Arguably the world's best surfer, Kelly Slater put on a masterclass display carving up waves at a Northland beach, and giving youngsters a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The surprise visit by the legend surfer to Pataua, 35km northeast of Whangārei, on Wednesday afternoon had local surfers buzzing.
Slater has had a grip on nearly every major record in the sport, including his 11 World Titles, 55 career victories, as well as being the youngest and oldest World Champion in men's history.
He arrived in the country last week as one of 112 surfers who were to compete in the WSL Challenger Series at Piha which was due to start on Monday but was subsequently canned due to the coronavirus outbreak. It's almost 30 years since the world champion had competed in New Zealand.
Slater, obviously keen to catch a wave, found his way to Northland, with word quickly spreading through the local surfing community.
Pataua South's Max Eilering couldn't get off the school bus fast enough and into his wetsuit, and across the channel to the surf about 4.30pm.
One of the kids on the bus got a text from his mum saying the champion surfer was at Pataua, but it was met with some scepticism from those on the bus.
It was when Eilering got home and saw a note from his mum on the bench that she had taken his sisters to the north side to see Kelly Slater that he knew it was true.
"I was paddling out with my mate and we were looking trying to spot Kelly then we saw this guy do the best backhand snap I have ever seen in real life," Eilering said.
"I looked at my mate and both our jaws dropped and straightaway we knew it was him. We were stunned and in disbelief."
Sitting out the back waiting for a wave 16-year-old Eilering said he was about 2 metres away from Slater but was too scared to strike up a conversation.
"We were all sitting out the back in shock, not talking."
Then they both caught the same wave with Eilering peeling off left and Slater opting to go right. Slater caught a few more waves and then went in.
Mum Bridget Eilering was impressed with how Slater hung around and mixed with the kids for about an hour after he got out of the surf.
"The vibe was amazing, everyone was frothing. He (Slater) was super accommodating. I thought he would come in, get changed and go but he was talking with the kids for about an hour."
Slater signed boards and shirts and posed with those who wanted photos.
"It was epic and the kids were buzzing. He was great talking to them and those grommies just love it."
It was then Max Eilering got the courage to ask Slater why he had chosen his 'backyard".
"He had been down at Mangawhai and the wind changed so he Google mapped the coast and worked out with the wind direction Pataua would be a good place."
Slater also surfed at Mangawhai in March last year.
Eilering said the surf at Pataua was about three foot and clean.
"This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I won't forget," he said.
It's believed Slater was playing golf at Kauri Cliffs yesterday.
The King up close:
Robert Kelly Slater born February 11, 1972
• Grew up in Cocoa Beach, Florida,
• Lives California / Hawaii / Florida
• World Champion 11 times
• Favorite surf manoeuvre - getting barrelled
• Plays guitar and ukulele and has performed with Jack Johnson
• Acted in 27 episodes of the popular TV show Baywatch in the early 1990s
• A fundraiser and spokesperson for suicide prevention awareness
• Wanted to be a ventriloquist
• Chose to finish high school rather than go pro