A Surfer, the Ocean and a Dolphin or Two; Deep South of New Zealand by

Journal Notes

Being driven solely by the desire to find great waves and bag myself a solitary ride, the surfer's path often leads me well away from the road most traveled explorations which see me bumping along dirt tracks leading seemingly nowhere. The reward is not always the waves I was dreaming of but it does lead me to discover the spectacular and the secret – places which seldom, if ever, find their way onto the pages of guide books and tourist literature. Very rarely I get to have both – the waves AND the magnificent – like here at Curio Bay in the deep south of New Zealand.

At nights, cozied up in my van, the might of the Southern Ocean crashes onto the headland where I'm camped with a force which literally makes the ground tremble. Nature is raw here – primeval and awe-inspiring. In the calmer, sheltered bay to the north live the Hector's dolphins – both the smallest and rarest marine dolphin on the planet. At sunset the highly endangered yellow-eyed penguins hop ashore and shuffle their way across the remains of a 180 million year old fossilized forest, looking for all the world like little old men in raincoats. If there is anywhere else as richly endowed by nature and overflowing with the spectacular as this then I am yet to find it.

There's plenty in the minus column - the surf here is powerful, heavy, hollow, sometimes terrifyingly enormous and frost-bite freezing. Also, these waters are home to great white sharks and ferocious sea-lions who don't take kindly to territory invaders like me. But in the plus column is something which cancels out all the negatives. Today, as I took off on a wave (which was probably beyond my skill level and with the almost certain knowledge that I would crash and burn) I glanced along the line and learned that sharing the wave with me were three dolphins. Along with many other surfers and all those who spend a good deal of time in the ocean, I have had several dolphin encounters but never have I actually surfed simultaneously with them.
Unlike me, their surfing was effortless and expert – a weaving and elegant dance inside the wave. It must have been only seconds (a split second?) before they leapt in an excited arc out the back of the wave although something about the moment made it hang and hang as if it was....well......outside of time somehow. Ah – so hard.....words are not enough to convey the sensations accurately but actually I don't want to – the moment was mine – some things are not meant to be shared. The dolphins' exit was simultaneous with the moment where I, as expected, took a crashing and icy dunking. I didn't feel a thing.

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