I've always been a massive fan of Warren Hawke's work. I grew up on the stuff. In the '80's there was a NZ surf mag called Free Bird and Warren's photography was prevalent in it. One of the very first surf posters I had on my wall was a Free Bird centrefold of Warren's. It was Mangaumanu at Dawn absolutely firing. In 1992 I nearly bought his old Century 650mm lens, he very kindly sent it up to me from New Brighton. To be honest I was fan boying out, talking to him on the phone and getting the lens sent up for inspection. I desperately wanted to buy it, but upon seeing it I knew it just wasn't the right move.
Warren Hawke's centrefold line up brother...in that Free Bird actually lost the original slide mentioned, this image was from the same roll of film.
We became foes. Not over the lens, over working for competing magazines. For 15 years there was a firm rivalry between us. Actually, I'm going to drop Waz in it here- HE had a rivalry, I was still fan boying out. But I was aware of a reticence, of a reserved demeanour whenever we'd cross tripod legs at surf comps.
But then I left the magazine to start making books. And at a surf comp both Waz and I were shooting, Waz started sowing seeds about this...
Limited stock still available HERE
We made a book together. And we sold a shit ton of them. But the best thing that came out of it was the friendship. In 2016 Waz started making noise about a new book project...
The Collection Vol 1... Wazza's brainchild and new best seller from PhotoCPL Media HERE
I wasn't sold at first pitch. I could see how much work was going to have to go into the collation and generation of the stories and profiles for Waz [and I]. With the publisher hat firmly on, it looked like a book project that would be hard to show the reader what they are getting. My Book Sellers, the people who sell to the mainstream stores loved the idea though. And that's all that was needed to press the go button. It consumed Waz for a year, writing, shooting, wrangling contributors and then overseeing just how all that is presented on the pages.
Being really honest Waz fell into some well known editor traps. He put too much in. He put over 500 images into the 186 page volume. I'm a less is more editor, be ruthless, and let the bangers breathe and be real heroes of the spreads. Waz is more emotional, he loves, lives and breathes the stories behind each image and strives to get in as many different people as possible. I'm the Publisher not the Editor, so it was important that Waz's editorial direction and aesthetic be respected. And in many ways I was wrong, Waz was right, we've sold a shit ton of The Collection Vol 1 . The people have spoken, with their purchases.
The idea with this E-bomb was to share a excerpt in fuller form from The Collection, but the intro has got away on me a bit and turned into its own story. But that's what I like about these posts, there's no hard rules. The Collection included a section called NZ Surf Villages, Piha, Sumner, Muriwai and Waiuku were the surf villages profiled. But later in the book, Wellington, Gizzy, The Coro, BOP and Kaikoura also get their own chapters. Waz did a damn fine job of getting regional diversity.
Here's The Piha Chapter that Waz made me write and shoot, minus the Garry Pike interview and the tale of Baz, you'll have to get the book to read those gems :)
Piha Local James Macapline on his favourite peak
The West coast village just 45 minutes from Downtown Auckland has had more than its fair share of media.
We are infamous for drowning the unwary. The TV dramatisation Piha Rescue did it. It was broadcasted into the nation's living rooms for a staggering 15 years. The show fuelled people's [very logical] fear of rips and high seas. Piha surfers loathed it. Theatrical rescues with lifesavers hamming it up for the camera. But when you explain to someone you're from Piha the general reaction will be "oh you surf THERE! I love Piha Rescue! Wow, that's so dangerous, you must be a great surfer." You find yourself nodding in confirmation "Yeah, you've gotta be careful out there."
Piha is the birthplace of modern NZ surfing.
It is the surf beach that Californians Bing Copeland and Rick Stoner visited and stayed in 1958. The two surfers' had modern Malibu surfboards that were able to cut across a wave face. This blew the minds of local clubbies like Pete Byers, Buddy Cox, Roger Curtis and Murray Bray. Bing recalls the two boards stayed in the water from dawn to dusk that summer. The boards are on show in the rafters of the Piha Surf club to this day.
