UK longboard champion Ben Haworth dials in to give us the low-down on life on the road.
Winter is an interesting time for us as British surfers. We face a big decision. To stay or to go? Stay and be one of the hardy souls braving the elements to get our saltwater fix – enduring the endless southwesterlies and sideways rain, but enjoying the supply of swell on offer.
Or go – head overseas to the promise of sunshine and sliding on the other side of the world.
With a summer of hard work and saving behind us, my girlfriend Charlotte and I made our choice – we decided to escape the impending cold and headed off to spend three months in warmer climates, searching for new adventures and fun waves. First stop was Lord of the Rings country – the North island of New Zealand.
It was the first visit here both of us and we couldn’t wait to explore. Three days of airports, insomnia and in-flight films and we made it. We jumped straight in our hire camper – home for the next month and hit the road. Our first impressions of New Zealand didn’t disappoint – we spent hours taking in the amazing scenery, endless green countryside with not a soul for miles around.
First stop for waves was Piha, a beautiful beachbreak surrounded by cliffs and black sand beaches. While the break is renowned for it’s rips and tricky currents, Charlotte and I enjoyed a few days of fun waves here and came back later in our trip.
Raglan greeted us with perfect, reeling left hand peelers and we got straight in there to get our fill
Next stop was the fabled left handers of Raglan, Charlotte being the goofy footer out of the two of us couldn’t wait to get there! We arrived with anticipation levels going through the roof – and we certainly weren’t disappointed.
Raglan greeted us with perfect, reeling left hand peelers and we got straight in there to get our fill. One of my best memories from our time here was seeing the stoke on Charlotte’s face as she enjoyed catching some epic bombs all the way down the point to the inside section.
We carried on our New Zealand journey, visiting as many new spots as we could and heading back to our favourites when we knew conditions would be best.
A real highlight of our time here was catching up with a good friend and legend of UK longboarding Lee Ryan. After living here for a number of years now, Lee really knows his way around some of the best spots and it was great to make the most of his local knowledge.
Since I was a grom, Lee has always been a big influence on my surfing, he’s someone who just loves being in the water and having a good time. Getting to enjoy fun waves with good friends is what surf travel is all about to me, so this was a real highlight of the trip.
The next destination on our winter expedition was now upon us, New Zealand had been amazing and now Noosa was calling.
Situated in Queensland, Australia – Noosa Heads is a true mecca for longboarders. I’d spent a number of winters here a few years ago and couldn’t wait to be back and enjoy its endless right hand points.
First port of call as soon as we arrived was the legendary Classic Malibu Surf Shop, to meet up with world-renowned shaper and good friend Peter White.
Both Charlotte and I picked up our new logs that he had waiting for us – Charlotte was like a stoked grom when she saw the epic flamingo inlay on hers! The only thing left to do was wax up our boards and head down to Little Cove – my favourite spot – as fast as possible.
While we were stoked to get into some fun two foot peelers, it was a bit of a shock to the system to find every man and his dog out in the line-up, all trying to make every wave a party wave, or so it looked.
While the endless crowds were a bit off-putting, the points at Noosa were still the same as they’ve always been – truly world class logging waves which put a real smile on your face when you get a good session.
Over the next two months in Noosa we slipped into a regular rhythm. We surfed as much as we could, predominantly u and down the points of the National Park.
We had a great crew to spend our time with, a few good friends from the UK arrived shortly after Charlotte and I did, so we enjoyed some trips and adventures, often heading up the coast in 4x4s to enjoy some lesser known spots away from the crowds.
Whilst in Australia, we entered the Noosa Festival of surfing, a yearly contest that attracts some of the biggest names in the longboard community to the pointbreaks of the National Park.
I was stoked to surf alongside some amazing sliders like Sam Crookshanks, Zye Norris and Kai Takayama. The real standout for me was the eventual winner of the contest, Matt Chojnacki, the most stylish surfer and a real nice guy too.
With over 60 of the best loggers in the world here, there were no easy heats!
I surfed my way through the contest, steadily making my way through the rounds. With over 60 of the best loggers in the world here, there were no easy heats!
The support from back home in the UK was unreal, friends and family were getting up at crazy times in the morning to watch me surf which I really appreciated and I was so stoked to make it through to the semi-finals.
What followed next was a disappointing part of my time in Noosa. After surfing my semi final alongside some amazing longboarders I was ecstatic to be told I’d got through the heat and made the final of the event so I headed home for an early night.
The next morning came around, and we arrived at the beach to find I’d been taken out of the final, due to an error from the organisers. Whilst I was disappointed and frustrated at first, I focussed on the positives of achieving a 5th place finish in such a massive event.
To also share waves and receive compliments on my surfing by some of the world’s top loggers, guys I’ve always admired, meant more than my final placing in the end.
Returning to the UK recently has made me really take some time to reconsider my attitude towards surfing in the winter.
Sure I had some great times while I was away and you can’t complain about surfing in boardshorts. But since being back I’ve already enjoyed some of the best waves that I’ve had all winter, right down the road from home and with only a few friends in the lineup.
Whilst there are some uncrowded gems in warmer waters I’m sure, being home has really made me stop and appreciate the variety and quality of waves that we’re blessed with here in the UK.
For the foreseeable future at least, I’m planning on spending some time exploring a bit closer to home and enjoying the fantastic British coastline, even if I maybe do have to wear a bit more neoprene than I’d like.