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Patea, my love

I am so ecstatic from this day of surfing, I just want to skip all the details and get to the amazing and perfect waves. I thought maybe I would write a post where I built up the suspense to it, but, eh. Roland said he almost cried it was so good, and if he had been alone, he would’ve cried. I felt exactly the same way.

Now for the buildup minus the suspense. First a couple of pictures.

Me and Roland reading our matching surf guides in the awesome coffee shop in New Plymouth called Chaos.

One of the many gravel roads that took us to a surf spot that day:

The crowded “experienced surfers only” Stent Road wave I didn’t even attempt:

The deceptive Stent Road wave that kicked my ass:

More adwenture! Wrong way looking for farmstay in Arrarata:

The polite and wary cows letting us pass:

Mt. Taranaki as seen from Wheatly Downs Farmstay:

A quick note about Wheatly Downs Farmstay. The night we got there, I climbed over the fence out back to pet a pig. After Gary the Kiwi farmer said it was ok, of course. There were maybe 8 of them all munching away around the field. As I started to approach them they looked up warily and a few bolted. Particularly the medium size pink one I was stalking. So I played it cool for a while. Just standing in the field looking around. Then I started to walk back a ways toward where I came from. This same pink one got curiuos and started to follow me. Grunting and snorting she waddled her way around while I studiously ignored her. When she got about five feet away I slowly turned and kneeled down low holding my hand out, palm down, like I would for a dog. She gave a few sniffs, grunted and started to move on. I reached out and rubbed her belly as she passed and she immediately stopped, dropped down and rolled over. Caked in mud, she wasn’t the most pleasant to rub, but I continued, rubbing more around the teats where she was cleaner. With a look of ecstasy she sighed and laid there absolutely motionless. As soon as I stopped she got back up and was on her way. Not so much as a goodbye.

It was great having Roland sitting in the back studying the surf guide book as I drove. He would pick out a spot and then let me know when the turnoff was getting close. Patea was not too far and sounded good. This one was on a river mouth and there could be waves between the rock jetties separating the river from the ocean. And beach breaks on both sides of the river. We checked out the waves and the north side was looking good. Walking out on the jetty, we stopped to watch a surfer paddle into the river and try to catch a wave. After a lot of waiting he did catch a little one. Roland got it on video, I should try to download it from his camera before I forget.

View of river waves from the carpark:

Like kids on Christmas morning we excitedly went back to the car to put on our wetsuits. Roland reminded me to tape up my freshly cut board – our last good surf day at Back Beach I had gotten all the way down to the water when I realized I had forgotten to tape up the tail of the board.

Up over the steep black sands dune and down to the beach, we paddled out. The waves were shifty, but we were catching fun left-handers. A wave closed-out right on top of me and it didn’t faze me a bit. I paddled over to Roland and told him that wave felt like a hug compared to yesterday. He said I was getting stronger, like a warrior. A constant teaser, this one. It’s fair to say we both fell in love with this beach. Roland suggested we paddle over to the other side of the rivermouth. It was a good workout paddling around. My arms are definitely in better shape than when I arrived in Piha.

Around the other end we couldn’t catch much of anything. The waves kept dumping on us and takeoff points were not obvious. So we paddled over to the river to check that out. We both climbed up onto the jetty on the south side and watched for a little while first. There were two guys hanging around the north side of the river, right next to the wall, waiting to catch the little rights. They weren’t really catching much of anything. Roland went in first and immediately turned back to me as he was paddling and said, “It’s really strong!” Just like a river. He didn’t even really need to paddle he was just swept away. I went in next and just sailed along, not thinking I would even stop to try to catch a wave. A little one came to me and I almost almost got into it. I was too tired to stay in the water, though. And paddling against that current must be a bitch.

Roland pointed out the smashed bush in front of our car where he laid his board was shaped like a heart:

We decided to rest a while, then come back for more. In town we found a cool little cafe with decent coffee. And Roland had his first ever BLT. The lady at the counter was really helpful and sent us over to the library for free internet! At the library, after much fussing around, the very helpful and dedicated ladies there got the wireless working. I had given up on it when it wasn’t coming up, but they weren’t going to.

