TOW & PAD­DLE

New Zealand Surfing - - Tow & Paddle -

When tow surf­ing first came about those that be­came ex­po­nents rat­tled the cage of the es­tab­lished soul surfers, who be­lieved surf­ing was about pur­su­ing your art un­der your own power, pad­dle power.

This cre­ated de­bate and ar­gu­ments that raged for some time in cer­tain parts of the world, and while the heat has some­what set­tled over re­cent years, the topic still rears its head from time to time. Sure, there is rea­son­ing to sup­port both dis­ci­plines, af­ter all some waves are far too big and too gnarly or with too much cur­rent to pad­dle surf. The topic tends to come to a head on those days when both tow surfers and pad­dle surfers are at­tempt­ing to oc­cupy the same place. Many will ar­gue that if a wave can be phys­i­cally pad­dled into it should never be al­lowed to be towed. This keeps the fires burn­ing on the Tow Vs Pad­dle de­bate, af­ter all what is pad­dle-able for one guy could be ex­treme for the other hun­dred of tak­ers. The 73rd Primo Roady suf­fered no such de­ba­cle, we fig­ured here we were with a chance to tow surf some big waves on an outer reef, and then also pad­dle surf one of the best point­breaks in the coun­try, all in one day. So we did! Wak­ing to find the swell had well and truly booted through the night, the points be­low our hosts dwelling were washed out as each set rolled in from the Tas­man shak­ing the hill­side as it rum­bled through. The fog was thick as far as the eye could see across the Waikato, which sig­nalled what we were hop­ing for, no wind! It was all hands on deck as we pre­pared the skis, with the grom­mets in awe. There is some­thing pretty cool about watch­ing the looks and emo­tions that come out of a first time grom, when they re­alise, this is the mo­ment! The swell is up and that trip they quickly threw their hand up for has now landed them in what they could take on as the chance of a life­time or drop nuts and opt out. Benny Poul­ter had re­cently been taken un­der

the wing of DK and Chris Malone, with DK whip­ping him into the scene of big wave surf­ing and Chris guid­ing him through the fit­ness and com­pe­ti­tion side of things. Along with Johnny Hicks who was along for the ride to see what all this big wave fuss was about, the two groms would be­come men over the next few hours. Af­ter ne­go­ti­at­ing five slips dur­ing the two hours on the dodgy sin­gle lane gravel track, we reached our launch spot, and went over the safety sys­tems with a fine tooth comb. The swell was gi­gan­tic, break­ing for a good k out and with no chan­nel or hole to punch out through, it would be a heavy ride out. If some­thing was to go wrong here in the mid­dle of nowhere, out of marine ra­dio and cell phone range, we were on our own. DK in­tended to give stand-up pad­dle board­ing a dig out on the reef, so was also try­ing to punch out through bro­ken wa­ter with this gi­gan­tic slab of a board tied on. Af­ter dodg­ing and weav­ing through the mael­strom we fi­nally broke free into clear wa­ter and be­gan the jour­ney out to the reef. As we closed our dis­tance a huge set det­o­nated and Johnny who was on the back of my ski, let out a squeaky lit­tle “holy f*#k” fol­lowed by what I’m sure was the hor­rid stench of a boy who had just shat him­self. DK knew that if these groms got too long of a look at it they would start to feel in­tim­i­dated, so im­me­di­ately grabbed the rope and yelled “Who’s up?”. While DK was pretty fo­cussed on do­ing his pad­dle thing, he was the most ex­pe­ri­enced and of­fered his ser­vices to tow []the lads into three waves each, then they were on their own. Chrissy was first up and once he got out to the take off area it gave some scale as to the size we were deal­ing with. Johnny was amp­ing him­self up as he knew he was up next, he knew this was his first op­por­tu­nity to take on some­thing like this and wanted to grasp it with both hands, mean­while Benny was float­ing around on DK’s SUP with his

feet dan­gling down off to the side of an open ocean reef, only pulling them up when we joked about Great Whites. Chris has never re­ally im­mersed him­self into chas­ing the big stuff, how­ever he has been present and had a nudge at some se­ri­ous ses­sions else­where, but is such a nat­u­ral surfer who draws pure lines, that on his first wave he looked as if he had been do­ing it for years. When DK whipped over to Johnny with the or­der “You’re up bro”, well there was no hes­i­ta­tion and there couldn’t be. He left with the part­ing ad­vice of “This is your shot, no point in be­ing out on the shoul­der bro”. Well with DK driv­ing he didn’t get that lux­ury, as DK dropped him in su­per deep on his first wave, with the only op­tion to straighten out into a gi­gan­tic gur­gling sub­merged rock or pull in. On his first ever tow wave he pulled in and came through the big­gest bar­rel of his life, that right there is what it’s all about! Benny was next up and al­though he had surfed here be­fore, this was by far the big­gest size he had ever faced. Un­fazed he dropped into a mon­ster, draw­ing a safety line and not putting too much at risk, the next wave be­hind, then drew off the reef and slabbed out, mes­meris­ing ev­ery­one. That was one of the heav­i­est left han­ders any of us has ever seen in NZ. Benny was in the per­fect spot wait­ing to be picked up when that wave broke and he was spew­ing that he didn’t get the chance to ride it, he was hun­gry and he wanted a beast. The next wave his prayers were an­swered, but not by the an­gels as he took off su­per deep, with tonnes of wa­ter con­tort­ing just be­yond him be­fore set­ting his inside rail and

