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Tommy And J-Rod On The Ice-Cream Headache Highway

At the start of winter Taranaki surfers Tom Butland and Jarred Hancox made their way south to compete in the O’Neill Coldwater Classic being held at Kaikoura. They went 1-2 and decided to stay on. Wellington photographer Belinda Brown decided to see the swell out with them.

Tom Butland and Jarred Hancox make the most of Kaikoura’s waves. Photo: Belinda Brown

Traveling together, Tom and Jarred, also went head-to-head in the competition with Tom bettering his travel companion in the Open Men’s Final.

Tom takes it to the air on super Sunday. Photo: Belinda Brown

“I was super-pumped to surf fun waves in Kaiks – I hadn’t surfed there for 6 years,” smiles Tom. “I was pumped on the win – I had a few rough comp results on the New Zealand series earlier this year, and hadn’t been in a final, outside of local comps, in a couple years. That final was tough – J-Rod is always super consistent, but having local boy Levi O’Connor and Ruben Peyroux as well – those guys are gnarly – they rip. Ruben was posting solid scores all event, so I knew it would be a tough final.”

“Yeah, that was a funny feeling,” admits Jarred. “I’m stoked he won, but bummed I did not win.”

“Tom was going all out, there was no priority and he had no more heats to surf and he was a man possessed,” adds Jarred. “I still had some senior heats to surf so I was kinda mindful of that and didn’t go full beast paddle mode.”

Tom managed to beat his travel buddy at the 2023 O’Neill Coldwater Classic. Photo: Derek Morrison

Jarred said Tom was an amazing surfer and had been on fire the past year.

“He deserved the win,” Jarred explains. “It was probably only awkward leading into the final when we finally were in the same heat, and during the final. Being the only North Island surfers at the event, we were seeded at opposite ends of the draw thankfully and didn’t meet till then at least.”

Dawn at Meatworks for finals day. Photo: Derek Morrison

The Coldwater Classic reserves Sunday as a possible contest day although they like to finish by Saturday with prize giving penciled in that night at The Strawberry Tree in the township. Most surfers book a Monday ferry to be safe. However, with the surf scheduled to get better on the Sunday, Tom and Jarred found themselves in a good place.

Jarred Hancox, surf check. Photo: Belinda Brown

“We were both pretty wrecked after two days of competing and a big night out at prizegiving, however a 3-5ft glassy lined up pumping right point break soon takes care of that,” laughs Jarred, who is 43. “We went out and had a super session for a good couple hours.”

Jarred said the waves of Kaikoura were a similar size and power to what he found along his local Taranaki coastline.

“I find Meatworks to be almost like a peaky fun beachbreak, but with rocks ready to smash your board/body up in the shorebreak,” he smiles. “It’s a very fun wave to compete at with multiple shifting peaks constantly coming in. We have a fun wave at home called Green Meadows and Mangamaunu feels like Green Meadows on steroids. Or perhaps shades of Raglan mirrored? It is so crazy how the highway and railway is next to it, and so scary pulling out of the carpark with big trucks etc flying around the corner. How it is not an 80kmh or less zone baffles me.”

Jarred’s backhand attack at Maungas. Photo: Belinda Brown

The Sunday session at Mangamaunu proved to be the favourite for the Taranaki duo.

“The super session on the Sunday at Mangamaunu was the pick for sure,” begins Jarred. “Some sets were maxing out, but for the most part it was a bit overhead and sheet glass. We seemed to have timed the tide right, and I just had endless fun on the backhand, while Tom was hacking, carving and punting on his forehand. He even inspired me to try a couple backhand punts … and I tell myself not to try aerials now I’m in my 40s.”

Being able to score Mangamaunu was a highlight for 20-year-old Tom, also.

“It was pumping and so fun hanging around and surfing an epic point break,” he adds. “We have way more raw power at home, but Kaikoura had some super fun waves. The point is way different to the points at home – smaller, but different shape and with more down the line sections. I was frothing at the speed you get down the line and then the bowly sections pushing out at you.”

Jarred said he loved the beautiful scenery of Kaikoura and the consistency of its surf.

Tom Butland revels in Kaikoura’s most famous point break. Photo: Belinda Brown

When asked about travel partner Tom’s most annoying habits, Jarred didn’t know where to start.

“Ha, ha, nah jokes,” he laughs. “He’s a pretty awesome young fulla with a lot of good positive energy. He’s easy to travel with, supportive, encouraging and we have the same surfboard sponsor so we are always talking board tech. Tom’s really technically minded so it’s cool to bounce ideas with him. If anything the most annoying thing is he’s got at least a 50% strike rate of beating me in comps!”

Jarred may have found the secret to happiness. Photo: Belinda Brown

Tom cracks up at the question.

“J-Rods got a lot of buzzy habits,” he laughs. “Probably to gnarly to say.”

Jarred seems to have carved out an enviable lifestyle for himself in Taranaki. He works as a real estate agent, hosts a surf radio show once a week and seems to surf a lot – he’s one of the few 40-year-olds in New Zealand who keep getting better and better at surfing.

We ask him how he achieves that … and if he has any tips.

“I guess you just have a goal in mind and make changes to achieve that goal,” Jarred explains. “I know in Taranaki there are an unbelievable amount of surfers who can show up at any time during the weekdays when the surf is good, so clearly there are plenty of people who have also created a similar lifestyle with flexible work hours.”

Tom Butland and Jarred Hancox make the most of Kaikoura’s waves. Photo: Belinda Brown

“Some people have it super dialed – they make great money and seem to score plenty of good surf,” Jarred adds. “Being a real estate agent has been tough the past year or so with the way the market has been, so while I could say my lifestyle has been great, my bank account wouldn’t agree! But hey, ultimately we don’t know how long we are above the ground for, so my advice is to strive to find the balance of having a good part of your time dedicated to lifestyle.”

“Pull in, not out,” is the philosophy Tom lives by he tells us with a grin.

Jarred said his mantra was “Work to live, don’t live to work”.

“Try to live a balanced lifestyle and don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” he offers. “Have healthy obsessions and addictions, like surfing, going to the gym etc. If you love surfing then make it the hub of your life – don’t let drugs or alcohol be the hub. Work smarter, not harder. Surround yourself with good people who align with your life objectives and have a good influence, and avoid being around toxic people if you can. Don’t be afraid to think outside the square and do things differently. Believe in yourself and your dreams, you only get one shot at this life, so make the most of it!”

“If you love surfing then make it the hub of your life – don’t let drugs or alcohol be the hub. Work smarter, not harder. Surround yourself with good people who align with your life objectives and have a good influence, and avoid being around toxic people if you can.”

Jarred Hancox



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