BIG BAY WITH JA­SON SEARL

Cana­dian surfer, Joe Cra­word went to work with Ja­son Searl in Big Bay. Here’s his thoughts and pho­tos:

New Zealand Surfing - - Trigger Finger -

I was an­other lonely trav­eller mak­ing my way south in New Zealand. I had my 1000-dol­lar run­about, surf­board in­side and time was on my side. I met Sol Val­lis, a leg­endary base-jumper, out in the surf at In­di­ca­tors and he in­vited me to come and stay with him and his fam­ily out­side of Opanaki. Af­ter a few weeks of work­ing and surf­ing with Sol I was on my way again. Sol marked a few places and con­tacts on my map, but along the west coast south of Haast was a gi­ant ink star on Big Bay. He said that I should take any op­por­tu­nity to get in there with a surf­board. Three months later, I ar­rived at Wanaka for the first time. I was just get­ting a feel for the town, when I poked my nose into a shoe re­pair shop, and the owner eyed me up and asked, “Are you the Hawai­ian surfer com­ing surf­ing and pos­sum trap­ping in Big Bay?” The words froze me and my mem­ory of Sol’s ad­vice quickly came to mind. I ex­plained that I was Cana­dian, but would love to be that per­son go­ing into Big Bay. Af­ter a short dis­cus­sion and an ex­change of de­tails, I was pen­cilled in for the next trip into Big Bay. Big Bay seemed to be ev­ery man's dream; epic swells, cray­fish and paua, me­ters away from shore and sit­u­ated in a sur­real wilder­ness. I could not help but feel mi­nus­cule and blessed to be surf­ing amongst snow-capped moun­tains with pos­sums and red deer as the only au­di­ence. As I spent more time out in the wa­ter and in the bush stalk­ing deer and trap­ping pos­sums, Big Bay be­came so much more than a play­ground. We ex­pe­ri­enced a six-me­ter swell while in the bay that ripped out flax bushes in front of our tents. The tidal surges forced the Stab­i­craft high and dry eight me­ters from the river’s edge where it was moored up the Awarua River. When our food ra­tions dwin­dled in the fi­nal weeks we were re­duced to the abun­dance of pos­sum legs, rice, wa­ter crest, and paua. I never thought I would have my fin­gers crossed in hopes of trapped pos­sums for a feed. The im­mer­sion into the wilder­ness and prox­im­ity to life and death brought my ex­is­tence to a re­duced form. It made me feel alive and closer to the nat­u­ral world.

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