Today we were on route to Westport, a small town on the West coast (as the name suggests). Having throughly enjoyed my first experience of surfing in Australia, I had decided to sign up to surf at Tauranga Bay, which was a short drive from our stopover.
Surprisingly, there were only two of us from the bus signed up for surfing, so when we reached the coast, me and Joe went off to the surf place whilst the rest of the bus went on a walk. Joe was a bespectacled chap with an extraordinarily bushy beard, nothing like the useless bristles I was sporting. I swear most of my thoughts whilst on the road were ‘Where can I get food?’ and ‘I should probably shave, I look like I live in a bush and feast on passing rats.
As we walked to the surf place, it came into view, and I realised it was not a surf place, it was a surf van. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but my original thoughts had revolved around a form of architecture that didn’t have wheels. I was intrigued.
We were then introduced to Mark, our instructor for the afternoon. In a word, Mark was gnarly. He looked gnarly, talked gnarly, and when I learned about his past, he was indeed, gnarly. His face looked like he had spent his life in the sea, with a gruff Kiwi accent and bronzed skin from many days in the sun. He also knew his shit.
If you’re reading this online (which you obviously are because I haven’t put anything into print), here’s a link to some footage of Mark and Tauranga Bay. Starts at 5:00.
I later learned he had travelled the world as a pro surfer, spending eight years seeking out the best waves in the world before finally settling for the regular surf at Tauranga. He told me tales of how he had been to Hawaii, where the waves were so strong even the pros were wearing helmets – you know it’s bad when the pros are wearing helmets. I asked him if he had surfed all his life – ‘Nah, only since I was 16’ he replied, as if he had recently picked up the sport like picking up a pint of milk.
The surf proved to be a bit tougher than when I was in Australia, and before long I was absolutely knackered. Strong waves are a problem for me because I am 90% skin and bones with assorted organs thrown in for a laugh. However, Mark’s instruction was incredibly useful, and I spent a fair bit of the afternoon actually on the board and surfing the breakers in. I like to think you have to fight the elements to to earn the right to join them for the ride back to shore.
I arrived back at our accommodation to a hive of activity. People were everywhere, cooking, socialising, and just generally bustling about. All I wanted was a shower, some food and a sit down. I had a shower (sand needs to get back in the sea), and then luckily a friendly German guy called Mathias let me have a share in what he was cooking. I can’t quite remember what it was, but it was delicious, and I am very grateful.
Before long, most people were in bed. I expected the nights to be much later at hostels, but it seems travelling, as fun as it is, can tire out everyone, from the quietest introvert to the most outgoing extrovert and everyone in-between.