Thursday, May 7, 2009

East Coast Mission

Jake feeling the  drive of the Nugget.

After a week of all-time Kirra barrels, I finally managed to drag my tired bones back to New Zealand for some much needed R&R with my surrogate family.  

Perched high above the sandstone cliffs of Maori Bay on the northwest coast of the north island, Jake and Sandy's cottage has been a favorite resting stop of mine for years.  The exposed west coast beaches and bays are seldom flat, but finding the ideal conditions of wind, swell, tide, and sand can test your patience at times.  

Always the armchair swell forecaster, Jake had been tracking a developing low-pressure system off the east coast of the north island for a few days.  My arrival back to the "Zee" was timing up perfectly with a sizable storm on the east coast and favorable tide and wind conditions -  a lull in the work week for Jake was the necessary catalyst warranting a mid-week mission to Mangahwai Heads, on the east coast of the north island.

All road trips need good a crew.   This particular early morning it was the carpentry team of Jake, Matt and Townie, all playing hooky for the day, plus myself, the career truant, fumbling in the dark to strap down a forward-riding bogan stack of surfboards to the roof of Jakes CRiV.

The 90km drive from Muriwai to Mangawhai cuts across the rolling, pock-marked interior of the north island.  Honing his skills on the icy bus routes of Aspen , Jake was the designated pilot for this voyage.  A veteran of Jakes precise, sometimes heart-stopping driving, I logged zzz's as we crossed the country, but Townie was ready to spew by the time we reached the other side, soft Pommie that he is.  

This swell was adding up nicely on paper, but the east coast can be a fickle beast.  Even with all the elements in place you can never be sure of what awaits you until pulling up to the car-park. And this morning, as we spilled out of the thick-aired CRiV, sleep still in our eyes, was not to be.  

The oftentimes perfect sandbar created by the rivermouth at Mangawhai heads looked as if somebody had sprinkled a boatload of TNT the length of it, dicing the wave into a myriad of incoherent peaks.  The swell was pushing in as forecasted, the wind was fanning light offshore, the tide was just low enough and on the rise - the only thing missing a consistent sea-floor topography in the shape of a triangle.  

So you take what you can get.  We had a fun session at the bar, and found a playful right-hand peak breaking back into the channel.  At least the water was warm, with the sun was making it's standard kiwi cameo appearance, and it beats working for the day.  

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