Far North in the South Pacific
|Auckland's Waitemata Harbour (Gareth Eyres/courtesy, Tourism New Zealand)|
Some 1,000 years ago, the Maori first landed their oceangoing canoes on New Zealand and named it Aotearoa, or "land of the long white cloud." Even after 200 years of European rule, the island chain still feels very Polynesian, and just about everyone under 30light- or dark-skinnedwears a hei matau, the decorative fishhooks made of New Zealand greenstone or whalebone. Maori-language radio stations pepper the airwaves, and traditional marai or meeting lodges, with their distinctive totem polelike woodcarvings, dot the landscape.
Given their history of ocean faring, it's no surprise that the locals were early adaptors of kitesurfing. Andrew Self of Ocean Extreme took me to a shallow cove near the Auckland airport and taught me to "milk the wind's sweet spot" on a series of progressively larger kites, first on land and then in the water. Before long, I was on my feet, digging the board into the waves and wondering why I'd never tried this before. It was watersports at its best: fast yet serene, and totally addictive.
"Now you see why I can't have a real job," Self confessed afterward over a beer.
Contact: Ocean Extreme
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication