New Zealand is spoilt for quality surf. In our surfing New Zealand series, Christopher Reive explores the breaks around the country and catches up with our Kiwi stars.
Ask someone north of the Bombay Hills where Taranaki is and you're likely to be met with a blank stare, a puzzled look, or some form of incoherent mumble.
A three-hour drive from the nearest major city and not on the way to anywhere, the region is well hidden from the vacant eyes of travelers on their way to another destination.
On the west coast of the North Island, Taranaki boasts some of New Zealand's best surfing breaks, and for a place that literally sticks out on a map of New Zealand, the region has done well to remain tucked away from visiting eyes.
"So many people I talk to, especially from Auckland, they almost don't know where Taranaki is," World Surf League Championship Tour athlete Paige Hareb says.
"The people that do come here think it's amazing … (but) it definitely gets more crowded over summer with the campsites filling up and we're seeing a lot more foreign travelers coming through, so that's kind of cool too."
A recent document released by the Taranaki Regional Council indicates the region features 140 breaks, many of which are yet to be discovered by the wider surfing public.
While the likes of Hareb's home break in Oakura are familiar among the surfing public, it isn't overly surprising that not all of the 140 breaks are on people's radars.
Taranaki boasts a number of world renowned spots. New Plymouth's Fitzroy Beach and Back Beach played host to an event on the women's Championship Tour for four years from 2010 to 2013, before transitioning to a major event on the women's qualifying series for a further two years. Further around the coast, locals make the most of the more secluded, and often heavy, breaks.
For the 28-year-old Hareb, the most successful professional surfer to come out of New Zealand, growing up with the west coast bombs gave her an edge over some of her competition.
"You get the big west coast swells as well, so if I wanted to surf I had to be able to surf the bigger stuff as well," Hareb says. "I got used to that growing up, and you can definitely see with some of the girls on tour, they're I guess more scared whereas I just grew up with it so I'm used to that.
Like most spots around New Zealand, surfers of any level will find a break suitable for them in Taranaki. Fitzroy, the region's most popular beach, can get huge and offer up the odd barrel, but the beach break usually offers somewhat powerful two to three foot swells on which beginners can get their feet in the wax. Further around the coast, breaks like Stent Road, Graveyards offer more experienced surfers more power and size the hack away on.
For the experts, the size of New Plymouth's Bog Works break adds to the thrill, though the chances it's working on any given day are 50-50.
"Being on the west coast, it's pretty consistent all year round. You never go any day where it's fully flat – you can always find somewhere."