Epic surf doesn’t always produce great surfers and it’s no mistake that surf zones across the world such as in Brazil and the USA’s Florida have produced some of the best surfers of all time coming out of a staple diet of less than consistent beach breaks. Here in NZ the surf quality and consistency of Christchurch would rate somewhere down near the bottom on the list of surf zones, yet that has not held back Canterbury surfers one little bit over the years, in fact its probably made them hungrier and more adapt so making something out of nothing, whether that be speed or manoeuvres, so when they do get a chance to open up, look out! Some of our biggest names of NZ surfing were born from the waves of Christchurch, Iain ‘Ratso’ Buchanan, Ton Deken, Nuku Nash, Jai Earnshaw, Manu Schaffer and Hayden Brain to name only a few of many. Myka Black is the latest prodigy to flourish from the waves of New Brighton and impressing wherever he paddles out across the country.
Name: Myka John Black Age: 14 Where are you from? New Brighton Beach, Christchurch How did your first surfing experience come about?
Well, I can't actually remember my first surfing experience because I moved to Australia when I was two years old and lived there until I was nine. I only surfed a handful of times when I lived there, because I lived with my mum, and she lived near the theme parks which is a solid 40 minutes away from the nearest beach. But however, my dad happened to live there by the beach, but I only stayed with him every second weekend and I wasn't into surfing, I was a little skatepark rat. When I was seven my dad moved back to NZ due to my little sister's illness (Muscular Dystrophy) and two years later I was there for a holiday with my Mum and Family. We decided that it would cool to move back. While I was there I stayed with my dad and watched him surf a couple times, then dad wanted me to get into surfing so he brought me a wetsuit from Quiksilver New Brighton and we borrowed the store soft-top. He took me and my brother Jahquinn out at 1-2 ft Sumner it was super fun and clean. After my first wave, I found out what the hobby for the rest of my life would be. Your old boy was a top kiwi surfer back in the day, and he still rips, how’s that having your old boys experience to help you along?
Yeah, it's really great and I am thankful for him. He is a very knowledgeable person and always has things to say and teach that I haven't learnt or thought about before. He always supports the Canterbury groms and always has time to coach us out of his free will. I couldn't be happier with a father like him because always want's the best for me and my surfing. Tell us about the local surf conditions,. My local conditions are not what the ideal surfer want's to ride, but it has its days. This winter has been the best for waves ever in Christchurch. Every week pretty much at least had 2-3 days of 3-4 ft and offshore and some weeks every day was pumping. But now coming into summer the waves are slowing down, more onshores are coming up and less swell is arriving. I surf at least 3-6 times a week probably more. My favourite local breaks would have to be Pier Bank Lefts, Lever Terrace rip bank, that bank comes and goes and definitely some secret spots that crank on the weekly, depending on swell, wind and weather. Christchurch surf can be testing to say the least, and while the region is one of the lesser quality surf offering spots in the country there have been some epic surfers develop from the lineups of ChCh, what drives a local surfer and which surfers have inspired and encouraged you locally?
The waves definitely have an impact on how good surfers come out of Christchurch, we tend to be more grateful for the surf then people from wave spoiled spots around the country, this drives us to surf any conditions at our doorstep even if it is 1 ft wind swell and 20 knots onshore. My favourite local surfers would have to be Nuku Nash, Ashlee Sullivann, Harrison Whiteside, Rodney the South African, Puke (Mark Perana), Hayden Brain, my Dad and of course King of the Pier Sammy Sands. When conditions locally haven’t been able to offer a decent wave, Christchurch surfers would traditionally head on up to Kaikoura for a dose of wave stoke, when the earthquake isolated Kaiks, how tough was that, and have you managed to get up that way and search for any newly formed waves since the roads opened? Yeah, Kaiks is Such a treat for us Chch surfers, I think of it as a two-hour drive to heaven. I've been up there a handful of times since the earthquake and have scored fun waves but not all time Kaiks. There is a new beach in town, but it's only suitable for learners, and Dave Lyons runs his surf school in there. Even though I haven't scored cranking Kaiks since the quake I have seen videos and photos of the local breaks going off up there. The best waves you've ever scored on your local coastline?
