New Zealand Surf Trip

kori Hahn New Zealand - Photo Stuart smythe

It was too good not to blog about.

Cyclone Vincent made his wild appearance to the shores of New Zealand on the same day our flight landed.  If cyclones have a gender, I am going to say this one was a man.  He was big, rough and mean, yet he delivered a swell that stuck around for our entire trip, and for that we thank you Cyclone Vincent.

kori Hanh - New Zealand - Photo Stuart smythe

We started our road trip on the Coromandel Peninsula in the quiet little surfing village of Waihi Beach, Stuart’s old stomping ground.  After a few incredible days surfing the long lefts peeling off Whangamata’s river sandbar, we were itching to see a little more of the area (well, I was).  Through countless empty beaches and along some seriously stunning coastline, we were looking for novelty waves that could only break in these rare cyclone conditions.  What we found was a wild and crazy mess with a few gems scattered about.

kori Hanh - New Zealand - Photo Stuart smythe

If you are a nature lover, this is a place you must add to your dream list.  Where hot springs ooze out of sandy beaches and the photogenic caves of Cathedral Cove are just a few of the attractions that make this place magical.  It is no wonder why this is one of the most visited regions of the New Zealand’s North Island.

Stuart Smythe - New Zealand - Photo Kori Hahn

As the swell grew, I grew tired of being “just” a photographer.  The ocean was wild and the waves heavy.  So with the perfect, yet packed bar breaks of Whangamata and Mount Manganui in our rear view mirror, we went searching for a little more shelter (aka humble little waves for a little me).

New Zealand - surf trip

A few hours later we arrived to a quiet little corner of New Zealand’s North Island, otherwise known as the Eastern Cape.  Its just another coast of towering mountains falling drastically to the sea.  The shore break was so heavy you could hear the beach stones rolling and grinding through the night. We camped just beside a left hand point break that would keep us both very entertained for the next few days.  With rides long enough to make your legs go jelly, we found just what we were looking for, smaller waves and therefore less people.  For three days straight, we surfed our hearts out.

kori Hanh - New Zealand - Photo Stuart smythe

Finally it was time to load the car with our dinged up surfboards stacked in the back and noodle arms on the steering wheel, adventure called.  It was time to move.  We left with that feeling all travelers know so well, that feeling of being happy and content exactly where you are, yet what lies ahead leaves you itching for more.  So you go. Back on the road.

kori Hanh - New Zealand - Photo Stuart smythe

We drove from Gisborne to the Mahia Peninsula, my jaw constantly attached to the rental car floorboard.  The Mahia Peninsula is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  With a swell window of nearly 180 degrees, there are grunty barrels for the brave and gentle beaches for the cruisers.  A local described it to me as “if you want good waves, go to the Mahia.”

New Zealand - Photo Stuart smythe

Next stop was the sweet little art deco town of Napier.  Napier delivered a nice reprieve from the glutinous bakeries that are scattered throughout small town New Zealand. With a food and wine culture rivaling the street side cafes of France and Italy, we ate, drank coffee and sipped refreshingly cold white wine.  What more can a girl ask of a surf trip?

kori Hanh - New Zealand - Photo Stuart smythe

Surfed out from the 10 days before, we weren’t even checking the surf forecast at this point.  After a few days in the city, we decided to go for a swim at the closest beach.  When we arrived, we soon found ourselves quickly putting our wetsuits back on to enjoy yet another perfectly peeling point break.  Luckily for me it was another left!    The local man sitting next to us was hawing and humming about the crowds, but seriously, there were less than 20 people out!

It was peeeeeeerfect.  Hawke’s Bay might not be world famous, but it should be.  Mornings filled with empty glassy waves followed by an afternoon at one of the regions wineries is my idea of a splendid day.  Spoiled, we were down right spoiled so far, but it just kept getting better.

kori Hanh - New Zealand - Photo Stuart smythe

kori Hanh - New Zealand - Photo Stuart smythe

We broke up the long drive from Napier over to Taranaki with a zen little stop in the mountains. Stuart’s mother lives near the volcanic ski hills making up the mountain region in the center of the island.  Her house is a bit like a personal Buddhist Monastery.  It was nice to take our minds of the surf for a moment.  We took a few days to read from her amazing book collection and enjoy some art therapy while eating fresh figs as they fell from the tree.

It was here in this moment of pause that I came to realize a few of the finer things about New Zealand.   Every small town is certain to have an art gallery, a fish and chips shop and a sugary snack filled bakery.  The art galleries are full of works by the local artists.  In all my life I have never seen a culture that encourages and supports the spiritual practice of art and creativity quite like this little island country.

kori Hanh - New Zealand - Photo Stuart smythe

Back on the road again, the final two stops on our surf tour had a slim chance of blowing our minds after what we had seen and experienced already.  From the shoreline surrounding the symmetrical volcanic cone of Mt. Taranaki to the world reknown little surf town of Raglan, it just kept getting better.   Looking back on it now we probably should have never left.

kori Hanh - New Zealand - Stuart smythe kori Hanh - New Zealand - Photo Stuart smythe

From the towering trees of the mountain forests to the insanely limitless surfing options, I could easily call a small little farmhouse home for awhile.  I think I could quite happily raise a few sheep and pick my own avocados from the trees on my very own little seaside farm.  I haven’t been everywhere, but this is the closest place I have found to a true utopia.

New Zealand - Photo Kori Hahn

Bathing in crystal clear streams and soaking in thermal hot springs replaced porcelain bathtubs and tiled showers for the month.  Small ma and pa vegetable stalls on the sides of the roads replaced supermarkets.  We hiked. We camped. We surfed.  We enjoyed the hell out of all of it.  We got back to ourselves by simplifying life and diving into nature.

Thank You New Zealand merely for existing.  Thank you for being you.

{and a little love deservedly goes to Beesknees organic surf wax and Surf Yogis organic sun protection for their support on this trip}

Stuart Smythe - New Zealand - Photo Kori Hahn

New Zealand - Photo Stuart smythe

Stuart Smythe - New Zealand - Photo Kori Hahn New Zealand - Photo Kori Hahn New Zealand - Photo Stuart smythe Stuart Smythe - New Zealand - Photo Kori Hahn