Kiwis are hardy folks. They don’t complain. Here in New Zealand, there is a “just get on with it” attitude that is so refreshing. It’s rare to hear even a small child throw a temper tantrum, let alone hear an adult complain about something. And “harden up,” they might tell anyone who does.
Try something new—why not? “Have a go” is another distinctively New Zealand phrase meaning give it a try. And if there is bad weather—rain, floods, landslides, earthquakes, volcanoes—they take it all in stride. If things don’t work out—it’s all in good fun, isn’t it? It’s that Sir Edmund Hillary spirit where there is no obstacle that is insurmountable, all while maintaining a humble, unassuming, casual attitude.
Kiwis also love to be outside. They like sports and other outdoor activities. They relish in how beautiful their country is, and they LOVE the ocean. In fact, almost the entire population of the country lives within a short drive of the beach. Unfortunately, with this close proximity to the sea, about forty people drown each year in New Zealand, each one a tragic loss. But watching people in the ocean here, and the size of the surf sometimes, I am actually amazed there aren’t far more drownings. Certainly most Kiwi kids are taught at a young age to swim and to survive in the sea. Surf lifesaving programs are also popular among children and teenagers. But there is often no hesitation going in the water for all ages despite what—at least to me—would seem as less-than-optimal conditions.
Sometimes all these things seem to come together in New Zealand’s own inimitable way such as a few weeks ago while we were at Ngaranui Beach near Raglan on the west coast of the North Island. The Tasman Sea here on the west coast is noted for its wild, unpredictable nature and today it doesn’t disappoint.
We stand on a cliff overlooking the beach. The whole foreground is white with a disordered jumble of crashing, tumultuous waves. It’s windy. The sky is a sodden grey. Occasionally, a brief squall passes through pelting us with heavy rain. At the i-site (information center) in Raglan, the woman behind the desk told me that Ngaranui Beach was the swimming and beginner surfing beach. Okay. Well, it doesn’t look like it today. I certainly wouldn’t feel safe going into the water or at least not very far.
But wait! This is New Zealand.
A bus pulls up. Around two dozen young adults disembark. They walk down to the beach where several rows of surfboards await them.
After a very brief—no, make that perfunctory—lesson in the sand on how to surf, they don wetsuits, grab the boards and enter the water.
But these are not beginner conditions. These are not learning conditions. These are not the gentle aloha conditions at Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. But there seems to be no pause or hesitation. Everybody simply has a go at it.
Here’s some rough video I took of what it looked like—