Definitely, pumping Maunga in Kaikoura, 2-4 ft and just reeling forever from out the back all the way to the creek on the inside, it was perfectly crisp offshore and even barrels on the inside section. I think I probably surfed for 5-7 hours all up that day, but I've surfed many other days that have rivalled that day, but nothing beats a good sesh at Maunga hahaha. Who has been the best visiting surfer you have seen at your local breaks?
Probably Maz Quinn at the Canterbury Champs, every year he comes to dominate the open and show everyone who's boss, I still haven't had the chance to challenge him in a heat but I'm sure he'll whip my backside. It's good to see someone from up north like him participate in all the comps down here, and it's also a pleasure watching him throw buckets every time he catches a wave. What else do you get up to when not surfing?
Not much, probably sleeping, talking smack to the boys, trying to do cashies for my dads mates to earn some coin or eating. I don't miss many days surfing because I feel like I'm going to lose rhythm in my surfing, me needing to go for a surf is like an addictive smoker needing to puff on a cigarette every ten minutes hahaha. Who do you surf with most?
This is a hard one I have three honourable mentions before I can actually say who I surf with the most, Koby Cameron, Mitchell
Cameron and Sam Sands. But my good mate Neko Tohiariki definitely Surfs with me the most. We are always frothing to go for a wave and flick each other a message if we're heading out
What does surfing mean to you? Having a good time with mates, trying to find new breaks, surfing pumping waves, trying to improve day by day but definitely going on surf trips is the best, it beats anything for me even winning a competition. Where would you like to take your surfing? Hopefully, I don't lose the hunger to compete in the North Island to compete against the countries best, because I was thinking about taking two years away from competing up there, but after my result at schools I really want to have a good dig at a competitive career and hopefully have a good crack at the Q’s one day, this would be the dream but I'm not too fussed where my career goes but that's where I'd like to get to. You and a few mates recently showed up at the National Scholastics Champs with haircuts that looked like Vietnamese Cage Fighters, what spawned such a fashion statement? Well if you get chosen for the Canter- bury team and it's your first year representing them, you get a haircut to rock the whole contest at scholastics. This tradition has been going on since the 1997 team when the comp was in Westport. My dad also told me to make your first cut a good one so you won't have to do it again. So I decided to make my cut one of the most mongrel anyone had ever seen. So I shaved my full head and left a filthy rats tail at the back to ruin someone's day, my good mate Koby also did the same but with a bigger rats tail. Your favourite NZ waves and why?
Would have to say Kaikoura because it pumps often and it's less crowded than the famous surf breaks in New Zealand. Also, some local river mouths that produce some epic surf, and of course the secret spots hahaha. Favourite Surfers from NZ and Overseas? NZ would have to be Craig Grimshaw, Doug Young, Dan Smith, Sam Hawke, Elliot Brown, Levi O'Connor, Jai Earnshaw, Hayden Brain, Dane Robertson and of course my Dad. Because they are all Some of New Zealand's Greatest surfers and are all from the South Island. My favourite surfers from overseas would have to be Zeke Lau and Dusty Payne. Ever surfed overseas? And where?
I've only surfed New Caledonia and Australia. New Cal has some epic reef breaks that produce some perfect waves I surfed the most fun right-hand reef and an epic left-hand sandbar that had 1-3 minute rides on one day. I also recently went to Australia and scored punchy hollow beach breaks which were a treat, and also got to surf 2-4 ft clean snapper which was a dream come true for me. Your dream surf trip?
Road trip with my mates hunting and exploring for waves around the country, and also surfing famous breaks that we haven't already surfed. Shout outs to your biggest supporters:
Dad, Puke, Pommy all supported me during schools and gave me valuable advice that I will keep with me for the rest of my surfing career and carry down to the next generations. All my family especially my little sister Ayla, and everyone who has supported and helped me get to where I am now in my surfing. Also, shout out to the boys Josef Finn and Munz for just being legendz yew. To my sponsors Exit Surf, Xcel, Parsons Surfboards, Pier People clothing and of course my parents hahaha.
