Wish You Were Here: Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand

by Owen James Burke

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand, living in a house truck with a camera, surfboard and speargun in search of stories, waves and fish. We’re putting together a waterperson’s guide to the island nation, but meanwhile, we’ll be publishing stories and photographs, short updates along the way from the Yankee in Kiwiland. -CD


Photo: Owen James Burke. 

At Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki, on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island, heavily eroded limestone rocks are battered by relentless Southern Ocean swells during wintertime, resulting in these otherworldly formations and a series of “blowholes” where waves pass through caves and jut up like, well, this:


Surfers visiting this coast, needless to say, will find themselves ecstatic, if not a little lonely. If you do decide to surf here alone, make sure to be in shape. Sudden swells and currents in the Tasman Sea can be unforgiving. Photo: Owen James Burke.

On a bright enough day, the spray from the waves generates a rainbow, and sometimes if you’re lucky, the illustrious “double rainbow.” One was enough for me, but you can see the faint hint of a second in the photograph above (top left).


And as the spray settles, the colorful crescent vanishes. The cresting wave (center right) is completely surfable, by the way–provided you can avoid the shallow, jagged shore-break on the inside, which will turn you into mince meat. Photo: Owen James Burke.

As for the adventures of Raw Paua, my new swell-chaser-on-wheels, she’s undergoing some technical difficulties due to a couple of minor electrical mishaps and a few oppressively cold nights (it’s winter here), we’re laid up for a few days. More on that to come! –OJB

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