The Piha Journal, reloaded: - 2014/01/30 16:09"Waves are not measured in feet and inches but in increments of fear"
The Journey Continues, Summer 1966 ... Summer 2014
It was decided to pile everyone into 2 taxi's tie all our boards onto the roofs with rope and drive over the hills to the tiny west coast beach of Piha.
Piha is a large bay bounded by Lion & Elephant Rocks, like bookends. It was a tiny, black sand, beach town, with beach rentals or "Batches" as they call them, a couple of shops and a "movie theatre" that only opened on summer holidays. We arrived early evening and were amazed to find it still bright daylight at 8 PM. We left out belongings on the sand and most of us went surfing in a clean, chest high beach break. Others rented a couple of Batches, which we agreed to share and we all moved in.
We stayed in Piha for a memorable couple of weeks, surfing every day, collecting giant mussels from the rocks at low tide (there is huge tidal difference in NZ waters) boiling them in a trash can and having a feast of bread butter, mussels and ketchup. On weekends there were "Toga" parties to raid over in a beach Guest House. It was during this time Stuart Adams from the Gold Coast was filmed surfing by a tire company for a TV commercial (we later saw it every night) and we hit some of the biggest surf I have ever seen!
A pacific cyclone in the Tasman Sea was producing giant surf, added to the fact that NZ (being volcanic) has little continental shelf and has a huge tidal difference so we had to wait for high tide, to even think about trying to get out.
After high tide we watched from the shore and waited half an hour for a lull before we made it out through the mass of white water. We picked off a couple of the smaller (cleaner) but still overhead peaks that did not totally wall out, when we looked out to sea and saw mountains marching in; feathering on an outside reef, in deep water, a mile out ...
What to do ... too far out to paddle in past the impact zone ... not far out to make it over the top ... I looked at Robbie as we frantically scratched for the horizon and said "I'm going to take off on the first wave and prone out." "Yeah me too" he said.
As the first mountain walled up we both spun around ... and took off. I made the drop ... shot way out in front of the wave ... then proned out, lying way back by the tail holding on with a death grip ... took the concussion and bounced, slapped and skipped engulfed in white water all the way to the shore.
Robbie Acton also made it, but Stu Adams kept paddling out to sea .... finally he took off on a monster ... must have been 20 feet. He made the drop and turn, then just got wasted ... (we looked around for help none he was on his own) took him an hour to swim in ... got swept down the beach and just collapsed on the sand, his board washed up over a mile away.
Note: this was the era of heavy 9' to 10' logs and no leashes!
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Re:The Piha Journal, reloaded: - 2014/02/23 12:59"Piha on Auckland's wild west coast has been judged the country's most dangerous beach, based on the number of rescues carried out by lifeguards there.
Since 2000 there have been 1416 rescues performed at the beach, which is famed for its pounding surf, treacherous rips – and in recent years for its starring role in the reality TV show Piha Rescue.
The latest 2013 figures were released to the Sunday Star-Times by the Surf Life Saving Clubs of New Zealand."