SHOOT OUT AT THE FARM
MAN VS MACHINE VS OCEAN
There once existed a quiet quintessential seaside settlement nestled in the Bay Of Plenty and while the staple diet of mushy beach break waves kept the majority of the local population happy, there was a group of those ‘in the know’ who whenever there was the right swell simply vanished?
It was assumed that these core locals had ventured further south or north to escape the crowds. Yet in the early hours of the darkness this guarded group of pioneers had simply slipped off over the nearby harbour by means of paddling or in clapped out old wooden dinghies to somewhere extraordinary.
While other surfers from up and down the nearby coastline were getting their fill on facey wally waves, this clandestine group were revelling in thumping hollow tubes just a few kilometres away. This arena provided many of our early elite surfers such as Alan Byrne, Kevin Jarret and Paul Bennet, the ultimate testing ground to push their surfing and board designs of the time in waves that rivalled the best beach break tubes in the world.
‘Word of mouth’ is a powerful thing and over the years each best friend brought their best friend and so on, and the popularity of this wave began to grow, and it was even published in overseas magazines, its identity and location protected from the masses given its named alias as ‘Puni’s Farm’.
Fast forward 45 years or so, that local regional population which once sat at 40,000 has now exploded to a whopping 150,000 with the influx of many residents all now hooked on surfing also wanting a piece of Farm action when it fires.
These days weather information is at the fingertips of all, there are even apps that tell you when the weather stars along a certain spot will be firing so every man and his dog knows when it's ‘on’ and every man and his dog was there!
LOCAL SURFER CLINT REID SPENDS MORE TIME HERE THAN ANY OTHER, AND HE ALSO HAS A RARE SKILL THAT SEES HIM GET BARRELLED EVEN WHEN CONDITIONS ARE LIKE THIS, MAGIC HAPPENS! SPEED LINING FROM WAAAAY BACK AND BLOWN OUT!
THE FIRST BOAT TO GO WAS THE APTLY NAMED“YELLOW SUBMARINE” WHICH SUN K IMMEDIATELY WITH ONLY THE NOSE VISIBLE, BOBBING MID LINE-UP
We arrived at the local boat ramp in the dark at 5AM just as those early surfers would have done; instead of being able to slip away undetected we shared the carpark with at least 40 other groups with their vessels in tow, ranging from the classic tinny, to the latest model jetski and 30 foot trailer boats. While many familiar faces of regulars pulled up, so did the faces of many visiting surfers from far and wide. Surfing is a truly global sport and we all love to travel and experience new breaks surrounding our own country’s coastlines, so although there were a few grumbles heard about who was here and from where, most needed to remember that when their local coastline does not provide their needs, they too will travel to the very breaks of these other visiting surfers.
By first light the golden glow of the East Coast sunrise began to unveil a rather unruly line-up packed shoulder to shoulder with around 200 surfers with their sixty odd vessels anchored up just beyond the breaking waves. It was a tough line-up to figure out and the increase in wind strength to a stiff offshore was welcome, grooming the line-up into stacked liquid peaks, all standing up before heading out onto shallow sand bars and grinding to the beach.
To be honest it was all a bit of a circus, but somehow, in amongst this mayhem the un-written rules of surfing kept the line-up spinning in harmony. But deep down ‘The Farm’ wasn’t happy! And with a swell that was always forecast to keep building and the tide dropping, it was not as if these boats anchored out back were in a safe place, but at what time would The Farm have her say and self-regulate the crowd.
As an outside set, stacked to the horizon, stood up and broke all the way from the outside harbour marker. The first boat to go was the aptly named “Yellow Submarine” which sunk immediately with only the nose visible, bobbing mid line-up. On the next set another three vessels turned upside down, and the those occupying the lineup scrambled to get those boats not taken out to safety or pulling pin on the session all together, this had the positive of spreading the crowd out somewhat. One boat had completely disappeared and was deemed lost to the bottom of the ocean however it was reportedly found later that afternoon floating 30 k out at sea filled with surfboards. The Farm now seemed happy, and she began to pump off her tits for the next few hours.
I MICHAEL WHEELER RELISHING IN A SURFERS DAY OFF COURTESY OF HIS BOSS' S UNDERSTANDING OF RARE DAYS LIKE THIS
With random peaks drawn in across the outer sand bars swinging this way then that before breaking, a session at the Farm always provides plenty of opportunities to view perfect waves just out of reach and far less waves in your zone. But more often than not you see that wave in the distance and you’d give anything to be on that thing!
Well since the days of jet skis, catching those said waves are entirely possible. The only issue here is once a line-up has become occupied with paddling surfers it is considered disrespectful to blaze a ski through the line-up and it’s illegal. But on those days when it’s either unruly or big and paddle surfers do not want a bar of it or you simply get to score a very rare session with no one else out, then by utilising the power and speed of the jet unit you can position and catch these things and get kegged off your head. Now we are not talking tow surfing here, but simply stepping off the side of the ski with an extra bit of speed than you would have paddling and ‘nek minute’ you have just caught the wave you would have simply been looking at if you were paddling.
BUCK WOODS I S ORIGINALLY FROM WAINUI GISBORNE SO HE GREW UP I N HOLLOW BEACH BREAKS, AND WHILE HE NAILED SOME EPIC PADDLE I N WAVES THIS SESSION WITH THE HELP OF THE MACHINE HIS VISION WENT NEXT LEVEL.
With those present all agreeing on doing some step offs a little further up the beach, several surfers teamed up on one ski taking turns, using the machine to catch waves and then swapping over with the next in line and going back to paddling down the beach further. What went down over those next few hours simply blew the minds of those being spat out of these gaping pits and also those on the beach looking on. While there were some epic tube rides going down by the paddle crew further south, the pits that the guys using the skis were next level business and truly epic to see. While ‘The Farm’ found her place in the surfing world ridden by that crew of secretive single fin riding nomads, she obviously respects the evolution of how one could choose to ride her gems, otherwise she’d have spoken with a swift slap of liquid. And to be honest, while the soul surfer would probably turn in their grave at the thought of man giving way to machine, there is no doubt those surfers of the past that pioneered this place didn’t once wish they could have whipped down the beach and caught that last wave.
Authors note: Just remember there are rules and regulations that surround the use of waterborne vessels, and while these surfers caught some of these waves on this day utilising the technology of a machine, they also spent most of the day scoring some amazing waves the old-fashioned way, and only took to the skis once the line-up had cleared.