The Early Bird Gets the Worm

Caroline Stratton
March 11, 2016

For the last few weeks, Wednesdays have naturally become surf day.  Being from Southern California, my name has been thrown around as “the girl that is going to teach us all to surf.”  Those who have attended these “surf lessons” will gladly tell you that all I really do is push them into waves and hope that they will stand up after a few tries.

This week, we headed to New Brighton Beach in search for waves.  We found waves, but our search for board rentals proved much more difficult.  Eventually my friends and I were standing in front of the last surfboard rental shop in town, determined to rent boards.  Five-minutes after sending a text to the number listed on the side of the shop (more of a shed really), Andrew, a chill New Zealand surfer dude, showed up.  Since it was approaching the evening, we negotiated with Andrew and he let us keep the boards overnight (no extra charge) and said we could return them the next day.  New Zealanders don’t have any trust issues and are blessed with immense amounts of kindness.

After three hours in the water, some fish and chips, and a coffee, we lugged our boards onto the public bus (not without some hesitation from the bus driver), and into our flats, where I set my alarm clock for 5am the next morning, still excited about a sunrise surf!  Sometime during the five hours of sleep I got that night, my emotions about getting up that early changed.  Regardless, around ten of us hopped on a 5:30am bus headed back to New Brighton.  The four of us that were going to be surfing joked about how we were going to get our still damp wetsuits on, take a picture, run into the water, catch one wave, and run (wetsuit and all) back onto the bus. 

The second I laid down on my board and began paddling out, everything went calm; I was no longer thinking about how tired or cold I was.  I was solely focused on the water, the sun rising on the horizon, and sound of the waves breaking behind me.  Since being in New Zealand, I have been thinking about a million things all the time.  I already have a plan for almost every single weekend until the end of May.  I’m thankful for that morning because it reminded me that it’s okay to sit still and be in awe of the current moment.    

Fast forward to the following morning at 5am.  My friend Caroline and I had wanted to travel to Kaikora since we first arrived in New Zealand.  We had a reservation to swim with sea lions at 11am, but around 10:30am we received a call from the company we booked our sea lion swim with letting us know that all swims had been canceled for the day.

After our initial disappointment, we remembered reading about a fisherman named Captain Jerry who offered boat tours.  In an attempt to make the best of our day, we anxiously called Captain Jerry to see if he could turn our day around.  He said yes! Our day with Captain Jerry and his crew wasn’t what we pictured for our Kaikora trip, but it still ended up being a great time. 

Jerry invited us into his home and introduced us to the crew and Jack Sparrow, his dog.  Then we hopped into a minivan that smelled faintly, well…pungently, of a fish tank, and drove to the boat.  Off to sea we went!  The first stop on this adventure was to bring up the crayfish cages.  I tried to swallow every vegetarian thought running through my head, but the lobster looking shellfish were a bit much.  The crew said if I wanted to eat tonight I had to participate and help get the crayfish out of the cages and into a bucket.  I squeamishly helped get one out and then helped throw the small ones back into the ocean (I enjoyed the ladder part much more).    

Our boat stopped by some rocks where we saw lots of sea lions resting and soaking in the sun.  As we sped off to do some deep sea fishing, Caroline and I tried not to fall over as we balanced our way from one side of the boat to the other and back again. 

The crew prepared our fishing rods for us and gave us brief instructions on how to cast our lines and hook the fish.  I let my line drop to the sand and in less than a minute I had a bite.  I felt like a professional fisher…woman.  Every time I dropped my line back down I could count to ten and another fish would bite.     

As if the day couldn’t have gotten better, on our way back to the boat dock, we were greeted by at least 30 dolphins. 


We were invited back to Captain Jerry’s house for dinner, but since we had a 4pm bus to catch back to Christchurch, we were given goodie bags filled with Sea Perch and Crayfish and were dropped off at the bus station.  While waiting for the bus we grabbed some ice-cream and relaxed on the beach. 

Moral of the story is that sometimes the least advertised activities end up being the most fun.  And that if you are ever in Kaikora, give Captain Jerry a call.

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Caroline Stratton

<p>I&#39;m Caroline, a native to Southern California, and a student at Texas Christian University. &nbsp;I&#39;m studying Social Work and hope to eventually work in the field of child welfare, where I&#39;ll give children who haven&#39;t had the best start to their lives a chance to be successful. &nbsp;I love to play soccer, surf, go on backpacking trips, and eat delicious, healthy food. &nbsp;I&#39;m hoping to meet new people, explore as many places in New Zealand as I can, and gain cultural awareness through my experience abroad. &nbsp;I&#39;m ready for some new adventures and in New Zealand, those aren&#39;t hard to find.</p>

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