Experience: Surf Boarder
Regions: Otago, Catlins, Foveaux Strait
Interview Location: Curio Bay, NZ
Interview Date: 10 January 2016
Post Date: 11 November 2017; Copyright © 2017 Nick Smart and Steve Crawford
1. EXPERIENCE IN AOTEAROA/NZ COASTAL ENVIRONMENTS
CRAWFORD: Ok, Nick - what year were you born?
CRAWFORD: And where were you born?
CRAWFORD: What was your first significant exposure to New Zealand coastal waters? Roughly how old were you?
SMART: Oh, probably three or four years old.
CRAWFORD: Growing up in a coastal community, did your family have property on the water, or did you make regular trips to the beach?
SMART: I grew up in Timaru, but my grandparents owned a farm at Kaka Point, just north of Nugget Point. The farm was only a kilometre from the ocean. So yeah, every nice day I was off down to the beach.
CRAWFORD: Did you also spend time around coastal waters up at Timaru, when you were growing up?
SMART: Both. Maybe 70-30.
CRAWFORD: 70% Timaru, 30% Kaka Point?
CRAWFORD: From your first days then, as a supervised kid, you'd be playing on the beach? You’d be swimming in the surf?
SMART: Swimming, yeah. Bodyboarding. Just in the ocean.
CRAWFORD: Did you ever do any boating?
SMART: Not at that stage of my life. It wasn’t until I was maybe 12 or 13 did I do a bit of sailing.
CRAWFORD: Ok. Still as a younger kid, would your ocean time have been mostly in the summer?
SMART: Yeah. All of the school holidays, we would spend at my grandparents' farm at Kaka Point. Three months a year.
CRAWFORD: My wife and I were just at Kaka Point today. That’s a beautiful beach, right there at the Surf Life Saving clubhouse. Is that where you would have been spending your time when you were at Kaka Point?
SMART: Yeah, that’s where my Father met my Mother.
SMART: Yeah. He was a life guard.
CRAWFORD: With Surf Life Saving?
SMART: At Kaka Point, yeah.
CRAWFORD: That’s important to know actually, because your parents, well at least your Dad would have been an extremely good swimmer. He would have been very knowledgeable about the ocean, and coastal waters. Not just in terms of the tide and the waves and winds, but also in terms of the life that exists in there.
CRAWFORD: Did you take swimming lessons?
SMART: Yeah. We all took swimming lessons. And we learned swimming lessons at school in New Zealand anyway. In the early days in New Zealand, all the schools had a pool.
CRAWFORD: What's the first significant new coastal thing that you started doing as a kid, other than swimming?
SMART: Once I got to about 14 years old, I started surfing. And once I was about 15, 16 then I said "Look, let’s go back down to my family’s area in the Catlins, and we’ll start looking for surf."
CRAWFORD: So, when surfing took hold, that was going to be a natural break point in your history?
SMART: Oh, very much.
CRAWFORD: At the age of 14, 15 - were you still at that 70-30 split between Timaru and Kaka Point?
SMART: Yep. All my life it’s pretty much been like that. Until I moved down here [Porpoise Bay] to start my business 15 years ago.
CRAWFORD: When you got exposed to surfing, was it just a kid thing, for fun?
SMART: Yeah. My friends were doing it. It was a cool thing to do, so I just tagged along for the ride. And then I just enjoyed it a lot.
CRAWFORD: When you’re talking about doing something for the sake of enjoyment - of the time that you spent around the water, how much of your time would boarding have taken up?
SMART: A lot. Afternoons, weekends, holidays. We used to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning, and bike down to the beach, surf, and the we'd get on our bikes, and bike to school and be there at 8:30.
CRAWFORD: You’d go surfing before school?
SMART: Yeah, we used to.
CRAWFORD: So, you'd be surfing around what 5-6 o'clock in the morning - just after dawn?
SMART: Yeah. It's light here around 5 o'clock, in the summer anyway.
CRAWFORD: Right. This was obviously a big part of your life from an early age.
CRAWFORD: Was there a period of time when it was for fun, and then it switched into being competitive? Anything like that?
SMART: No, no. I’ve never been a competitive surfer. I’ve done a few contests in my earlier years, but I don’t really like contests. I’m a free surfer.
CRAWFORD: Alright. You were at the age of 14-15 when you started your passion with surfing. But you weren’t quite at the age when you were mobile on your own yet, so where were you surf mostly?
SMART: In Timaru.
CRAWFORD: Close proximity to Timaru, and close proximity to Kaka Point?
CRAWFORD: What was the stage when you started to spread your wings - travelling elsewhere to surf?
