14-year-old and two adults shot at while surfing remote New Zealand break.
Localism is everywhere. Even at the most blown out breaks you’ve seen dudes hogging priority, snaking their way back to the peak and burning everyone. Some lineups have their own self-regulating systems. The wave might break on a shallow reef, only gets going when it’s overhead, geared for more experienced surfers etc. Other breaks meanwhile are a no holds bar affair, accessible to everyone but even they have severe consequences. Like taking a board to the head from a leashless logger or getting run over by a beginner kook.
However, our friends over the ditch in NZ have revealed there is an even more sinister side to localism. Where locals will point a riffle at you in the line-up and shoot if you dare visit uninvited.
According to Stuff NZ, Police are investigating an incident that took place off the Taharoa coast, near the entrance to Kawhia Harbour, last Thursday. Bullets were fired missing a 14-year-old surfer and two adults who were surfing an isolated west coast break some surfers say is by invitation only.
Ōtorohanga police Sergeant Andy Connors, who spoke with the shaken surfer involved, described the incident as alarming.
"It is extremely dangerous and if you put yourself in the 14-year-old boy's shoes, extremely frightening."
The 14-year-old was the son of one of the men surfing, who said he and his mate had visited the point before, lured there by its remoteness. After hearing three shots the trio initially thought someone had fired at a goat or pin in the coastal bushland.
"The second one sounded a lot closer and the third one landed in the water adjacent to where they were," said police Sergeant Andy Connors. "You'd be fearing the worst and petrified what's going to happen in the next few minutes."
The surfers then spotted two men on the bank, who began screaming abuse at them.
Realising the magnitude of the threat to their safety the three surfers fled on their jet ski, retreating to Kawhia boat ramp, reporting the incident to police.
This isn’t the first time visitors have been fired at. A fisherman was allegedly shot at while out angling the same stretch of coast from locals who took exception to strangers “using their waters”.
Raglan local Daniel Kereopa knows this stretch of coast well. He’s surfed the break before, having been invited to surf it by relatives who live in the Taharoa area.
"Ever since I have known the place and the people that have cared for it, it's generally been by invitation," said Mr Kereopa.
According to Mr Kereopa, the isolated break is fiercely protected by locals, with access only coming by way of getting a landowner’s permission to reach the beach or travel by water.
"It's one of those places that is still New Zealand - not affected by tourists, not promoted. People live there because they are born for that land and, unfortunately, it's brought some attention by what's happened down there."
"We all have rights to areas of our coastline - there are people who really care for their land and keep it as is."
Most readers will be familiar with New Zealand’s most famous lefthand pointbreak, Ragalan. The Manu Bay gem is one of the most visited and overrun breaks in the country according to Mr Kereopa, compared with Taharoa's coast which remains untouched.
"It's one place that is so unique, you don't have to hassle anyone for the waves," he said.
However, Mr Kereopa acknowledges being fired upon for surfing the wave would have been terrifying but stressed that people should adhere to the local ideologies around exclusivity and access via invites only.
"So damn scary. I have lots of remorse and aroha for them. No-one wants to have a 14-year-old kid be traumatised by this.
"If people ask you to surf down there, and they're from there, then that's the way it is. If you don't get asked, you shouldn't think you deserve to go down there."
Last week’s incident has thrown a spotlight on a stretch of coast that had previously been off limits and spoken of in hushed tones. Now Taharoa coast locals will face added scrutiny following the international coverage this incident has delivered. Whether that’s a good thing or bad thing depends what side of the fence you sit on when it comes to localism.
For surfers like Mr Kereopa however, who have benefited from having access to the break for years, is adamant the break remains off the map.
"Some places should be kept secret and isolated."