New Zealand Surfing - - Rising Grom - Words: Blair Stewart | Pho­tos: Cory

Wainui Beach in Gis­borne has a rep­u­ta­tion of pro­duc­ing the most con­sis­tent qual­ity waves in the coun­try. Since surf­ing first be­gan here back in the 1950's Wainui has been in hot de­mand with vis­it­ing surfers and has led to the de­vel­op­ment of many of this coun­try's best surfers over the gen­er­a­tions, from the late Al­lan Byrne to Benny Hutch­ings, John Gisby, Blair Stewart, Chris Malone, Da­mon Gun­ness, Maz Quinn and Bobby Hansen plus many many more. Th­ese suc­cess­ful names of our top surfers all cut their teeth on this beach and their surf­ing flour­ished. The se­cret is the con­sis­tency and qual­ity of the waves that peel along the sand cov­ered rocky shelves that lay un­der­neath, as well as be­ing open to a swell win­dow from the north through to the south-west. There are not many days a year when there isn't some­thing ride­able at Wainui and the beach con­sis­tently pro­duces off­shore waves around 3-5 foot. Yet over the years, ce­mented in leg­end, there have been sto­ries of those days when Wainui pro­duced mas­sive mack­ing bar­rels that ri­valled Hawaii. Sto­ries of surfers spend­ing hours pad­dling to get out the back to ride one glory wave only to find them­selves caught in­side and un­able to get back out. Over the last ten years a few lo­cal surfers who had ac­cess to jet-skis talked of see­ing th­ese days as groms and mar­vel­ling at the old boys spend­ing hours bat­tling the forces of na­ture only to be hum­bled and sent back to the shore. You see un­like Hawaii, when NZ beach breaks get this big there are no chan­nels and no easy ways out. So with the tech­no­logic ad­van­tage of the skis to get out the back and to chase down th­ese

roam­ing gi­gan­tic peaks they hatched a plan to use th­ese craft to catch th­ese waves and ride more than ever be­fore. Yet over the last ten years the day just never showed, many big clean swells rolled in only to wash the beach out and of­fer up no form at all and oth­ers that looked promis­ing ended up be­ing an on­shore mess. Dur­ing win­ter and through into spring this year Wainui pumped day af­ter day and the sand bars were look­ing in all-time shape, if ever there was a time for a big grunty swell to be rid­den it was now and when a huge low pres­sure sys­tem moved on out to the east of the coun­try push­ing in mas­sive swells it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore the wind swung off­shore and the day of reck­on­ing emerged. Blair Stewart has grown up on this beach and he also now lives in full view of the lineup from his bed­room win­dow. Over the years Blair has forged a rep­u­ta­tion as a charger gain­ing re­spectable re­sults in Hawai­ian con­tests and com­pet­ing at Teahupoo in an in­vi­ta­tional con­test, so he lives for th­ese big grunty days and when he woke up at first light, he knew this was "The Day". Blair takes up the story: "The swell had been pump­ing in pretty big at Wainui for about three days straight at 10 foot plus how­ever, the ac­com­pa­ny­ing winds were strong on­shore. I woke early on the Mon­day morn­ing be­fore dawn as I knew the winds were fi­nally go­ing to be off­shore. At first light, while the tide was still high, eight to ten foot waves were un­load­ing onto the in­side banks around the Chalet area of Wainui, which was some­thing very rare for as long as I can re­call. I started to do the ring around for guys to team up with, only to find the usual sus­pects were out of town. Maz was in Auck­land, Da­mon in Fiji, Joe had a busted eye from a surf­ing ac­ci­dent weeks ear­lier and Bobby was locked into work. But it was the young grom­mie, Adam Grim­son, whom was walk­ing into the school gates for his last day of school who an­swered a phone call from me say­ing "let’s get the ski out bro". With that he turned around and walked back out the school gates for the last time, what a leg­end - a true surfy! With the tide run­ning out al­ready, time was not on our side. Af­ter a fran­tic hour of fill­ing the ski and prep­ping, we fi­nally hit the waves at 10AM and with the tide al­ready half way out, the big­ger sets were break­ing on the out­side banks and tended to lose shape, but the smaller six foot­ers were still com­ing onto the in­side banks and un­leash­ing their power. With the blood pres­sure run­ning high an early mishap was made by me which lead to an early les­son learnt that ski's need to be re­spected and can eas­ily end in tears if not rid­den with care, it is here that I should men­tion that as this was Adam's first ses­sion driv­ing a ski in such big and tricky con­di­tions, that I had re­quested that we use his ski rather than risk mine with his in­ex­pe­ri­ence, yet here was I the one mess­ing up. Les­son learnt; the time to get bar­reled was on. With con­sis­tent sets push­ing in at eight foot no one was able to get out