driv­ing through the sec­ond sec­tion, only to have half of the Tas­man Sea land on his back. It was def­i­nitely a pretty heavy beat down, but when he popped up un­shaken and un­nerved, he fig­ured if that was as bad as it gets, then bring it on! DK’s job was done and as he grabbed his SUP board and stroked off into the lineup, it was now the new­bies time to step into the role. But like a sec­ond half War­riors out­fit they fell to pieces, not able to deal with the con­di­tions with their lim­ited ex­pe­ri­ence. Add in rolling the ski af­ter the kill switch was ac­ci­den­tally pulled on a pick up, nearly sink­ing it, and the lads were com­pletely rat­tled and opted to sit back and watch Mas­ter DK do his thing on his pad­dle board. To be present and wit­ness DK pad­dle into waves of such con­se­quence, make a few, and get beaten down by sev­eral oth­ers was pretty damn cool. It was a first for NZ and Daniel was hoot­ing even though he had just popped to the sur­face af­ter a 30 sec­ond hold down and be­ing dragged 40 me­tres.

It was still only mid morn and with a stiff north-east wind com­ing up. DK and Chrissy took one look to the sky, and turned to each other and de­clared “The Ledge, could be cook­ing!” Head­ing back in, quickly pack­ing down, we hit the road back to Raglan, ar­riv­ing back mid-af­ter­noon to the sight of a stacked up Manu Bay point. Known more for its long leg-burn­ing walls, when the right sized con­di­tions line up, com­bined with the right tide and wind, it turns into a dredg­ing bar­rel sec­tion that has its own lo­cal fol­low­ing that all come out of the wood­work. Those that live for these days will tell you though, that to score the ledge, isn’t just a mat­ter of a big swell, low tide, off­shore combo. It is a fickle beast that does what it wants, when it wants. Days that look to be epic, com­pletely turn off once the tide reaches the nec­es­sary level. Benny who lives on the hill above has watched many days of Ledge tran­spire and he was call­ing for epic­ness in a cou­ple of hours. By the time we re­turned from lunch it ap­peared as if some­one had turned off the swell tap and the waves had dried up with old Manu drib­bling through at three foot. Hardly push­ing the re­quired five or six to get the Ledge heav­ing. Many the­o­ries did the rounds, from the swell had peaked in the night and was over, to the tide was run­ning out too fast and hold­ing back the swell. When you con­sider only hours ago was eight foot, we put our money on that lat­ter the­ory, and as soon as the tide

pushed a half an hour in, we were on! The in­fa­mous Ledge was on fire, drain­ing across the shal­low boul­der sec­tion, with sand stained back­lit waves fun­nelling off down the point un­der the last few hours of the days light. Chrissy is re­spected as one of the gu­rus out here and had his mag­net on as usual. Benny who had been work­ing on his tube rid­ing un­der the guid­ance of Chris, hit this Ledge ses­sion with a new found con­fi­dence af­ter his morn­ing of tak­ing on gi­ant beasts and slot­ted through the wave of the day, putting a smile on the usu­ally re­served lads dial. Along with our Primo Roady crew, came out the un­der­ground lo­cals, the af­ter work crew and the Surf Academy, with most of the crowd nab­bing a bar­rel or two. Then there was the be­gin­ner surfers down on the inside and the SUP’s all fran­ti­cally pad­dling around, it was all go! Thank­fully DK had hung up his SUP for the day, and pad­dled out on his short­board, im­me­di­ately prov­ing he was still the King of his own back­yard with a cou­ple of long deep pits. And as the sun dropped on down be­hind the hori­zon and dark­ness be­gan to creep, the last of the tak­ers squeezed in as many waves as they could be­fore be­ing un­able to see. We had towed and pad­dled two dif­fer­ent waves, that re­quired both of the tech­niques in one day, and DK had rid­den waves by means of an engine, his pad­dle, and his arms. He was smil­ing, we were smil­ing, and all that sam­pled the Ledge that evening were as well. It’s not about if you pad­dle or tow, it’s if you have a go!

UP UN­TIL RE­CENTLY BEN POUL­TER HAS ONLY EVEN KNOWN PAD­DLE SURF­ING, NOW THAT HE HAS RID­DEN HIS BIG­GEST WAVE EVER, YOU CAN BET TOW­ING WILL BE PART OF HIS SKILL SET FROM NOW ON.

CHRIS MALONE SLOT­TED UN­DER PAD­DLE POWER.

ON HIS FIRST TOW WAVE EVER, JOHNNY FOUND HIS BIG­GEST BAR­REL EVER.

MAIN: NAT HUGHES NABBED A FEW WARPED OUT SAND STAINED DRAIN­ERS.

LUKE MATHERS ONE OF THE MANY UN­DER­GROUND

LEDGE REGULARS WHO LIVE FOR DAYS LIKE THIS.

ABOVE: DK TOWED, PAD­DLED AND SUP’D LUCKY THERE WAS NO WIND OR

HE PROB­A­BLY WOULD HAVE RID­DEN ONE ON A KITE BOARD AS WELL.

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