We awoke in the morning to a typical west coast hazy look, packed up camp, piled in the car, drove back down the river we used to get up to the camp area, and headed north up the rest of ninety mile beach. It was quickly a stunning day as the sun peaked itself over the Giant mountainous sand dunes to the east, built up there by the beating winds of the west coast. These dunes are truly magnificent, just like something out of Laurence of Arabia; some must be close to 500 feet tall, stunning and alien.
Arriving near the northern end of Ninety mile beach, we chose to stop where it appeared the surf had a reasonable gap, caused by a rip, that local fisherman fishing at the spot, confirmed to be a regular and reliable feature of that spot. Great we needed all the help we could get to punch these fully loaded boats out of this beach. The surf rolled in constantly multiple layers of breaking waves, the most furthest out ones where irregular, but huge when they came. This was going to be a challenge for Dave, who had never paddled in anything like the west coast of NZ before.
We said good bye to mat, and thanked him for the shuttle service, he had to fly back to Auckland to go paddling with some friends, who in a couple of weeks time where also going to attempt to paddle from up this way to Auckland, they weren’t starting on the west coast however! Dave and I talked about whether to just pack and go or not, I was keen, though he was not, I could see in his eyes he could do with a little paddling in this stuff with an unloaded boat. So we put stuff up on the dunes and went out.
We timed ourselves well, pushing through the initial shore wash, to just in front of the first breaker waves. Small walls of white water charged at us, as the boats lifted over them. We then timed it and pushed past these breakers, Dave’s eyes set and intent. As we got past these guys we then faced the ominous walls of green faced peaking (but not yet breaking) waves looming over us. We punched hard up these faces to ramp off the back and land with a splash behind. Picking up the pace, we charged the gaps between mountainous curling waves that broke left right and center of us, aiming either for the shoulder (where they had yet to break) or right at the foam pile punching through and over them, and then we were out back, the world changed, it became calm and quite.
The task that Dave feared, and wasn’t always my favorite, was on us; coming back in. we watched the sets, timed it in through the big outer breakers, came in behind the second break zone, waited again. I said to Dave “at some point you just have to decide and commit!” at that moment I saw a gap and went for it, looking back I saw a big wave come at me, Dave let it go by, but I was in its zone, I tried to back paddle but it had me. I dropped down its face on my side, before I knew it I was upside down. I rolled up quickly, to see Dave back of a bigger one that came at me like a mad thing, it would break on me, so I paddled forward thinking I could bet it, the back of the sea bear lifted to the sky, and we shot down the disintegrating face into an explosion of white wash, I positioned for a side surf and came out of the wash riding the bucking bronco of an 18 foot kayak side on in a 4 foot wall of white water.
I looked back out as I rode to see Dave come in, he caught a clean face, and surfed well, the wave began to broche, his boat turned, he didn’t react quickly enough and over he went and was sucked straight out of his boat, for a messy swim. Finally letting his boat wash in, he swam in. I paddled out gave him my bow and back paddled in through the surf till he could stand. Dave met the west coast that day.
Unfortunately in the forced swim, one of our repair kits got broken open and lost its contents, a rear hatch cover was lost from the boat, the rudder was bent, and Dave’s confidence a little battered. I found a bunch of stuff washing up on the beach as Dave pumped out his boat. Though the hatch cover, epoxy resin and a screwdriver where never found again. Camp was quickly set up to allow repairs, reflection and preparation for the next round. I made Dave’s boat a new hatch cover out of an old piece of wheelie bin I found on the beach, it was crude though works well and almost matches in color. We decided to play today and then hit it in the morning for the real beginning. This proved awesome as the break changed often as the tide came in and out, and we where to find the best time to leave.
We where to discover that later in the day, the break just became a monster of huge dumping waves three to four break zones wide. We played in it and got beaten up real good just trying to hold our ground in the first break zone. Tail stands, back surf, trashing. Eventually Dave got sucked out of his boat again, and I limped in with all my camera gear hanging from the boat after huge wave ripped the suction mountings lose and knocked the wind out of me. The big grin I had from the beatings and awesome fun, soon turned to tears when I found out that none of the camera gear was recording. I just missed out on getting some of the coolest surf kayak footage of our Sea Bear Waitoa, getting the snot kicked out of them. Ahhh!
I went back out again this time recording, but the waves within 20 minutes had changed, they let me work through them easily and I ended up out back again, I turned and surfed back in. Dave hadn’t come back out and was cooking up our backcountry cuisine feed for the night. I told him that I know new that an hour after low tide was the time to go; I just got out back easier than ever. So we knew now we had to be on the water between 8 and 9 tomorrow morning to get that magic break.
Oh and we enjoyed our first Back Country Cuisine meal, and where amazed out how wonderful it was, amazingly fresh tasting and flavorful, and I am telling the truth.Chicken A La King with Croutons,very memorable, we rated it 0ut of Ten, and Apple crumble for dessert, awesome,it had a real crumble topping you make by crumbling your own cookies and all, just like a home made one, but out of a packet, 10 out of 10 for the dessert. what an amazing first impression, these meals are gourmet and we have 22 types of mains to eat, we are not going to get bored!