At about 2:30 we headed back to the beach. The north side had stopped working. The river was really very small. There was a family in their on boogie boards looking like they were having a lot of fun cruising in on the whitewater. Roland and I wandered a bit, took some pictures and sat in the car reading. Roland laid down in the back. Maybe if we waited a while it would get better.

I watched as two cute guys came out of the water from the south side beyond the jetties. You have to paddle across the river to get there and it’s hard to see the waves from the carpark. I smiled at one and asked them how it was. They were very friendly so I walked over to chat. It was actually quite good, they said, they would’ve stayed in longer if they didn’t have to go. Ah, maybe we should get in there, I thought. I got Roland, we grabbed our boards and headed over.

At the beach, Roland paddled in near the wall and I went down the beach a short bit. I was nervous the waves crashing over there would push me into the wall. I ended up flailing around a bit in whitewater and closing out waves. All the while Roland was having the time of his life. He waved me over and I paddled over closer to the wall. “I think I’m going to die” he said. “Why? What’s wrong?” “It’s SO beautifu!” He had already caught four amazing waves in a row.

Soon enough, one came for me. Easy takeoff, easy pop-up and I was on the longest ride of my very short surfing life. I had time enough to even try turning and to catch another section. The wave just kept peeling along the wall without ever taking you to it. So amazing! And then you turn and paddle back out along the wall in the rip that makes it so easy to get back out. And it was just Roland and me out in the waves. This kick-ass left close enough to the wall to be hidden from the carpark. Perfect. Later, Roland told me he counted as I was on one of the waves and it was something like 25 seconds. That may not sound like much but I have been very happy so far with a ride that lasts 10 seconds. And both of us probably caught at least 8 waves each that were about this long. With that amount of time on a wave I was able to attempt more than one move. I could look around, cut back to the shoulder, move around on the board. I probably improved more in those three hours we were in the water than I have since the Bertha swell last July when there were consistent waves for a week at Montauk and I surfed 9 or 10 days straight. I can’t think of any better way to put it but to say we were both stoked. Entirely.

After a couple hours three locals paddled in to join us. One of them chatted with me a bit, but not so much in a friendly manner as far as I could tell. I think he was sussing me out. After finding out that I had only just surfed Patea for the first time that morning, he warned me that the waves here are the biggest and most powerful in South Taranaki. They really hold you down when you get caught under them. Of course today was small, which was exactly why Roland and I were having so much fun. At best they were probably shoulder-high waves. As soon as these guys came in the water, the conditions began to change. The waves I was catching then had a steep and fun takeoff but fizzled out quicker. Roland paddled out and I followed soon after. Not too long after us, the guys came out too. Funny, Roland and I had our best day and they probably had one of their worst.

View from carpark of south wall hiding the amazing waves:

Wider view north of carpark, you can make out the waves a bit better:

My feet covered in black sand after walking back to the car in an elated mood:

Today, Wednesday, started out with a bad omen. I spilt Rice Milk in the trunk all over my food. Roland said,”Uh-oh is it going to be a bad day?”. I wouldn’t say bad, so much. But not really a winner either. We just spent most of it in the car. Driving to check out the occasional surf spot and finding nothing at all. In Wellington, all the hostels were booked. My phone ran out of prepay money. Finally we ended up at the Moana Lodge, 25 km back the way we had come into town. But it is absolutely beautiful here and we paid the price for a dorm room but got a regular room with three beds and a spectacular view out over the water. A Swiss woman is sharing the room with us.

View straight out our window in Moana Lodge:

View looking to the right out the window:

After a nap and going to the grocery store, we cooked up some food in the communal kitchen. I am cooking and preparing food for myself far more on this trip than I normally do at home. When I told Roland that he asked me what did I normally do. “Go out to eat because there are lots of cheap places in New York and I don’t really like eating at home alone.” “Ah, the American way,” he said. “I never eat alone. I eat with Homer, Maggie, Bart, Lisa…” “You eat in front of the TV, now THAT’s the American way!”

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