at your own risk
By Cory There is a saying “Success breeds success” so for a few years now we have been trying to bring together the A-Team for an epic adventure on the great NZ Surf Pita Pit Roady. To have the best open and junior surfer in the country along for the ride, scoring epic waves and sharing all time laughs and at the same time feeding off each other’s stoke and driven to perform out in the waves through each other’s performance was a sight we hoped we’d get to make happen. It ain't easy though, pulling two guys together who constantly travel the world surfing contests, guys who are away more than they are home. The secret was finding a window of surf inside their window of availability. Two weeks prior it almost happened and it looked as if the Pita Pit Roady would again return to the East Coast, we didn’t want that as we like to share the love around the coastline, but winter had brought along a run of harsh westerly flows. Then at the last minute Kehu Butler called to say he couldn’t make it, offering some poor excuse along the lines of “I’m off to Cloudbreak with Connor O’Leary.” NZ’s West Coast was bombing at 10 feet plus so we knew in a couple of days Fiji would be copping that, so we wished Kehu well, although we were all totally green with envy. The following week the stars aligned in more ways than one, the West Coast looked to have its first run of offshores for months, and both Kehu and Billy Stairmand were home and frothing for some waves. Here we had the master 28-year-old 6X National Champ and the 16-year-old heir apparent locked and loaded cruising down the Pita Pit Highway bound for the Naki. There’s not many places in the world where an East Coast surfer can jump in the car in the morning and drive across to the West Coast and still arrive in time for an arvo surf, but here in NZ we have it damn lucky, so when the local coast doesn’t co-operate if you’re keen and willing a little drive can see you score and keep those hunger pains at bay. Drives like this have become common place on the Pita Pit Roady and we simply never get sick of the journey, as they say half the journey is simply getting there. While we are keen to set our eyes on the coast there is so much stunning countryside and sights to see on any given route. As we pass the natural limestone sculptures of the Waitomo district and out through the iconic tunnel of the Awakino Gorge it is a short wind on out to the straights before we would meet the West Coast. Good news was signalled by the road side toitoi’s which were angled toward the coast, offshore! Yet counting against us scoring any type of wave was the low tide. This coastline is long and straight, almost appearing endless as you eye north and south down to the Taranaki Cape. Typically, this coastline offered up straight closeouts which usually transpires into continuing on down to the Naki one hour away. However, the one saving grace that can break up these featureless beaches are the myriad of rivers that flow to the sea in this area, usually by the time they feed out into the Tasman they are spread wide and shallow, unable to carve
and hold any such form in the shifting iron sand base. Yet time it right after some good rain and some magical banks can be scored. The first river we arrived at delivered the usual greeting of long straight-handers and the second spot just further down the coast had carved a giant hole at the mouth of the river where waves simply reformed back into swells, yet there way down the beach where this giant gutter ran up the coast, right where it bent on out to sea, peeled one wave, then two, then a third all draining off right on the shore one af- ter another. After hours in the car and with only hours left of daylight the lads were in their suits and running down the beach within seconds. Whether it was an intentional battle for supremacy, having two of our best surfers going toe to toe, wave for wave, pushing each other, was epic to witness! And the session went well into the darkness, Billy who had been back home in Raglan for a while was stoked to go right for the first time in a while. With clear skies and the sun departing for the day the temperature had plummeted and ice had already be- gun to form a crust on the black sand beach. By the time we rolled into New Plymouth after six hours drive and four hours surf, the lads were ready to chew their arms off they were that starving, thankfully we had a better option planned after all these guys wouldn’t do to well without their arms. The crew at Pita Pit were stoked to see us back in town, whenever we hit the road we call into the Pit for a healthier choice, after all surfer’s love nothing more than tasty pits! It appeared as if Billy hadn’t eaten in weeks pretty much swallowing his pita
whole before ordering another. Then it was back on the road, heading further south on Surf Highway 45, planning it so when we woke at first light we were already near the coast. With a full moon illuminating the night, the snow-covered mountain glowed, the lineup out front was also completely visible with stacked groomed lines pouring through, but this was no kind of temperature for a night surf! We hardly slept, excited at what dawn would bring, we were up a good hour
Clockwise from top left: You've been warned! - The first sight of the coast on day 1 delivered this juicy gem of a bank. - Team Champ Kehu Butler and Billy Stairmand slowly psyche for the paddle out.