Rid­ing high

Dai Hen­wood, co­me­dian and host of Three’s Fam­ily Feud, grew up spend­ing sum­mer hol­i­days camp­ing with his par­ents, Ray and Carolyn, in Piha. He’s pic­tured aged 6 in 1984, on a Chips bike he got for Christ­mas.

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“I’m a Welling­ton boy, but ev­ery sin­gle sum­mer – from be­fore I was less than 1 – we would drive all the way up to Piha to camp. My par­ents used to do a lit­tle theatre show that went from camp­ground to camp­ground. They’d done it at the north Piha camp­ground and they fell in love with the place. So they started hol­i­day­ing there in a lit­tle pop-up-top-car­a­van-type sit­u­a­tion. We’d get up there be­fore Christ­mas ev­ery year, then we’d have Christ­mas and our full sum­mer hol­i­day there for about a month and a half. I’m an only child so it was such an amaz­ing com­mu­nity, ‘cos I’d have my best friend from Welling­ton and his par­ents, who were my par­ents’ best friends, they’d come up and they’d camp there as well, as well as my aun­ties and un­cles and cousins.

My mum’s best friend lived just up the road, and they had a kid ba­si­cally at ex­actly the same time as me, just a month apart. So we sort of grew up to­gether like brothers – in shared child­care, went to the same schools. I’ve al­ways been a re­ally so­cial per­son. I was very much the same per­son as I am now as a kid. In fact, the only dif­fer­ence be­tween me at 12 and me now is like, 5kg. I was the same height and the same size as when I was 12 years old. I was enor­mous! And then ev­ery­one else kept grow­ing.

That bike, wow, that was a big thing for me. It was the first proper bike I’d had. Be­cause we were in a camp­ground you could just bike round, and of course there were older kids who were waaay bet­ter on bikes than I was. I’d sort of trail around be­hind them.

The cam­per which looks like a green tri­an­gle – that’s the one we used to stay in. Over the years the awn­ings got big­ger and we just tagged on bits and bobs.

For me, it re­ally sparks that vivid im­age of the end­less sum­mer – swim­ming all day, bik­ing around, not a care in the world. What was a month seemed to feel like a whole year. It was some­thing I looked for­ward to all year: go­ing up to Piha.

We ended up get­ting a house out there and I still go there all the time. Piha’s just be­come this iconic place in my mind. Now I’ve got a 4-year-old who’s do­ing the ex­act same thing on a bike. He can’t quite ride it yet, but hope­fully this sum­mer I’ll be able to get a photo of him go­ing round that same camp­ground.


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