Pete Byers became one of New Zealand's first surfboard makers. The savvy entrepreneur rented and sold his boards on the beach. Pete built a mould to blow his own blanks. He supplied most of the other NZ surfboard makers and exported blanks to the Aussies. All from little ole Piha.
Piha/Bali resident Nick Ngu Chun well used to being here on the Bar
What of The Surf?
One thing Piha never lacks is waves and sometimes they are even surfable. Piha surfers do surf A LOT, it is often a quantity not quality equitation.
The famous, iconic Piha Bar does not exist. It is an absolute myth. The left hander that peeled from Nun Rock, down Taitomo Island to the shadow of Lion Rock. It has not broken for decades. Folklore would have it that the Bar was there for the 50's to the late 80's. On low tide there was the Bar and on high tide there was the Ditch. I loved the Ditch as a gremmie of the '80's.
Dune Kennings caught his first wave in the Ditch...this is not the Ditch...well maybe outer outer Ditch?
The Ditch doesn't exist either. Man, I miss it. If the Bar was the grown ups' wave, then the Ditch was the spawning ground. In the southern corner of South Piha starting at mid tide a right-hand reform would appear. As the tide moved in the reform would only get better. The bigger the swell, the better it got. It got heavy, it could get up to 6 foot. We had the most perfect surfers' beach. Low tide long lefts and a go-to reform on every high tide, everyday of the year. Surfers' decision to base at Piha was on the assumption that these two go to waves would always be there. The Ditch silted up. It's gone.
The two waves were symbiotic. The Pakiti rip [the south end rip] gouged out the ditch that made the reform. The sand that it gouged out was then deposited on the Bar. There are thousands of theories about our loss. The three I think most probable are these. There is a documented trillion ton sausage of sand silting up the West coast beaches. The once strong South Piha stream that divided South Piha is a trickle. This stream added volume to the Pakiti rip. It has been stifled by water flow redirections in the streets above the bay. The dunes got topped in the late '80's by Bach owners hell bent on creating living room sea views. A view that was never there before. I don't think it is one thing; they all have had their effect.
Dave 'Chicken Legs' Wood... as Piha as you can get
Every so often lefts will form in the general area of Taitomo Island. Taitomo is the island the bookends South Piha and has the famous Keyhole cave running through it. The locals get excited, the Bar is back! Yes, the lefts are created by the Pakiti rip deposits. But these lefts are often only two or three sections, 100-200 metres of ride. It is a far cry from the terrifying lurch and launch of outside Submarine rock. A truly horrible underwater feature just to the outside of the Keyhole. Then the throw of the Beehive section before the link to Pakiti and beyond.
Piha regular Bevan Wiig finding options sans Bar
Years before Pete Byers passed I asked him about the lack of Bar now, and how it was in the halcyon days. He scoffed 'Ahhhhh maaaaate, it has always come and gone. I remember in the late '60's we didn't surf it for years.' I think Mr. Byers was right. The trillions of tons of sand are supposed to move past us on their northern drift. There are cycles within larger cycles.
Present day Piha is far from waveless. In the '80's North Piha was rarely surfed, you had to be selective, wait for the summer banks, wait for tide. Now there are resident surfers that only surf North P. To join the surf schools, the clubbies and general malaise that is the chaos of South is a fail. For a decade at least North P has been where the real surfers go.
Best buddies Elliot Paerata Reid and Dune, paying for playing
The aforementioned siltation has done it. Sometimes banks of an epic scale. Remember that old advert on TV 'Never swim in a calm patch on a surf beach' well that was filmed at North Piha. The advert featured a hole created by a rip that ran from the shore out about 500 metres. Of course waves don't break in deep water, but they do peel along the edge of those holes. And these are our typical banks, not your average beach break A-frame. No, no, no, we get looooong peeling waves that better resemble a point break type length. Piha surfers are good at paddling [in rips], duck diving [in rips] and cutbacks [because of rips]. We don't go for surfs, we go for paddles.
Warren Hawke has his own website called Surfers Wall, check it out HERE