Hokianga: Going for gold up north

By Rob Cox

Boogie boarding on the sand dunes of Hokianga is addictive, family friendly fun, writes Rob Cox.
Johnny Cox flies down the Hokianga dunes. Photo / Rob Cox
Johnny Cox flies down the Hokianga dunes. Photo / Rob Cox

I'm a big fan of sports and I think it's wonderful to see golf and rugby sevens become part of the Olympics in Rio.

I am quite convinced that if more people spend time up north, Hokianga to be precise, and invest in a good, solid boogie board, there'll become a big enough movement to push for another event. Dune surfing!

This is probably the most addictive, family-friendly fun you will ever have while surfing - but be warned, you need a good pair of legs on you.

On the edge of the Hokianga Harbour sits Opononi, a beautiful little seaside town with a good pub, great fish 'n' chip shop, The Landing Cafe, which serves the biggest breakfasts ever and a superb range of cakes, and my favourite statue.

Back in my day, Opo the Friendly Dolphin was more famous than Puff the Magic Dragon, and standing in front of Opo's statue, which looks out over the harbour, brought it all back. How cool would that have been? Having a dolphin as a swimming buddy.

Across the harbour is a sight worth the travel. Sand dunes the size of mountains stretch across to the harbour mouth.

If you are into sandcastles, it doesn't get any better ... or bigger. My boys had seen photos of dune surfing and this was the one thing on their "must-do up north" list.

Every day Pete from Hokianga Express takes passengers across the harbour to the dunes. It's a fantastic two-minute shuttle service that beaches right at their base.

We're given boards and instructions on how not to end up with a mouthful of sand on our descent, then we jump off the boat and start our ascent.

The climb is slow because the sand is so fine that it just slides through your feet, meaning you can't get any traction. Then the inevitable happens: my boys suggest that if I carry their boards, it might speed up the process.

What feels like ages later (but was probably only a minute or two) we reached the summit and paused for a moment to take in the panoramic views and the rich dune colours rolling down into the clear water.

The downhill run looked intimidating, steep and straight with nothing but water at the bottom. The perfect slide.

I plucked up some courage, dived on to my board and let rip into my first dune surf. Awesome, but I was buggered after two goes. That's when I realised my boys are officially fitter than me.

I think they'd still be up there now if I had let them. They were in heaven, daring each other to go faster and fly down the dune, hitting the beach, then launching into the water. Fantastic!

While I was getting my breath back, Pete showed me some photos of the dunes about an hour's walk from where we were.

The photos showed impressive giant sand sculptures carved from centuries of erosion. We didn't have the time to see them but I would love to.

Hokianga is a real northern jewel. When you are on those slopes, your footprints make it look like you are the first people to land there. It's nice to have somewhere all to yourself. So now I think of it, I don't want dune surfing at the Olympics.

If dune surfing were to make it to the Olympic stage, then the next time I visit Hokianga's magical dunes, I will probably find a T-bar carrying thousands of people up the slopes, a pay-and-display carpark next to Opo's upgraded neon statue and an Irish-themed pub on the foreshore.

No thanks, let's keep it local.

Checklist - Hokianga

Getting there: Opononi is a 3hr20 minute drive north of Auckland on SH1 and 12. From there, you can take the Hokianga Express boat to the sand dunes ($27 for one hour, includes boogie board rental).

Details: Visit hokiangatourism.org.nz

- NZ Herald

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