It's a grey Wednesday morning when I meet Alex Dive at Backdoor surf and skate shop in Mount Maunganui.
The 23-year-old surfer feeds his ocean obsession by working as a retail assistant. When he leaves work, you'll likely find him surfing his favourite not-so-secret spot off Matakana Island.
"It's such a good wave over there. We've had heaps, like a lot, of surf. It's been really consistent since the start of January. If you were keen you could've been out there every single day since then."
Surfers have had more to look forward to this season, as NIWA (the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) has predicted above-average numbers of tropical cyclones for the 2015-16 season (which runs from November to April).
Dive is part of a pack of surfies who live in the Bay of Plenty, chasing waves here, across the country and across the world. He has competed internationally and ridden in places known for giant swells, such as Ireland and Indonesia. But when cyclone season strikes, Dive's happy here.
"Obviously you don't want the islands to get hit too badly, but last year we had a really big one, Cyclone Pam, and it can produce some world-class waves. The hard thing is where it's going to track to and what it's going to do. You just kind of pray you're going to get some good surf off it. In our back yard, we've got some of the best waves in New Zealand, for sure. It's as good as it gets anywhere. "
Dive says big wave surfing can be nerve-racking - and addictive. "It's such a buzz. More and more now I need to chase something bigger and more challenging. It's not necessarily the size and height of the wave - it can be the intensity of a wave. You chase the challenge more than anything."
It's the adrenalin. You get such a crazy rush out of it. If anything, it made me hungrier. I just get back out there and give it another shot.
Travis McCoy also tracks waves when he's not teaching surfing at Mount Maunganui's Hibiscus Surf School.
The 25-year-old seeks swells he tells novice surfers to avoid - the ones that follow tropical cyclones and he also favours Matakana Island. Other top spots include Raglan, Northland and near Gisborne.
McCoy says the biggest swell he's seen is about 10 metres. "Once or twice a year between February and [late] March ... we get one or two big ones."
McCoy says he regularly gets up at 3am and jet skies to Matakana Island to enter the water at first light. He understands the risks, suffering his worst injury in Ireland in 2014.
"I got towed into a 15-foot wave; I was strapped to my board and the reef went dry because the wave sucked all the water off the reef. I hit the dry reef and ended up with a concussion and broken nose and two sets of stitches."
He says the injury didn't put him off chasing monster swells.
"It's the adrenalin. You get such a crazy rush out of it. If anything, it made me hungrier. I just get back out there and give it another shot."
Another surfer undaunted by injury is Jordan Griffin.
Taking a break from his barista job at Luca Cafe at the Mount, the 19-year-old tells 48 Hours about a national competition in Gisborne several years ago.
"I nosedived and hit board or rocks and it semi-knocked me out under water. I hit my head on something and broke my nose real bad. I split it open and split my cheek."
But Griffin says that lately he's had smooth rides in awesome surf. "Really, in the last three weeks ... at Matakana, it's as good as it gets. The barrels you get out there are next level. The wave comes in and it's pretty perfect."
Griffin says he caught a six or seven-footer at the Mount Main Beach on January 23, the same day Mount Maunganui College student Hamish Rieger died after being swept off rocks at Leisure Island.
"I paddled out to the blowhole by myself on one of my dad's 7ft2 Hawaiian guns and got two waves. It was pretty massive.
"You don't paddle out there just for fun, you do it when you're at a certain level. If you don't know how to surf, probably just sitting on the beach and watching is your best bet."
Griffin says he prefers surfing less-threatening waves "... and not semi-drown half way out the back. But yeah, a lot of people do chase it in New Zealand and a lot of people come from overseas to chase it."
Hibiscus Surf instructor Jane Alice also favours medium waves but follows big wave surfers into 4m swells for her photography business.
"I do it because I love being in the ocean."
She's snapped surfers in Raglan, where she used to live, as well as in Australia. Alice says she trains for hours swimming with her arms above her head so she can carry her Canon 5D in its waterproof housing.
"I've smashed it before. I slipped on rocks and it landed on top." Alice says it's exciting to capture surfers inside a barrel wave.
Custom surfboard shaper Andy Jordan has come from his secret surfing spot near Whakatane. "I worked yesterday [Sunday] so I could have a day off today, because we knew the swell was coming. I had a really good surf this morning." Jordan says he's no "big wave charger", having nearly drowned in Mexico after getting caught and held by big waves. Now 53, he leaves the super-sized swells for younger surfers.
"It's changed because of the equipment. Boards are better, wetsuits are better, there's better forecasting, guys can find swells and chase them. Surfers have gotten better."
However, Jordan says surfers of all abilities must know their limits.
"Mother Ocean will give you a backhand otherwise. Look how many people drown in New Zealand."