Jan 21, 2014
MINI Countryman Outruns the Storm in New Zealand.
New Zealand is surrounded by waves and criss-crossed by roads that look more suitable for an off-road rally than a typical highway. For a riveting series of drives between one world-class surf spot after another, New Zealand’s wild North Island is the place to be. That’s why a crew of big surf addicts hopped on a plane to Auckland International Airport and strapped a couple of Channel Islands surfboards to the roof of a MINI Countryman after attending the Burton High Fives snowboard competition in Cardrona, on New Zealand’s South Island.
What ensued was an action packed weekend that rocked between the adrenaline junkie thrills of the road and surf alike.
Infinite surfing opportunities await once you touch down on the North Island. From smaller lagoons for newbies on the sea to pro-level swells, every option is available, with each beach and cove connected by scenic coastal roads.
Surfers are spoilt for choice on this rugged isle and the weather often dictates the destination. This is exactly what happened to the MINI crew during their search of the perfect surf as they were glued to the forecast before heading out.
“There will be a storm the next few days moving from west to east – let’s head east to Gisborne and outrun the storm!” Three surfers set off with over 300 miles of road ahead of them, surfboards strapped to the roof racks and all the gear safely stored in the boot. Seats back, it was time to enjoy the ride, as the green fields around Auckland provided a picturesque backdrop until the enticing shores of the Bay of Plenty slid into view.
In the west the sun began to set, lighting up the coast as the crew rode into the town of Opotiki for a quick pit stop to enjoy the local cuisine. “Hit the brakes! There’s a fish and chip shop. Refuel the batteries and move on!” The road continued through mountainous regions, cutting through the eastern part of North Island. As night fell, fog rose from the riverbeds and moonlight filtered through the trees. Meanwhile the team took the opportunity to stargaze as lookout points gave them an uninterrupted look at the Milky Way. The MINI Countryman’s inviting interior was a haven away from the chilly night air, and the soundtrack for this sublime scene came from Joy Division’s dark post-punk anthem ‘Transmission’.
There’s no place further east of the western world than New Zealand, and Gisborne takes the title of the biggest town in the North Island’s easternmost Poverty Bay area. After the night’s drive, the team had an early start to catch the morning surf. At the beach, perfect swell lines greeted them with a cool offshore wind. Though the water was cold, the waves were more than worth it. Fins sliced through water, the wind brushed frantically across the ocean’s surface, and the boards did what they were built to do – make a surf session to remember.
After a three-hour surf the team climbed back into the MINI Countryman, fingers and feet numbed by the sea. As the wind shifted from off to onshore, what had been pristine surf turned into a wind-whipped chaos. They watched the sea boiling on the shore, taking the cue they needed to get back on the road and seek a more peaceful retreat as the storm got into full swing.
The gale that came ashore was more than a little bluster. Retreating into a nice motel to wait out the squall, they spent two solitary days indoors through downed power lines, lost TV signal and interrupted internet connections. Precious time missed on the sea, perhaps, but also just another part of the adventure.
Eventually the weather cleared up and the MINI Countryman’s navigation led the unstoppable surfers to the next beach. Though the ocean was still tempestuous, the light of the late afternoon turned everything golden. Using their MINI as a landmark to find the right spot to hit the surf, they jumped in on the action with some local surfing talent. Hours later, exhausted as they were euphoric, the team watched the sunset slide below the horizon before hitting the road once more.
Raglan is the epicentre of New Zealand’s thriving surf culture. Made famous by Bruce Brown’s iconic surf flick The Endless Summer, it’s located on New Zealand’s west coast and offers several points on the southern end of the bay. Eight hours driving through all weathers and landscapes took the team west to this must-surf sweet spot.
Six hours before check-in on their flight home, the forecast at Raglan predicted 4-5 feet of surf in moderate wind – the perfect chance to grab the boards and go for one last run. Mountains of water pushed into the bay, doubling-up in sections and going flat in others. The occasional gems provided solid 500 meters of distance right down to the point, making the rough waters just the challenge these experienced surfers were searching for.
Worn out, satisfied and about to miss their flight home, the team threw the boards back on the roof rack and still soaked wetsuits into their travel bags. Energised by the last two hours’ surf, they hit the road and raced to the airport – the North Island’s roads and the MINI Countryman giving them one final thrill on their whirlwind tour.