· By Maria Nilsson
The Single Fin Mingle
What a great reason to load up the board bag, the suitcase, throw in multiple layers of rubber and fleece and jump on a plane across the ditch. When the destination promises long, uncrowded point breaks, pristine scenery and the friendliest of locals imaginable, Aotearoa, New Zealand- the land of the long white cloud, couldn't be a more idealistic place to park up, settle in and mingle with new friends and old.
So with good times and hopefully, fun waves in mind, we all flocked to Sumner on New Zealand’s South Island, a cute and lovely sea side village just outside of Christchurch, for the 4th annual Single Fin Mingle. For us Byron folk it’s a far cry from the warm tropical waters of home, but ever so enticing nonetheless, and with this celebration of traditional longboard surfing promising to provide a weekend of flirtatious fun and debaucherous behaviour, how could we say no.
As the days passed by and the weekend loomed upon us, the sleepy seaside village began to buzz with energy as more and more minglers arrived in town, either in van convoy or to bravely pull up a sleeping pew at the dearly beloved beach shack on Esplanade Road. Spirits were high, old friendships were being rekindled and new ones being formed, anticipation was in the air for all that was foreseen to unfold.
The weekend began with a beautiful “Mihi Whakatau” - a traditional welcoming ceremony for all visitors to the area, it was an incredible way to start the contest and definitely set the vibe for all the amazingness that followed.
Day one promised an action packed occasion of back to back heats for both the men and women, with surfers for both, coming from all over the world to display their fast foot work in the clean, 2 foot conditions that welcomed competitors to the opening morning. As predicted, the bench mark of skills in both fields was high, as was the morale and ambience of the atmosphere that watched on in awe along the paved shore of Sumner’s most recognised long boarding beach break. All of the women who surfed in the first round displayed beautiful styles of grace and elegance in the somewhat tricky, fading conditions. The Atmosea girls had a strong contingent in the water and with fun being our prerogative, Maddie, Mischa and I progressed into the quarters, after close losses to our other team members Maria, Cass and Eb. As the day unfolded and as more and more heats were surfed, anticipation steadily grew for the well hyped and slightly feared evening celebrations.
As many festive occasions do, the night began well before the sun went down, at the Sumner squat house with sunny afternoon cold ones and plentiful esplanade merriment, before minglers shimmied their way across town to the incredible Paul McNeil art show. From there, my account of what followed was an evening of fun, laughter and jolliness to be remembered for all of time; however many tiny pieces of boot scooting and youthful shenanigans that memory may be in.
As the sun rose on the finals day and we lay three wide in the van bed, we prayed that any talk of surfing heats would be a far off future event. With unfavourable morning ocean conditions, the contest was delayed and we were fortunately granted a few more hours to marinate in the night’s behaviour and come together over the common need for cuddles and plenty of water.
Inevitably the call came and it was finals time. With only three of us Atmosea girls left in the competition, it was up to one of us to bring home the bacon. Luck continued to be on our side as we all surfed our way into the semi’s. Finally, all heats had been contested and four lady sliders were announced to have made their way into the final of the 2018 Single Fin Mingle. The women who were to surf it out in the 3 foot, onshore, tricky but fun conditions were Stephanie Schechter - California, Lucy Small - Western Australia, Mischa Davis - New Zealand and myself (yay!). The aura of the final was relaxed and ever so supportive, the beach was lined with so many amazing friends from home as well as a sea of other incredible Sumner locals and beautiful fellow competitors. I'm not sure if it were the friendly atmosphere or the glassy eyes that dulled my nerves before hitting the water, but either way something worked and despite surfing against three other incredibly talented women, I, Clareo from the Bay, managed to walk away with the 2018 Single Fin Mingle first place and boy, it felt great.
Also a big congratulations to Jordan Griffin, who took out the men’s division for 2018.
Words by @claresull
Photos by @dreamingcaterpillar
“Mihi Whakatau” - a traditional welcoming ceremony
Art Show by Paul McNeil
Interview with Clare Sull
Photo by Peter Pascoe of Clare Sull Bringing home the bacon.
What was your secret of winning the Single Fin Mingle final?
I think I have the festivities of the night before to thank, we all got pretty excited. Normally I am a big bag of nerves before surfing in anything that even slightly resembles a competition, so waking up with thoughts of the Bohemian bakery on my mind, instead of trying to surf well in the comp, definitely helped prevent the nerves from settling in.
Favourite wave in NZ so far
We’ve had some good ones! We scored some beautiful rights deep down south in Dunedin; no crowds, point breaks, beach breaks, amazing locals, that place is mint. No doubt though, the best wave was at Kaikoura when the stars aligned and delivered a crazy storm swell, that lit up the local right hander, laced with snow capped mountains and pretty much just my best friends out.
How have you been getting around NZ
In a big old Hiace van, she reaches top speeds of 90km/hr and just putts along, keeping us warm, safe and happy inside, well happy until it rains and she leaks and everything starts to smell bad and you sort of start to get a little bit off it. Then the sun comes out and you score a hot shower at a beautiful locals place who has offered you their home and the fun begins again.
Any tips for our fellow surf trippers
Pack your wetty and booties and everything warm that you own and of course respect the local environment by not littering, we’ve sadly seen way too much waste along our journey
Tell us whats next for Clare
So many nice things. I still have a couple of months either here in New Zealand or somewhere hot and sunny once the winter settles in; so hopefully a bunch more surfing, exploring and connecting with everything that this beautiful country has to offer. I will then head home to our beloved Byron Bay with a happy heart and bag full of magical memories.