During the course of over 20 years running the Gash Gore segment we’ve seen a lot of horrific surfing injuries, and while most come with a certain story of recovery and “I’m back in the water” acknowledgements. We stare in horror at the surfing inflicted injuries, don't wish them on others and rest easy knowing the victim has recovered. And for this latest Skullcandy Gash Gore it all started no different. Mt Maunganui’s larger than life character Travis McCoy had only days earlier returned from another stint in Indo guiding at a Mentawai Surf Camp, when he sent us a message of a horrific head injury, but in true Trav style he was still all smiles. Straight away we replied “Holy crap bro, you’ve definitely won this issues prize, surely you didn’t have to go to such measures? Now get to the hospital and get it sorted.” Well Trav was obviously hurt in a big way, but he went on to ask if we had scored in the same swell, before arriving at the hospital where over the next few hours it became clear that Trav’s life was about to enter a crazy place. Surf injuries seem to haunt Trav and over the last few years he has had more than his fair share, but even in the darkest of times when Trav is forced from the water all that occupies his mind is getting through it so he can score the next swell rolling in, driven by an inner positive vibe. His first major injury occurred at the slab wave of Mullaghmore in Ireland where he face planted the reef lost a major chunk of flesh from his chin, scored a black eye, broken nose and stitches above his eye and came close to breaking his neck. After returning home from Indo he got hit in the back of the head requiring staples to his scalp, then he went back to Indo and chipped his elbow and stripped and blew his ear drum. He then got a board to the back of the head as soon as he was back in the water, and then another injury to his face where he received 22 stitches, so it’s fair to say Trav has been in the wars. “The ear drum injury was the worst, as my ear was blocked with sand, water and blood that I couldn’t relieve the pressure and I was stuck out in the Mentawai Islands with no medical help, I literally had to squeeze my head to stop the pain and I literally passed out, the pressure was so heavy it felt like my head was going to explode, and I passed out with my head on my shoulder, I woke about four hours later and luckily thanks to the way I had fallen to sleep the angle of my head had allowed everything to drain and there was blood all down my shoulder and chest, it was 4AM out on my own out in the Mentawai’s” Trav admits that through all these injuries in such a short period what gutted him the most was the time out of the waves. But were these injuries trying to tell him something? Was there a deeper meaning behind such a run of head injuries? Trav was about to find out! As explained Trav had only been back from Indo for a couple of days, when a thick and chunky swell appeared at his local, along with best mate Alex Dive the two headed out to do some step off’s in the raw swell, and Alex had whipped Trav into a thick nugget before taking off to park the ski on the beach. What he didn’t know was that deep inside that nugget, Trav had been swallowed up and flipped coming down on what he thinks was the fin of his board which gouged deep into his forehead “I just went weightless inside the biggest pit I’ve ever had there, and then it was like someone blind shotted me from around the corner with a baseball bat, when I surfaced I was all pins and needles and the water was full of blood around me and I reached up to touch my head and my hands were covered in blood, I took a couple more waves on the head before being washed in”. Alex parked up on the beach with the ski had no idea what Trav had just done and was waving out all stoked on the heavy wave. But within seconds it all became very clear when Trav arrived removing his hand to ask Alex how bad it was, Alex could see Travis skull and immediately knew if they didn’t get of this beach Trav could bleed out. Trav was getting dizzier by the second and blood was running off his chin no matter how hard he pressed on the wound. But the boys had a rather heavy situation unfolding, here we had Trav in immediate need of medical care and with a huge swell rolling in the ski had been pushed up the beach and was stuck, Trav attempted to help Alex pull the ski out from being bogged in the sand, yet when he pulled blood would run even harder from his wound and already a puddle of blood had formed at his feet. Luckily another one of his good mates Benny Kneebone was also there with their ski and upon being waved in, helped get Trav another ten-minute jet-ski ride back to the boat ramp. After busting from the ramp with only a pair of board shorts pressed on his scalp to stop the bleeding he arrived at Tauranga A&E, Trav was forced to wait half an hour in the waiting room until he was finally seen, upon first inspection the doctor said, “Holy Shit, we can’t fix that up for you, we need to get another doctor in” So Trav was put back out into the waiting room for a further two hour wait. Once the specialist had arrived to tend to Trav’s wound she immediately noticed a serrated line across Travis skull, running from just above his eyebrow to the upper hairline. With such a nasty injury directly to the bone it was decided that Trav should undertake a CT scan to rule out any further injury that could not be seen by the naked eye. At this point Trav was still in good spirits and was already trying to work out how long his recovery would be till he could chase the next swell. And soon after his scan he was all but