Two posts in one night! What can I say — I guess I’m making up for lost wifi time.
After a day visiting the hot-water beach at Coromandel (which I really think they need to consider re-naming the “lukewarm water beach”) and Cathedral Cove and a night in a campground at Hahei, my Stray bus headed on Thursday to Raglan. I am going to try to point out for you, now, a few reasons why Raglan is incontestably awesome. Ready?
1) There is one main street and it’s all little cafes, surf shops, and weird recycled art. Think Sebastopol without the need for stuffy social conventions like shoes.
2) It has one of the best “left-handed breaks” in the world. Do I know what that means? Come on — of course not. Something to do with surfing. But dammit, doesn’t it just sound cool?
3) Ben Harper and Jack Johnson apparently both have houses there. A thorough combination of jogging and stalking around Raglan’s hilly, green neighborhood streets yesterday yielded no real proof, but hey.
4) Raglan is so laid-back that they don’t even judge someone as monumentally klutzy as yours truly if they want to try surfing. True story: I tried surfing. Twice.
This is my borrowed surfboard. I should have turned it over so you’d be able to see that its top is covered in soft orange foam, the better to protect my head each time the board ends up thwacking down on it. But, what can I say — I was trying to casually snap this picture off as if there were already tons of photo evidence of moving objects I’d succeeded in standing up on.
The Stray bus was stopping in Raglan for one night, but luckily I’d met an awesome girl on the bus from Auckland to Coromandel who was also interested in staying in Raglan for a few extra days. We went into town one day, booked beds at a sweet hostel right off the main street (where there was everything from a mini-sauna, to a collection of surf DVDs, to a friendly visiting hair dresser I paid $30 NZ to chop off my ocean-addled split ends in the communal bathroom), and decided we’d stay a while and work on our surfing skills. My new friend’s were already somewhat developed; mine were only slightly less shaky than you might expect after one two-hour lesson the day before. But despite a lack of general knowledge, Raglan Backpackers was good enough to rent us boards, wetsuits, and toss us the keys to a beat-up old station wagon to take down to the beach with a few other guests.
So this is where we surfed. Now, when I say “surfed,” don’t bother picturing me carving up some nasty waves on my sweet orange foam board. Instead, picture me holding the thing like a huge kick-board, venturing out only into shoulder-deep water, and patiently bobbing around waiting for waves that fit both my skill and confidence levels. See those little waves about 50 feet from the water line? In the places where real waves come to die? Those are my waves. I wait patiently for them and they, in turn, propel me out to the beach and occasionally allow me to stand up without tripping over my own knees or wrists or ankle leash. More often they toss me around and force salt water up my nose. But still, not a bad trade-off during the brief times when I’m actually able to stand up for a few seconds.
As bad as I still am at “surfing” after two days, and as hesitant as I would even be to remove those quotation marks given how I probably look out there on the ocean, I have to say that surfing is pretty damn cool. I mean, think about it: you get out there and you wait for a wave. If it looks good, you just start paddling and hope you can catch it without getting too beat up. Maybe you tackle it successfully or maybe it knocks you over and pulls you down under the ocean until you’re gasping and flailing and finally coughing up what feels like half of the South Pacific. But then you just reel the board back in and trot right back out to try it again, because you just know you can do better on the next try. How cool is that?
This morning, sadly, it was time to leave Raglan and keep heading south. But I’m fairly certain the town merits a return visit, another attempt at surfing and, with any luck, a little less water up the nose.