with just arm power, so the whole beach was ours! Wainui can of­fer up some men­tal waves but be­ing in the right spot when they come through is another game al­to­gether but with the help of the ski, Adam and I were able to track down waves that were hun­dreds of me­ters apart. I man­aged to pick up a cou­ple of nice rides with one re­ally good one but it was Adam that was in the box seat for the best of them, and with the left han­ders of­fer­ing up the goods he was in his el­e­ment get­ting shack af­ter shack. With a work re­lated phone call that could not be missed at 11AM, I had to quickly run in to grab my phone, and who should be there jump­ing at the chance to take my spot on the ski, Tommy Dal­ton. It was only hours ear­lier I had asked Tommy if he was keen to get the ski out and his re­sponse was "It's a bit big and scary look­ing," but once he had seen Grimmo and my­self get­ting wave af­ter wave with­out the has­sle of get­ting mas­sive close out sets on the head while pad­dling out, he was all over the op­por­tu­nity to get some rides and from what I was told he got a cou­ple of howlers in my ab­sence. Af­ter I fin­ished my busi­ness call I was foam­ing at the bit to get back out there, but had to sit and wait while Tommy got his fill and Grimmo came to col­lect me from the beach, leav­ing Tommy float­ing out the back dodg­ing rogue bombs. I wasn't out for long then we re­alised we weren't out there alone, lo­cal bar­rel hunter Jimmy Herewini, af­ter ear­lier spend­ing a good half hour at­tempt­ing to pad­dle out the old fash­ioned

way, had been swept down the beach mak­ing no progress and had thrown in the towel, or so we thought! Then off in the dis­tance ap­peared a lone pad­dler who made his way a good kilo­me­tre down the beach to­ward the area we were surf­ing. Jimmy hadn't thrown in the towel, just changed his game plan and some­how made it out by run­ning up to the very north end of the beach where a chan­nel al­lowed him ac­cess to get out, then pad­dled down to where we were. With thun­der­ing peaks com­ing in all over the show it was al­ways go­ing to be hard work with just arm power but he man­aged to get one ride be­fore be­ing pitched on a late one and was caught in­side again, top ef­fort Jimmy! It was the swell that we have been talk­ing about that would one day come and to fi­nally be there on the day, to surf it was epic! I still think back to that day now and think if we had of been in the wa­ter at first light when the tide was high, and the big sets were rolling in, it could have been that much bet­ter again but still hav­ing scored it was epic and to have been on the ski with Adam for his first step-off surf was great. Bring on the next swell, whether it be one month, one or even two years away we will be wait­ing, and ready to go again!"

PRE­VI­OUS PAGE: 8-10 foot Wainui and four waves all lined up to un­leash a truly rare sight. | ABOVE: A per­fectly shaped eight foot wave, look­ing more like Pipe­line than Wainui. | RIGHT TOP: Gis­borne’s work force ground to halt this day when half the com­mu­nity came out to ad­mire the lads take on suck mack­ing con­di­tions. | RIGHT BOT­TOM: Jimmy Herewini spent a good hour pad­dling out the old fash­ioned way, only to have this hap­pen and be caught in­side, still hats off you’re a bloody leg­end Jimmy!

TOP: Blair’s mishap on the ski had the owner Tom Grim­son sweat­ing as he watched on from land. MID­DLE: First and sec­ond sand bar Wainui. | BE­LOW: Stacked to the hori­zon RIGHT: Tommy Dal­ton was the vic­tor from an im­por­tant busi­ness call which Blair had to head in and take, and wouldn’t hand back the reigns, this was just too much fun.

The com­plete per­fect step off from the be­gin­ning to the end. Blair drops Grimmo in the prime spot to be kegged off his head, and did he claim? Damn right he did! Wouldn’t you?

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