One of our favorite days on the North Island of New Zealand was spent exploring the Aupouri Peninsula. The peninsula is only 10 km wide and extends for 100km to the northern most point of New Zealand, Cape Reinga. With the Tasman Sea to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east, this is the point where you can see the two oceans collide. In addition to soaking in the incredible scenery and walking along the beautiful beaches of the peninsula, we spent a couple of hours sand surfing at the Te Paki Sand Dunes.
Heck yes, we tried our hand at sand surfing! Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?
Well, when I heard “sand surfing”, it immediately conjured up visions of people descending down a sand dune, snowboard (or surfing) style—standing, carving out turns as they gracefully make there way down the sandy hill. Then my risk adverse self thought, “No way, no how…you are a prime candidate to eat sand and get injured while doing so!” Of course, then the logic kicked in…there is no way they would let people “surf” down sand dunes. But they do!
Sand Surfing: More Like Sledding
After a little research we learned that sand surfing was actually more like sand sledding. For a mere $15 NZD you can rent a foam sled that’s a lot like a boogie board. You lay face down on it to descend head-first down the sand dunes. This sounded much more reasonable…and less risky from an injury standpoint. I was pumped up to give it a try!
We arrived at the sand dues and, as promised, there was a truck at the base renting the “sand” boards. After reading some guidelines, signing a waiver and agreement that we would not share our boards, we inquired about tips for sand surfing. The aloof gentleman pointed us to the “bunny slope” and recommended that we give the small hill a try first. Once we had the feel then we could proceed to the big hill. He suggested that we ascend the dune at an angle and added that you can drag your feet to slow yourself down. Noted!
The Bunny Slopes
With our flip flops flapping on our feet, a backpack filled with water, a camera and our car keys securely stowed and our boogie boards, we set out to the bunny slope. The ascent to the top of the small hill did not take long but required some energy. Of course, Kevin went first to test out the conditions, so that I had all the information I would need to proceed. At first I was cautious. I rode the breaks all the way down…my feet forcefully dragging. I was practically crawling, but still having fun! I was hooked. I loved it minus the sand that was accumulating in every crevasse. After a couple more practice runs, we set out across the sand for the legitimate hill.
Steer with Your Knees
We were lucky to time our stop at Te Paki when there weren’t any tour buses. That meant we practically had the slopes to ourselves! There were less than a handful of people on the sand slope at any point in time. When we arrived at the hill, there were a few teenagers enjoying the ride. One gave us a few pointers on climbing the hill, as the sand was scorching hot. I must admit the bunny slope was peanuts compared to the real run—and of course I was happy to volunteer Kevin to make the first run. The climb to the top of the hill was a workout in itself, one that left me slightly out of breath. After making the tiresome climb to the top, the reward is the head-first decent down. Kevin warned that if you choose to ride the breaks (i.e. drag your feet), that the sand gets too hot on the top of your feet and so you have to use your knees instead.
No Chair Lifts
I must admit that I had SO much fun riding the sand, but it is a lot of work to climb the slope. For every step forward, you seem to slide two steps back. This workout proves too much for many people and they only take one run. But we spent two hours climbing and exploring the windy sand peaks in Te Paki. After the trial runs on the bunny slope, four runs on the large sand dune and then even more runs on the bunny slope, we were officially covered in sand and tuckered out. Even if you only have time and energy for one run, I would recommend this in a heart beat to anyone in the area. It might possibly be the most fun that you can have in the sand!