Learning curves


Lined up and good to go at Curio Bay    PHOTO: Ross Mackay, Stash Media Worx


SARAH WADSWORTH headed south with Mission WOW for an all-women’s surf weekend, and got up close and personal with some local wildlife.

Bliss. Tranquility. Unadulterated fun. I was lucky enough to experience all three sensations in one glorious weekend recently – the Mission WOW surf trip at Curio Bay. Two days were filled with a combination of bliss and tranquility, seasoned with a splash of unadulterated fun and life-lasting memories. The goal of the weekend (for most) was to learn to surf in a beautiful spot with other like-minded girls.

Being a native Californian from a coastal town, it’s always assumed that I got my feet under me on a wave at some point in my life. But, truth be told, it really never appealed. Regardless of the reasons – from year round water temperature near 10 degrees, or the frequent shark sightings and attacks, or the raw sewage released into the water on a daily basis, it just didn’t tempt me. Don’t get me wrong – I hadn’t written off surfing, I just knew I would learn some day in a more friendly and inviting environment.

Once I read about the Mission WOW plans for the surf weekend–from beach-side yoga sessions in the morning to surf lessons optimally coordinated with the tides, along with well-planned, delicious food throughout the day–I had a feeling it was going to be a good weekend. The deal-sealer was when my good friend Prairie, who frequents Curio Bay, told me it was a perfect “learner’s wave”. That enticing comment made plans for the weekend quickly fall into place.

We left Wanaka with four of us neatly stuffed into our sedan and aimed south. I didn’t really know what to expect of Curio Bay. We arrived four hours later, already sedated by the warm, calm air and the beach summoning us to play. The first gathering of all 26 girls was dinner that night and there was no question we were all in good company. Jo Guest, mastermind of Mission WOW, outlined our schedule for the weekend, with emphasis on doing all or none of the scheduled fun put forth. If we woke feeling tired and in need of some down time, we could sit by the beach and chill. If we woke charged to be in the water as much as possible, there were endless options to explore. Nick and Tomo, locals at Curio Bay who have been teaching surf lessons there for years, would lead us for the weekend in our surf ‘education’. With the introductory ‘mission’ complete, we all wandered off to our respective beachside baches to dream of the next day’s activities.


All smiles - Prairie Pritchett PHOTO: Ross Mackay, Stash Media Worx


We woke to the warmth of the sun on Saturday morning, and, again the next day. My Californian mom occasionally asks me if it feels if we are as close to the Antarctica as we are, and I smiled reflecting on this question as the answer over the weekend was definitely “No”. The days were filled with little breeze, warm air, dolphins to cheer us on while we caught our first waves and glorious water to cool us down whenever we got too hot. Most of the crew caught a wave or two, ensuring big smiles from all participants.

On Sunday morning we were stoked to see dolphins playing closer to the beach, so Prairie and I made an executive decision to flag the morning yoga session and borrow a couple of Nick and Tomo’s SUPs. As soon as we got into the water and on our boards, the dolphins came over to frolic. They were swimming directly beneath us causing small ripples of water to surface around our boards. It was impressive to see how close they got – within millimetres or our SUPs! The only sound we heard was the sound of them surfacing to breathe. The gentle outbursts of air surrounding us was a sound I had never heard before. Nick says there are about 40 Hector’s dolphins living in Curio Bay. Endemic to New Zealand, it was an honour to be in their presence and witness them in their own playground. Prairie and I were silent as if knowing our words would be no match to describe the feeling we had in the presence of these magical creatures. After a few trips up and down the beach, with the Hector’s encouraging us to go faster to keep up with them, we resorted to letting some others have a go and vowed it was a memory to be treasured.

The drive home through the countryside had a different feeling than the anticipation we experienced driving down. It was that of relaxed contentment, grateful for the ability to meet new friends, regardless if they had fins or not. Mission complete.

Read more about the Mission WOW ideas exchange at www.missionwow.org.

Check out more photos by Ross Mackay at www.stashmediaworx.com.

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