SMART: Soon as I bought a car. Soon as I got a job. 17 years old.
CRAWFORD: Still in school with a part-time job?
SMART: I left school just after 16. And then I worked a bit of part-time, bit of this and a bit of that.
CRAWFORD: When you were working, roughly how many days a week would you be surfing?
SMART: Every day I could. [laughs]
CRAWFORD: Yeah, ok. I’ve heard similar kinds of stories from avid boarders in this country.
SMART: Yeah. Every day there’s waves breaking, we’ll be out there.
CRAWFORD: Once you had access to your own vehicle, tell me about the surfing places you started to explore.
SMART: Well, I’d already been in Dunedin quite a bit, through friends and that. But once I had my car, then we started coming down and spending more time around Kaka Point. And because the family’s got the farm there, we always had somewhere to stay.
SMART: And north and south of Kaka Point, there’s lots of good surf.
CRAWFORD: You said you that you had been up to Dunedin before with friends?
SMART: Yes. Well, we used to go down from Timaru - but it wasn’t just Dunedin. We would come down to Dunedin - quite often there’d be surf contests there. When we were young, we’d go down and there’d be contests and have a bit of a party and things like that.
CRAWFORD: When you were surfing around the Otago Peninsula region, what kinds of places were you surfing?
CRAWFORD: Did you surf on the outer part of the peninsula as well? Some of the beaches?
SMART: Yeah. Still do now.
CRAWFORD: Ok. That take us into when you’re mobile - let’s say 17-ish. When do you add a new dimension, at what age?
SMART: When I was about 19-20 years old, I started travelling abroad. I spent about 15 years living in Indonesia. 1989, I think - to 2002, I lived in Indonesia 6 months per year.
CRAWFORD: And then back here 6 months? I'm guessing for the summer here? Indonesia during the winter months?
CRAWFORD: Generally, what kinds of things just were you doing in Indonesia?
SMART: Was always surfing, yeah. For 15 years.
CRAWFORD: When did you start surfing Foveaux Strait, the south end of South Island generally - beyond Kaka Point?
SMART: About 17 we’d go down and surf Sandy Bay to south of Nugget Point. And Cannibal Bay, surfed there a bit. Sometimes Surat Bay. Purakaunui Bay, which is where I was surfing at today. And that’s where we sort of started surfing. I didn’t actually come down to Waikawa or Curio Bay until - it was '87 I think. And a friend had shown me a photograph of the surf down here, and then I thought "Oh, that's good, I better go and have a look." And then I came down, and it's got really good surf here. And all the rest is history, really.
CRAWFORD: When you say 'the rest is history' - you moved here to Curio Bay then?
SMART: Because I was living overseas six months a year, and then I’d come home and work six months - then holidays, weekends, we’d come down here. So, I did spend a lot of time down here at those times, right through the ‘90s. Once I got into the ‘90s I didn’t surf at Kaka Point much, because it’s not as good there.
CRAWFORD: Then you moved to Curio Bay?
SMART: I came and lived here summer ‘96 for six months, and then I went back to Indonesia. And then after, ;98-99 I was in Timaru/Indonesia, but still making trips down here. I moved to Curio Bay in 2001, opened my surf school 2002.
CRAWFORD: Ok. From 2002 to 2015, it’s your surf school for six months, here in the summer, and in the winter maybe travel a bit?
SMART: Yeah. Just follow the swell. When you’re a surfer, there’s no time limit. It’s like, the surf comes and you go and you surf it, and then it’s gone and so you move on. You might go one day, it might be three days, it might be a week …
CRAWFORD: When did you start following the surf in Foveaux Strait?
CRAWFORD: What would the split have been between Foveaux Strait versus Fiordland?
SMART: 95% - 5%.
CRAWFORD: Oh, so just a few instances on the west coast?
SMART: Yeah, not much surf in Fiordland.
CRAWFORD: Last question about your surfing in Foveaux Strait - if there were top three places you would have spent time in that region – where would they have been?
SMART: Pahia, Porridge, … I mean, when we live here, we don’t have to travel too far to surf. The only time we ever travel … I went to Pahia because we swell on an easterly wind, so we go over surfing there. But I have spent quite a bit of time in Riverton. I have friends that live there, and we’d just go over there to party and hang out with friends and that. But I have surfed there quite a bit. Colac Bay as well, though I've never actually surfed right at Colac Bay because it’s a bit of a learner wave.
CRAWFORD: Okay, thank you for being patient with me as a non-surfer.
SMART: That’s fine.
Copyright © 2017 Nick Smart and Steve Crawford