This weekend throngs of surfers will make the pilgrimage to the Far North. Lured by the hope of harnessing the massive 7 metre swell that is about to hit. The long lefts of Ahipara will be well patronised. I doubt a single wave will go unriden.
Last Year's Mega Swell
I love Ahipara, Shipwreck Bay, Shippies, Tauroa Point. It has been woven into our surfing culture. Since local butcher Bob Atherton started making boards and surfing the points in the 1950's. Since Andy McAlpine featured the left hand point breaks in his seminal 1960's surf flick 'Children Of The Sun'. Shippies has become a rite of passage.
Shippies in 1993, waaaaay before the interweb told us to be there
It isn't just the lure of having a leg burning 2 kilometre ride. It is the adventure. Camping out around the reef. Testing your wagon's 4x4 abilities. The inevitable sump bump, or worse, exhaust system amputation. Yep, I've done that, it is not a fun drive 4 hours from home.
Jos Kenning as featured in the book PHOTOCPL, taken in 2002...still no interweb
Last month local surfers made national news for vanadlising a surf-camera set up to live stream the Points. I applaud whomever did it. I accept I'm part of the problem, but I sympathise with the locals. The advent on pin point swell forecasting and surf predicting websites has meant Shippies now gets overrun EVERY swell. For the surfers that have chosen to make the Far North their home it just isn't fair.
Malcolm McGregor setting up the next downhill run 2015
Shippies campvibes winter 2015, loo onboard.
There is another problem. It's the amount of surfers freedom camping around the reef. Again, I'm one of them, I love being around the reef, camp-fires, camp-vibes.... LOVE IT!! But here's the distinction, I'm self contained. There are now too many of us camping around the reef for the resource to handle.
Click the logo to link through to NZMCA's self containment explanation
It's our dirty secret, hidden a dune in from the long lefts. Just about everyone shits in the bushes. Human landmines with dunny roll flags adorning their peaks litter the underbrush. These open casual latrines are above where we camp, and surf. When it rains, water runs down through the latrines and pools beside the campsites. Something has to change. We need to change.
I could claim to be leading by example, but that is not my motivation. It is guilt. I don't want to have the finger pointed at me, so for the last 3 years I've been self contained. What I take around the reef I take back home. A 30 litre grey water tank costs as little as $20, a camp toilet costs as little as $50 on Trademe.
Jesse Peters; a regular Shippies visitor
And those local surf cam haters; every spring they organise a voluntary working bee to clean up the reef from Blue House, back to the Bay. Currently they are maintaining and planting more Pohutukawa around the Points. Next week they are meeting to further discuss their role as the custodians of Shippies. An anti surf-cam T-shirt has been made; 50% of the proceeds will go to the local Iwi.
Enjoy your surf, respect the locals, respect the land that makes the waves peel for miles.