The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Tag: new zealand

Farewell from Raw Paua and the Land Under Down Under.

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Live Dinner and Raw Paua. Photo: Pauline Nobels. Courtesy of Owen James Burke.

As the crew of the good ship Scuttlefish sets sail for new horizons, Raw Paua and I have but a handful of weeks left to spend in this fine South Sea summer. We’re not quite sure where we’ll roam, but it’s safe to say we won’t trudge too far from the sea or her foam.

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Wish You Were Here: Cook Strait, New Zealand

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand in a camper van 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

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

After a good south swell, the waters around Cloudy Bay turn, well, just that. But it’s not the mucky brown silt you find on the Hudson River in New York after a great deluge, but an aqua-blue/green reflected by New Zealand’s nephrite jade, or pounamu as it’s known in the Māori language.

Pretty as it was, this haze kept me from diving, but then my cooler’s not looking to bad these days, and I did find a place to park up for the night with a tidy little wave conveniently breaking around the corner and no takers. Oh, woe is me. . . .

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Wish You Were Here: Endless Rights on Frozen Nights, New Zealand

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

This quiet little cove lights up but a few times every winter, but when it does–provided the sandbar is well-situated–it produces what I won’t hesitate to call a world-class wave, which is why I wouldn’t dare say where it is. That, and despite its size, it can be a deceptively critical wave. A conveyor-belt ebb tide running along the rocks to the right is what holds its 100 yard long perfection; it’s not the swells that threaten to swamp you–they’re generally no bigger than head-high–but the fearsome outgoing tide.

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You can never really see how the surf’s breaking from the top of the hill, but when the bay is this cloudy, it’s a safe bet that you won’t be going spearfishing. Photo: Owen James Burke.

After careering over several icy passes on dirt roads, it didn’t even cross my mind to take the time to watch for rips and unseemly rocks lying under the takeoff zone. I’d gone spearfishing here more times than I could count. Arrogantly, I told myself I knew this bay well enough to paddle out effectively blind–I’d never seen in producing surf.

A more astute human being–and any seasoned surfer–might have taken the twenty minutes to learn this seascape, but when surfing and traveling alone, the voice of reason is wont to escape us.

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Wish You Were Here: The Birthplace of Aotearoa and the Māori People – Hokianga Harbor, New Zealand

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After what is now New Zealand’s discovery, the islands were named ‘Aotearoa’ which means ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’; seen here in the entrance to the Hokianga Harbor from the Tasman Sea. Photo by Carolyn Sotka.

With the ancient Kauri forest shrinking in our rear mirror, my family set off for the west coast of New Zealand with a calm, revered silence from being in the presence of the giant 2000 year old trees. As we slowly lumbered through the woods, thick trees thinned and gave way to rolling hills. A final corner turned and we were met with one of the most magnificent vistas I have ever seen.

Ahead lay the Hokianga Harbor, with bright, golden sand dunes, contrasted against turquoise waters and cliffs peppered with bushes and flowers. Everything about our trip to New Zealand was unexpected, especially this moment. Reminiscent of Big Sur, California with a mix of Vermont and Ireland and pinch of the Swiss Alps in summer, this place was so unique, yet so familiar.

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The Kauri coast leading to the Hokianga Harbor. Photo by Carolyn Sotka.

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This Is How the Ancient Māori of New Zealand Made Fishing Lures

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand in a camper van 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

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Bone (that from human was most prized, especially–naturally–that of an enemy, when at hand), paua shell (or “abalone”) and wood, all bound by woven fibers from the flax plant. The abalone shell would not only add weight to the lure, but provide a reflective flash when retrieved, bearing a striking resemblance to wounded or fleeing baitfish like herring or mullet. At the Kaikoura Museum. Photo: Owen James Burke.

Before Europeans arrived on New Zealand’s shores with metal tools and wares, the native Māori fashioned lures like this one in order to outwit Kahawai, a fish species endemic to the coastal waters of New Zealand and Eastern Australia, also known as the “Australian salmon” for their sensational acrobatics.

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Wish You Were Here: Dropping In at Piha, New Zealand

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand in a camper van 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

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This was one of the smaller, more makable sets of the day. Photo: Owen James Burke.

A brutish, section-y left-hand wall of water comes careening in around this rock mound from the Tasman Sea on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, somehow, seemingly, gaining momentum while tearing its way through rock and sand.

This wave at Piha Beach, outside of Auckland is known–by some, at least–as the nation’s deadliest wave, to which a quick Google query is testament enough. I stayed on shore for this swell–I’ll maintain my excuse that I didn’t have a board at the time–but must admit I felt a little humbled when watching two young boys who couldn’t have been much older than seven or eight paddle out, alone.

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Lessons in Boating: So This Is Why My Father Told Me Never to Buy an Aluminum Boat.

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand in a camper van 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

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Don’t ever buy an aluminum boat with rivets. This is never a good sight, but I must admit it evoked comical imagery from my Disney and Looney Toon-watching days. Word to the wise: A cork or partially chewed gum may work in the cartoons, but it most certainly does not work on an aluminum boat in the Pacific Ocean. Photo: Owen James Burke.

I promised I’d buy myself something classic for my seaward adventures in New Zealand. Something wooden, open-sea-worthy. Timeless. Big sweeping lines with a tall, sheer bow, ready for any swell the South Seas might throw her way. Instead, I ended up with a small, leaky tin boat. I suppose I got what I had coming.

We used to call those “fizzies”, my dad replied when I wrote to report that I’d purchased an old aluminum boat.

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Yes, the entire deck of my poor, neglected skiff doubles as a livewell and petting tank. At least my mussels, abalone and sea urchins can stay fresh. Photo: Owen James Burke.

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Wish You Were Here: Kayaking Through Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand in a camper van 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

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The Cook Strait is a tricky but enchanting body of water. It’s best to get on it early in the morning before the afternoon breeze kicks up. Photo: Owen James Burke.

Find a kayak, shove off the gold sand beach into gin-clear water and weave your way between granite and limestone cliffs. That’s the first thing you have to do when you get to the shores of Abel Tasman National Park. the rest is up to you, but I assure you, there’s no shortage of wonders small or large.

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