SHOOT OUT AT THE FARM

MAN VS MA­CHINE VS OCEAN

New Zealand Surfing - - Shoot out at the farm - Words and Im­ages by Cory

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.

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