Pulling aside the curtain in the van, Newcastle surfer Michael Spencer peers out at offshore whipped A-frames detonating along a deserted New Zealand beachbreak. “Farrrk, it’s pumping,” he says, almost regretfully.
It looks cold, it is cold and Michael knows that pile of sandy neoprene in the bucket is gonna be a real bitch to pull on. “It’s pumping?” asks fellow Newcastle pro, Ryan Callinan, flashing around in his bed as if he’d lay awake all night waiting for the report. Even if they wanted to, they can’t stay in their doonas now.
You smell it before you see it. “Kookookoo,” yells Kiwi Pro, Rangi Ormond, runing down the hill with a tray of fresh brewed coffees. The trio (Michael Spencer, Ryan Callinan and filmer, Nicholas Damen) withdraw their hands from their armpits to grasp the cups, leeching from its warmth. They’re halfway through an epic New Zealand adventure and surviving themselves by a simple routine. “One coffee then a surf, another coffee after lunch then a surf, and then soup on the gas stove in the van in the arvos,” says Michael.
For the two Australian surfers, the trip to New Zealand was as much about indulging their curiosity as surfing. And they got both.
“The scenery is the best in world, there are so many tucked away beaches and coastlines, headlands, little islands just off the coast. You’re driving alongside a windy river and then it turns into a big grass hill. There are houses and shacks on the beaches with chimneys and smoke coming out, livestock overlooking the beach,” says Michael.
They were joined by local Rangi Ormond for the journey as well as filmer Nicholas Damen. In ten days they surfed obvious spots like Raglan, but dozens of other equally cooking beachies, wedges and points, mostly with no more than a handful of people. Better yet, at 200 bucks a pop for the RV, and flights, petrol and food on top of that, the trip came in well on the budget side of surf trave. You could do it cheaper, says Michael (600 bucks all up, he reckons).
“It’s spontaneous and a bit different. Everyone’s done Indo,” he says.
But jamming four men into a van also brings the potential of conflict, though Michael was confident their crew would be able to work through anything that came up. “We’re all easy going guys. That made things a lot easier. If you had beef – at all – you’d have to hash it out. It was tight and crampy,” he says. Whatever ill feeling did build up, a good flush of adrenaline and caffeine was enough to stop it fermenting.
“They’re really passionate about their coffee. They grow their own beans, brew them well, even side of the road joints. We never had a bad coffee. Coffee then surf, everyday!” says Michael. - Jed Smith