It’s quickly becoming the strongest tradition we have. Best mates spread thin across the world chasing individual dreams, reuniting once a year for an adventure. The mission each time is to chase swell, spend some quality time together and relive our younger years, and an eye-opening trip at the beginning of a new year usually ticks all of the boxes. We’ve made a habit of landing in a foreign country and immediately escaping away from the busy crowds and the routine of our everyday lives. Although our overseas rendezvous points over the years have been incredible, the lure of our home country, New Zealand’s South Island was too much to resist.
The timing was perfect as our newly built Feldon Shelter truck, and Scott’s fresh American imported Chevy van were both ready for their maiden voyage. We filled our vehicles to the brim with all of the camping necessities and strapped eleven surfboards and two of our Feldon roof top tents to the roof of the car. The roof tents, alongside the back of Scott’s van, would provide our accommodation for the next month. We had enough space, surfboards and essentials to yield good times for six reassembled mates searching for adventure.
Wasting no time we drove the length of the North Island, boarded the first ferry crossing the Cook Strait and were swapping stories of the past year by nightfall. As soon as the ferry had landed and our tyres touched southern soil, we were off again, severely sleep deprived and in need of waves. We hit the first stretch of rocky coastline, and it was clear the South had welcomed us back. Loud hooting wafted from the van ahead as we pulled the handbrake, quickly changed into some rubber and sprinted across the rocks into the first surf of the trip. Satisfied to have a fun session under our belts after 900kms of travel, we unfolded the tents, cooked up some dinner and tucked into our sleeping bags. The evening’s soundtrack was the soothing hollow sound of rolling boulders in the shore break.
With time on our side, we slowly meandered south. Scott’s van punched through the wind out front, with the truck in standard formation behind, freeloading in the slipstream. We camped along the coast, exploring and surfing new setups along the way. Everything was working as it should, apart from the stress the thirsty V8 put on Scotty’s wallet.
The promise of a hot shower and a warm tea landed us on the doorstep of some old friends. Warm, dry and far less salty, we sunk into their lounge room couches while chatting about our travels so far. New Zealand is a world unlike anywhere else. Four seasons in one day. Deserted plains and crystal shingle rivers. Snow capped mountains, rolling farms and ominous cliffs. Around every bend, we were greeted with a new landscape and a new world for us to explore. We had driven thousands of kilometres, already experiencing far more than we had expected before even making it to the bottom of the South Island, our next destination. The forecast looked promising, a local tip was to try a fickle point break which would take us as far south as you could possibly go.
While lazing around waiting for the tide to turn, we stumbled upon a kind local’s free veggie garden and got stuck into the freshest vegetables imaginable. The locals down South Island are big hearted and very welcoming. Full of tuna and salad wraps we made our way to the secret point-break, pondering whether it was a good idea to get into the notoriously sharky southern waters, especially smelling like tasty tuna. We loaded up with our surf gear and started on the half hour hike towards the point, we could feel the wind had already dropped, the tide was going to be right, and hopefully, the swell was going to meet us on the other side. The boys were frothing.
After a grinding hike through the dry paddocks and a steep descent, we got our first glimpse of the point. It was on. We traded long glassy lefts for the next six hours with no one else in sight. The locals, however, had other ideas in mind. A seven-gill shark showed his face and bumped some of the crew around, almost knocking Jason off his board. We laughed about him smelling our tuna lunch and kept a sharp eye on it for the rest of the session. In hindsight, probably not the smartest move to stay out but the swell was pulsing, and the waves kept getting hollower. We finally called it quits when a half tonne sealion marched us back to the rocks showing us who was the king of the point. The sun touched the ocean as we made our way back up the hill and watched the yellow-eyed penguins hop along the rocks to their nests.
We had travelled countless kilometres south and had once again found exactly what it was we were after; empty waves, adventure and time well spent with close friends. Our annual adventure had grown stronger. The return trip north was made all that bit sweeter as we started planning our next expedition to the bottom of our mind-blowing nation.
Words by: Joel Hedges & Chris Cain
Photos by: Beth Eastell
Video by: Jason Domancie