expecting to be released when doctors came back in to say that as well as the serration marks there were also stress lines on his skull and swelling of the brain, and they couldn’t believe that with an impact so violent Trav had not been knocked unconscious and drowned. But they also came with the news that they’d like to do another scan this time with dye, yet didn’t give anything away as to why, they were just making sure there was no internal bleeding. But when the results from that second scan came back Trav entered into the darkest 24 hours of his life. “The doctor came in and said, “you need to call someone close to you and get them to come in, perhaps your mum or dad” immediately I said, na I’m not calling anyone what is it, and the doc proceeded to tell me they’d found something else completely un-related to the injury, and that they’d found a tumour in the back of my head”. An MRI soon after confirmed the worst and Trav was whisked in to see a neurosurgeon where he was to learn the seriousness of his condition. “The surgeon explained to me the type of tumour I had, and that it was growing from the inside out deep in my brain, in an area that controls my nervous system and
the right side of my body, it was explained that any operation would come with risks of affecting the mobility in the right side of my body. It was suggested that if it wasn’t growing at any alarming rate then just leave it, and with constant monitoring if there was any change then surgery would need to happen. So, the whole thing is really scary, and even if I am to have the operation, they’re not 100% of being able to get it all, which could mean ongoing growth. But I look at it like it could be worse! But it could also be a hell of a lot better!” In the weeks since his diagnosis Trav has searched for peace of mind and reached out to others that have been through life threatening situations such as Matt Scorringe who survived cancer. Hearing first hand from guys like this has armed Trav with a willingness to beat it and try not to let it get him down, with Matty suggesting positivity and a clean diet would do the world of good. While Trav admits he was in a pretty dark place for a solid week, he’s feeling good about it right now, but knows that upon the next scan that could all change. Much reflection on what he has achieved and done in life has gone down, and Trav holds his head high, currently he has no physical or mental side effects, and he has taken upon a new career in Bee Keeping which keeps him busy and hopes it can be a flexible career in the future so that so he can chase waves when they show, and is already focused on planning his next winters getaway. Trav knows the path ahead won’t be all roses but is upbeat and positive “At the end of the day if I have to take a year out of the water to recover, I’ll always have those pictures and videos of me in Indo getting shacked to keep me focused on getting back in the water and thats an incredible driving force. It’s all certainly given me a different outlook on life and I feel proud of what I’ve already done in my life, you know I’ve done a lot of things that most people only dream of doing, and I did that through hard work and staying focused on the prize. I’d go overseas and score the best waves of my life and then come home and knuckle down and work my ass off, saving up every penny so I could get back there and do it again, I didn’t go partying and booze up my money every night of the summer or blow it all on materialistic shit, I put all my resources into chasing crazy waves. And as bad as it sounds, if the doctor was to sit me down and say “Hey you’ve got a year to live” which I am sure he won’t, I can say this even though I’m only 26, the life that I’ve lived so far and the crazy places and the experiences that I’ve had, while at times I’ve had no money and felt I’ve had no long steady career in a specific direction like most people, at least the things I’ve seen and the waves I’ve surfed are the best in the world, and those memories can never be taken away from me. In a crazy way once I was diagnosed and the reality hit me, I thought jeez life’s crazy how things work out, and that was probably why my life had perhaps gone down that path”. Trav’s story since it was made public has been shared by news and surf media throughout the world and the messages of goodwill and support have come flooding in, but while Trav appreciates all the messages he said he only wanted to share his story as a motivational force for others to live for the now “It was cool that people showed a lot of support from my story, but I just hope that the message I am sharing is picked up by those that want to do the things I’ve done, but always find an excuse and put their dreams on the back burner, I’m just hoping that my point gets across, that you don’t always have five years or even ten and if you deep down want to do something now, that if you focus on that you can, stop thinking about it, just find a way to make it happen cause the world and life works in mysterious ways. Those dreams won’t be out there for ever so just grab them by the balls and run with it and the sense of relief from just doing what is simply the best in the world”.
Myka simply blew minds at the National Scholastics finishing second in the U14’s with powerful mature surfing. Photo: Cory
A head split open and massive blood loss still can't contain the smile and stoke of the Trav Meister.
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The channel is hooting and Trav is locked in his happy place, it's moments such as these that will keep Trav focussed and positive to beat his next challenge.