and crashing again.
I watched the smaller inside waves to the right for some time and they looked like something I could manage. Sometimes a wave when it is far outside isn’t quite catchable but then it would reform into a smaller wave, peeling nicely. Since most people paddle all the way out to wait for the bigger rides, I might be alone there – unless someone catches a ride all the way in. That lucky surfer is getting a super long ride in that case. Looked like a good spot to get some practice. In any case, as always, I would definitely get some paddling practice. Unavoidable.
So I strapped on my leash, pulled it up along the board to keep it from dragging and catching on the rocks and gingerly begin to tiptoe my way out. I got to the water, a small wave came in, I jumped over it and began paddling. After lots of turtling under whitewater and paddling, paddling, paddling, my energy started to flag. But soon enough I seemed to be in a great spot. I didn’t try for the first couple waves that came to me, even though I was paddling right over the crest in the perfect spot to catch them. I wanted to get my bearings and watch a bit first. There were some very strong currents working out there and I kept checking my position in relation to the parking lot.
Finally, I felt ready to swing my board around and paddle for a wave. Tried one or two and then caught one! Stood up and surfed, but fell over after maybe only 20 yards. I crawled back up onto the board and, miraculously, any hint of exhaustion had evaporated. The excitement and adrenaline of catching a wave, and, even more important, the thought that I might get another, cures fatigue.
I caught another one in the whitewater, hoping I might get out ahead into the clean part of the wave. No such luck. I looked to my left and a guy I had recognized as a beginner the day before was up near me. No harm, I can share whitewater surfing. Jumping off that one, I noticed I had gotten really far east of the parking lot. Back to paddling. I pointed my nose out to the ocean hoping to find the rip that makes paddling out easier. But something was wrong, I was paddling with all my power and going _backwards_! I kept trying but it quickly became obvious I was losing. I was being swept to the far beach. I gave up, turned around and paddled into the beach. To get back to the parking lot I had a vast beach of rocks to scramble over. Not appealing at all. I saw my fellow beginner not far ahead of me humping his board over the rocks. There were some little rivers of sand between rocks and I followed that as much as possible. About halfway there I stopped and looked back out to sea. Someone was paddling towards the concrete ramp at the far east end of the lot. Ah, the way out. I would much rather paddle than continue to walk over rocks. So I took the board back out into the water and paddled around to the ramp.
I sat down to rest, thinking I would give it another try in a bit. As I snacked on a huge bag of pistachios, I watched two men with boards who had just made it out over the rocks to the water in roughly the same spot I had been. The first got in, started paddling straight out and was immediately swept east. Wrong way. A few surfers farther out were paddling continuously and either going nowhere, or drifting backwards. Those who had paddled out to the bigger waves to the left were fine. But everyone east of there was struggling and losing. Those tantalizing middle waves were proving very difficult to get to. I was getting hungry anyways. It was getting on late in the afternoon and I needed fuel.
Back at Solscape I cooked up fettucine, warmed up spaghetti sauce, got two slices of bread, a cut-up tomato and a cup of tea. A few other people were in the kitchen cooking – pasta all around. As I crossed back and forth in the kitchen area, finding everything I needed a young guy who I wasn’t looking at said out of the blue “Where are you from?” I turned and it was clear he was talking to me. New York, I said. Oh! Didn’t know you could surf there. He was from Switzerland. I didn’t know you could surf there! I joked. He traveled to France to learn, though it’s hard to get good when you only surf on vacation. We chatted while continuing to cook our meals. The usual stuff. Where you’re from, what you do. He just finished a masters in sports science. And will be returning to do his PHD this year. He seemed excited and interested that I worked in the film business. He asked if I worked on anything famous. I am always a bit flustered by this question. So I said, um, heard of “Law and Order”? He had, though hadn’t seen it. Close enough.
I soon found myself at a table outside with fellow solo-travellers. Roland is the Swiss guy, here for a month. A quiet, maybe sort of strange young German guy named Rolf, I think, sat across from him. Not sure what his deal is. And Brandon, a 27 year old American from San Francisco sat down reading “On The Road”. He is at the very beginning of a 10 month world surfing trip, this week in New Zealand was a last minute plan He realized he could stop over here on the way to Australia, where he is staying for two months. At the last minute, he realized he had forgotten to check the Visa situation in New Zealand. Got online the night before his flight out and was very relieved to see he didn’t need one. I told him my main trip is in New Zealand and I was going out through Australia as a last minute plan. Opposite situation. Then as he talked about applying for the Australian Visa online I realized I hadn’t even thought about it! Thank god I was talking to him. I have to get online and sort that out before I go over there, of course. Apparently it’s easy. Phew.
I took a last walk down the path to Ngarunui beach as the sun was setting.
Another angle of Manu Bay:
The beginning of the path down to Ngarunui Beach:
From the lookout: