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Searching for Groundswell
A New Zealand Surfer’s Road Trip
‘Surfing’s the source. It’ll change your life, swear to God.’ Point Break film, 1991'
In ‘Searching for Groundswell: A New Zealand Surfer’s Road Trip’, Kiwi surfer, Paul Hersey, sets out to find the country’s most iconic waves and secret surf breaks. Along the 15,000 kilometres of New Zealand’s coastline, from his surfing roots in Northland, right through to the freezing waters of Dunedin, and finding the hidden beaches in different parts of the South Island, Paul discovers what makes New Zealand surfing so special by meeting the original surf-bums and the best new young riders on his way and their shared quest for finding that moment that puts everything into perspective.
While he finds that the thrill of catching a wave hasn’t changed, Paul reflects on how the surfing scene has developed, no longer about sleepy surf communities, but a growing mainstream culture with commercialized resorts and malls, complete with the clothing, music and attitude. Computer-generated swell maps, buoy readings, better boards all revolutionise the quest for good surf. And with this, the ocean has transformed into a cultural melting pot – with the lawyer next to the student, the policeman next to the gang member. Yet the surf still remains a spiritual and physical baptism for all who paddle out into it.
Paul also reminds us that New Zealand is an international surf destination and we need to take ownership of our seas and coastlines, pointing out that New Zealand is still far behind Australia in its surf reserve conservation. And although Paul does not sit on his greenie high-horse, he does acknowledge the need for us to protect our important coastlines, as well as our national land reserves – where inconsistent water quality, overcrowding and marinas potentially threatening to take the place of important surf breaks are major issues.
Paul writes about those experiences that still make us tingle – catching that barrel, finding a new break, the feeling of total immersion on a first duck dive in the water. ‘Sometimes we become so focused on catching the next wave that we forget about the bigger picture. Some days we need to be reminded how bloody lucky we are.’ And ultimately Searching for Groundswell reminds us that some of the best surf spots in the world are right on our doorstep.
The author: Paul Hersey has surfed, climbed, mountain-biked, or otherwise explored his way through most corners of New Zealand and many destinations overseas. He has chased waves in Indonesia, Hawaii, Australia and Europe, but vows his best surfing experiences are always found in Aotearoa. He is the author of two books about climbing, Where the Mountains Throw their Dice and High Misadventure published by New Holland. He writes articles for North and South, Wilderness and Climber magazines. Paul lives with his wife in Christchurch.
Paul’s road trip includes: Dunedin, Catlins, West Coast, Christchurch, Kaikoura, Taranaki, Raglan, Bay of Plenty, East Cape, Gisborne, Auckland and Northland.
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