By Seventhwave Team-Rider and Guest Blogger Ambrose McNeill
|The Writer, Photo: CPL www.photocpl.co.nz/|
My adventure started at Christchurch airport. In order to maintain a slender budget for the trip I had decided NOT to take my surfboard (instead borrow a friends) and also to catch a standby flight. For anyone that hasn’t traveled standby before, the idea is that you rock up to the airport half an hour before your planned flight with no ticket and they will sell you an unsold seat for a piece of banana bread and a live chicken or alternatively $69. If you don’t get on your intended flight they put you on the next one. Well, when I arrived at the airport there was a line longer than the tower of terror at Dreamland. Despite being a student myself, I had forgotten to take into account that university started on Monday and every man and his chicken were ditching Christchurch.
By the time I reached the front of the line there were no flights to New Plymouth and all that was left was a lone flight to Palmerston North…
On the plane ride to Palmerston North I frantically tried to colour in the words New Plymouth on an old banana box as this was hopefully going to be my ticket to making it the contest, I had 12 hours. I arrived in Palmerston North at 8.30pm and had a Taxi drop me on the main road out of town. As the sun went down on me and about twenty cars speed past things were looking grim. Just as I was about to call Mumud (the taxi driver who gave me his card) and find a hostel, a wee Toyota sedan pulled over. A middle aged couple said they were going to Wanganui and that I could stay the night with them there and start again in the morning. Although I could hear my mother’s voice telling me never to get into a car with strangers and stay at their house, I went with my sensible conscious and jumped in.
Carmel and her husband Tom were on their way to surprise their daughter and family for their grandsons first birthday. The family had no idea Carmel and Tom were coming to stay, let alone bringing a hitch hiker. After the initial surprise, “why the hell did you bring a hitch hiker to stay mum?” vibe, the Keppa family completely took me under their wing. I had an awesome night talking about the upcoming Super 15 season and being shown magic tricks by 12 year old Josh.
The next morning I set out at 6am. Wanganui to New Plymouth is a two hour drive and I had potential to be in the first heat at 8am. After only waiting fifteen minutes a huge milk tanker halted up in front of me. The truck was bound for Inglewood, about 20 minutes from New Plymouth. The driver, Paul, was a typical kiwi good sort and he filled me on his life as a Dad, the great parts of NZ, rugby picks for the year, and how all the truckies will radio in when they’ve seen a hot chick. We even stopped at a farm to pick up a few thousand litres of milk.
I texted my mate Sam Bound, a local surfer from Taranaki to see if he could pick me up in Inglewood and take me the last leg, “No worries Bro!”. I also texted the contest director Ben Kennings to see the start time of my heat and much to my joy he responded the contest wasn’t starting till 9.30. Yew!
Sam and I arrived at the contest at 9.30am and I had 2 hours until my heat. Mission accomplished.
|Ambrose McNeill in the first heat of the Open division Photo: Guy Rencher|
Hanging out in-between the heats is often the best part of going to contests. Surfing is such a cool way to connect with people and I’ve made a bunch of rad friends from going to these events.
It’s fun just hanging out with everyone and lying about all the perfect barrels each of our home breaks has had in the last few weeks.
Hyundai sets up a massive covered deck with couches and umbrellas which is all really flash. I think it’s really for the corporate sponsors but the surfers always invade it and claim it as their fortress. There’s always a mean barby making burgers and sausages which is the perfect pre-comp meal for any good athlete.
At the end of the day I surfed my quarter final narrowly getting 3rd so was knocked out of the event. Despite the bumpy little waves there was some awesome surfing going on in all division in the early rounds.
On day 2 of the event the action really started to heat up, as did the sausages. The surf had cleaned up again and the sun was blazing and stayed like that all day. I got to surf in the ‘log’ division where surfers have to ride traditional heavily weighted single fin boards. The division is pretty much a free for all, the contestants are all sent out at once for half an hour and places are determined by who stood out for that whole session.
|Moti Proctor, a true legend Photo: CPL www.photocpl.co.nz/|
Prize giving was wrapped up and then that was it. I said good-bye to all my North Island buddies and then hopped in a strangers car (nah, just jokes, thanks Brian and Branko) to Auckland were I got the last standby flight home to Christchurch.
Thanks to the Keppa family, Mumud, Paul the milk truck man, Ant McColl, Sam Bound, Brain Western and Branko, Mickey T and everyone else for all helping me out on the trip! You’re all rad.
A full list of results from the event can be seen at
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