We can all agree that 2020 has been a bit funny. New Zealand has been quite lucky and dodged the bullet with a quick strict lockdown back in March. Since then, one minor outbreak of COVID-19 in August has been discovered. Apart from that, life in New Zealand is business as usual without big restrictions.

During Christmas break most of the business close for at least two weeks, and everyone goes away. Vladimir, Maria, Chris, and myself decided to drive down to the South Island for a surf trip. We had no plans where to go and where to stay. Our destinations were driven by the surf forecast (swell + wind). 

Our fist stop was Gisborne. Let’s put it this way, Gizzy never disappoints. Waves were in 2-3ft range, perfect to get back in shape. Before Gizzy none of us surfed for about a month. And yes, in a month you easily lose your paddling fitness. The weather wasn’t bad either, constantly sunny and above 25 degrees celsius. To be honest we didn’t care about the weather at all.

The next stop was catching a ferry to the South Island. In Kaikoura, we scored some 2ft fun waves at Mangamaunu. Bear in mind that the weather in South Island is a bit different. On Christmas Eve, one month into the Southern Hemisphere summer, the temperatures dropped significantly. Classic NZ summer I would say. It dropped to 5-6 degrees celsius overnight, the mountains around Kaikoura got covered in snow. First thing Christmas morning I surprised myself with a new sub-zero sleeping bag, pair of long johns, and few thermal layers.

The surf forecast for Kaikoura turned out to be wrong. A promising 4ft+ size swell never arrived. Therefore, Chris and me headed to Dunedin. Vladimir and Maria followed the day after. I fell in love with Dunedin straight away. A lovely city almost at the bottom of South Island with heaps of surf spots within half an hour range. We stayed in Otago/Catlins area for five nights. We were rewarded with some great surf on some epic white sand beaches. The further South we went, the more our paths were crossing with animals in the water, especially sea lions. They were just everywhere.

Couple days before the New Year we were surfing at Allan’s beach in Dunedin when a sea lion joined us in the lineup. First, he was very playful catching waves with us. After some time, he started circling underneath our boards. I must admit, I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw sea lion jumping around my scared mates with their hands and feet above the sea level. Karma is a b*tch, I guess. When the sea lion started circling underneath my board I wasn’t laughing anymore. He gave my surfboard few punches, and started showing his teeth. Then, I realised it was time to set a new world record in paddling and sprinting. I had few sketchy situations in my short surfing career, but this one is by far the most bizarre

FYI, a sea lion can reach 45km/h in water and 35km/h on land. Typically, sea lions are not aggressive. However, few days later we realised it was pupping season. It makes sense why they were acting so territorial.

After spending New Year in Dunedin and having an awesome surf on the 1st of January first thing in the morning, we headed back to the North Island. In two days we made it back to Taranaki. Taranaki like no other. Period. The land of point breaks around a perfectly cone shaped volcano. A Surf Highway is located around the volcano with narrow roads every 5km leading to farm lands (and surf spots). Occasionally, to get to some good spots you even have to walk along streams to get to the beach. 

After three weeks, 4500km, and 400+ waves we returned back to Auckland. Apart from the last day in Taranaki, the surf was never really big, always less than 4ft sets. However, still very playful and fun. In total we surfed pretty much everyday with some epic sessions everywhere we stopped. Tomorrow, we’re all heading back to work. The struggle is real, but I am already looking forward to my next trips.

Some shots captured by Maria G.