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?