Arriving down south was a wild feeling. I had wanted to get down to the South Island for so long and after the longest drive of my life, I finally made it. I was there, and it felt good. Everything got raw quickly. The winds were stronger than expected, and the headlands were losing a fight with the sea, they looked like that had been obliterated. The waves were heavy, and the water looked cold too. The surroundings I took in were so unlike those more familiar to me from home. Everything was different, and I had a huge feeling of excitement and fear at the same time.

I had the phone number of a guy, who was friends with a friend’s friend back home. After giving him a call, he approached me on the beach. He was the most welcoming human ever, grinning from ear to ear; he started telling me about how the swell was not at all looking like it was forecasted a day earlier, haha. I tried to keep a straight face, but I think after my long drive south, I must have given away a look of being somewhat let down. He asked me where I was staying, and I had no idea. I told him I had my tent and asked where I could camp around here. It was already getting dark, and he suggested a few places before I twisted his arm to let me come crash on his lounge. One night turned into a week. A week turned into two weeks.

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I’d never been to a place that had so many adventures waiting to experienced, all outside the front door. There were beaches everywhere, and they all worked in different conditions. Almost any swell direction could be paired with an offshore wind somewhere! On top of that, almost every beach was quite far from the car park. It was always had a lengthy walk down to the beach, so everyone was well tuned into the best conditions and banks around town. Hiking from the carpark to the beach made for the best adventures. Walking away from the car with only my backpack, surfboard and camera, felt like I was on a true journey!!

After two weeks, I had been starting to feel like the lounge was getting sick of me. I mean, I loved it, but I genuinely felt like I had started to overstay, my welcome and I wanted to be using my tent! So, I left and headed even further south away from the city. There were even more headlands further south, more sheep and the only option when surfing, was to surf alone. There was hardly anyone around except for a few local farmers who all had surfboards either on the back of their quad bikes or resting out the tails of their trucks.

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There was still plenty of wildlife to keep me company on my solo adventure. And I had the odd encounter with the locals. Every single person I stopped and talked to would have an amazing story to tell of the last swell or last group of surfers they had ventured down here. They would always be so sharing and kind and wanting to help wherever they could. Plenty of sheep continued to block the roads, and I encountered sea lions on the beach and in the water. I also came across a penguin who had a damaged wing. Everywhere I looked there was something new to see, and I felt a massive difference in lifestyle in terms to what I usually felt when at home.

I couldn’t help but think that it would be easy to be confused as part of the wildlife while surfing alone. I avoided swimming with my camera and had lots of quick surfs before often getting spooked out of the water. I spent a few days camping and exploring around the beaches that had the most potential surf wise. Apart from a left-hand point break, all the spots that I had seen before in magazines or surfing books from this part of NZ didn’t have the best swell direction on offer. There were a few times where instead of surfing I would just sit and watch the ocean, often from high up on the headlands taking it all in. It was in these moments that I wished my friends from home had been there to join me.

One evening I got a text from a friend who said that the Aurora was very prominent that night. The southern lights, I didn’t realise that was even a thing in NZ! And I sure as hell didn’t know how to take photos of it. My friend told me to point my camera at the sky and take a photo, so I did. I peered at the back of my camera, and the colours were incredible but on top of that, I felt relaxed. I sat down and stared at the sky for hours. I didn’t want to leave. I was far from home but somehow at this moment I felt completely at ease.

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I had miss-timed the season slightly, but I had spent almost a month hanging down south. I had been in the water every day, and even though the surf was due to get better the month following, unfortunately, had run out of time.

I had spent time with some amazing people, but I was also starting to miss the comforts of home and knew I had a long way to go on my journey. The surf had been good, but I knew it could have been better! I decided it was time to leave the coast and head off in a northward direction, and eventually make my way across to the west coast again. From this point on, every kilometer was a step closer to home.

Stay tuned for the remaining four parts of Richard Hodder’s Four Corners of New Zealand.

To purchase limited edition prints from Richard Hodder’s Four Corners of New Zealand exhibition CLICK HERE.

Richard Hodder’s work HERE // I.G: @inthedrink