Wandering Thoughts

January 17, 2010

Burdens Gate

Filed under: Staying Places — terence @ 4:17 pm
Tags: , ,

If I remember my history right, Burdens Gate used to be the hop off point for travelers on the old coast road from Wellington to the Wairarapa. Beyond the genteel Days Bay, past the fishing village of Eastbourne and at the beginning of the inhospitable coastal track. It wasn’t easy travel – there were highway men and murderers, fords and slips, and the weather.

These days Burden’s Gate is still a hop off point – for picnickers and day-trippers on summer’s days, for walking or riding round the long-tamed Pencarrow Coast. There’s a cycle rental, an ice-cream stall, and info-boards from the regional council. There’s also a lazy little left point break when the swell is big enough.

It’s been twenty years since I surfed it last. There’s better waves nearby and on the occasional day that the mood, or disease, took me to the end of Eastbourne looking for a gentle wave to longboard I’d aim for Lions Rock, two bays back. But Lions Rock doesn’t break any more. It’s been swallowed by shingle, debris from the 1855 earthquake, washed from the Orongorongo river, and carried by swell after swell into the Harbour. And so, yesterday, eager to surf despite the storm, I drove over there, hopped into my wetsuit in the teeming rain, and paddled a long board out off the point.

Rain squalls fell off the hills, hitting the water and driving stinging spray. Walking back up the beach after a long ride was almost impossible, board kicking and bucking in the wind like a rodeo horse. And the waves were as small as ever. But despite all that it was fun, plucking little lefts out of the stormy sea, and trimming and fading along the sectiony little walls.

And there’s a beauty in ugly weather, the frantic battered water and the harried clouds.

I’m not alone in thinking this. There were 15 other surfers out there yesterday. All of them as eager as me. Grimacing n the stinging spray, unable to talk for the wind, but friendly and smiling. Whether it’s just a need to get a wave, something you do because you grew up doing it, or because you actually find it fun, storm surfing is pretty cool. At the hop off point. At the end of the road. And on the edge of the angry, windy sea.

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