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Watch: Heavy Water Strike Mission

It’s not every day you get to share eight-foot caverns with your mates with less than 10 people out, but given the right circumstances and location, it’s still achievable here in New Zealand. Luckily this was us recently at a fickle beachbreak deep in the Catlins.

Ollie Charlesworth had just had his 21st the previous weekend, which of course meant that Muriwai’s finest had come down to celebrate … and hopefully get some waves along the way. There were the three Haven brothers, Sam, Blake, and Kelly, as well as Oscar Harre.

Ollie Charlesworth celebrates his 21st with the barrel session. Photo: Donna Falconer

We had been down to this particular spot the day before but, as it had been a public holiday, the wave had more than its fair share of takers on it, which made life quite difficult when the big sets came.

Luckily though, there was an even bigger purple blob on the charts the following day with favourable winds. That combined with the fact it was the first day of the working week meant that we would hopefully be able to score even better than the day before … and with almost no one out.

Originally, the Havens and co were supposed to have flown out on the Monday but, after seeing the forecast they were eventually talked into changing their flights to Wednesday. This involved quite a bit of wheeling and dealing trying to figure out flights that wouldn’t cost them an arm and a leg to get home. Eventually they found flights for the grand change fee total of $0.

The lineup: enticing and frightening at the same time. Photo: Donna Falconer

Tuesday morning rolled in – for us a 6am start. The tide was best around 11am so we wanted to get as much quality time in the water as possible. The Muriwai crew had hired themselves a van while we took a ute filled with Ollie Charlesworth, Taylor O’Leary, Jackson Crone, Eddie Johnston and myself.

The trip south was uneventful apart from the usual stop at the Milton Night & Day to fill oursleves up with caffeine which, as per usual, tends to go in one end and straight out the other.

Eventually we reached our destination and were greeted with what we had been hoping for … and then some. What we thought would be solid 6ft tubes turned out to be that only on the smaller sets and on the bigger ones it was easily 7-8ft caverns.

We drove up to the lookout on the hill to scout it out further. Set after set came in as the boys hooted and screamed with waves absolutely unloading on the far northern end of the beach: Civil’s Corner. These were the conditions Jamie Civil thrived in and it was almost if the late charger was sending us these waves from beyond.

Standout for the day, Moss Thompson, knifing in. Photo: Donna Falconer

As we had arrived we noticed that there was another car already there so we decided to go down to the beach to get suited up and to see who else would be joining us.

As we came down the hill they gave us a wave and we realised it was some of the crew from St Clair, namely, Moss Thompson, Tave G and John Commissaris.

We chatted while still watching the waves from the shore as the tide was still too low and almost none of the waves until that point had even looked paddleable. No one wanted to make the first move to get their wetties on which of course led to some back and forth until eventually Ollie, along with Moss, Tave and John decided to suit up and paddle out. The rest of the boys, not quite convinced yet, all headed up the hill for a grandstand view of the spectacle.

The view was definitely something. The boys sat like little ants amidst the raging southern ocean while huge walls of water detonated 20 meters on their inside, no one wanting to take a swing at first.

Then eventually one by one they eventually began swinging on the medium-sized waves that came by, but to no avail. On the third wave to come through, John swung and decided to go for it as the wave reared up beneath him, he knifed the takeoff, but as he began to slide down the face his nose buried itself and he was sent flying head over heels.

We spent the next few seconds looking for him in the whitewash before he popped up alright but holding what was left of his board, half of which was on its way to the beach already.

This was the first of quite a few boards to meet their demise that day.

At least six boards met their fate during the session. Photo: Donna Falconer

A few more sets came and went with the boys rolling the dice, but coming up short. After about 10 minutes a good-looking wall made its way towards Ollie who went for it and was rewarded by being sent head over heels down the wave.

However, this wasn’t even the worst of it. Once he popped up on the inside he decided to try and make his way back out instead of doing the run around. As he got on his board, two of the biggest waves so far began marching their way towards him. Ollie started scratching for the horizon to no avail. The first one landed straight in front of him, sending him straight back into the inside only for the same thing to happen again a couple seconds later. To his credit after taking two 8ft waves on the head he continued to paddle out the back as if nothing had happened.

After seeing all of this the rest of the boys decided it was about time they had a crack and all headed back down the hill to get suited up.

Moss on a throaty one. Photo: Donna Falconer

The next few hours flew by with the standouts being all three of the Haven brothers who were sending it on every somewhat makeable peak that came their way and occasionally managing to punch through into the free air. After about and hour and a half, Ollie swung on a medium-sized six-footer and bagged himself probably the longest tube made that day. The wave caught the inside sand bank and continued to throw before letting him out.

About halfway through the session I suddenly realised that the horizon had disappeared on the southern end of the beach as a massive 20ft set approached that corner of the bay. Massive walls of foamy whitewater broke top to bottom sending plumes of spray high into the air. A true testament to how large this swell had become.

Eventually most the crew caught their final waves in and I followed suit as I’d been shooting for three and a bit hours straight and my nose was running like a tap. Some of the boys had started a fire which was looking very enticing.

Sam Haven tucked in down near Civil’s Corner. Photo: Donna Falconer

Shortly there were only two gladiators left, Sam Haven and Moss Thompson. While the rest of us parked up in front of the fire, trying to warm ourselves up, they were looking for a bomb wave to come in on.

After a brief 20-minute wait the right set came. The first couple didn’t look like much but suddenly two waves came that towered above the rest. Sam took off on the first. He faded straight to the bottom of the wave to try and bottom turn into the dredging pit. However as he did so the end section suddenly reared and closed out. Not wanting to take the lip to the head, Sam punched through the back of the wave with his board going up and over the falls getting absolutely slammed to the sand and dragging Sam into the vortex.

Moss, playing the waiting game, decided not to opt for the first big wave of the set, but instead had eyed up the one behind it, a meaty looking behemoth of a wave. He swung, took off behind the section and parked himself in a monstrous eight-foot cavern before coming out to the hoop and hollers of the crew. The wave of the day for sure.

As the boys made there way back up the beach they were met with a standing ovation for their efforts.

Moss makes the most of the rare uncrowded session in the bay. Photo: Donna Falconer

All in all, two boards had been snapped, about four had been creased and several bomb waves had been ridden. As we dilly dallied around the carpark everyone taking their sweet time to pack up it really hit home how lucky we are. On a day where we realistically should have been studying for University, we went for a relatively short drive and were able to score huge barrels with no one out except our mates. Truly a privilege on our raw southern corner of Aotearoa.

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