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.
A world-class wave with little to no crowd is a board rider's dream, and some travel the world searching for exactly that.
For Whangamata's Ella Williams, it's just a case of stepping out her front door and making one simple decision: left or right.
Williams has journeyed around the globe on the World Surf League qualifying series competing at some of the best and most well-known breaks on Earth. But when it comes to hunting waves for pleasure, there's no need for the 23-year-old to travel outside of the Coromandel Peninsula.
"To be able to have the options so close and right on my doorstep, I get asked quite a lot by people why don't I travel a bit more around New Zealand ... I live in paradise already," Williams says.
"I've got so many good waves right outside my doorstep; I've got lefts, I've got rights, I've got a beach break, and for me I'm content. That's all I need. One day I will explore my own country, but for the meantime, I'm so happy here. It is paradise."
A skeptic might think Williams is a touch biased, but a trip out to the Whangamata Bar will quickly shatter that line of thinking.
The Bar is arguably one of the more famous Coromandel breaks, with people visiting from across the world to score on the dreamy left-hander. But while plenty of folks visit from abroad, Kiwis don't flock to Whangamata in such large numbers.
Of course, there's the Christmas holiday crowd who visit the small town to take a break, but for the majority of the year, there is space in the surf.
With options across the Coromandel, anyone with transport can bounce around the area on the hunt for a wave. If Whangamata isn't firing, somewhere like Hahei, Hot Water Beach or Onemana might be.
"It's definitely one of those places where if they know the surf is going to be good then they'll come," Williams says of Whangamata. "If it's not good, they kind of go 'oh well' and just go home. But those people from around the world, they score it and it makes their trip. People have options. There are so many untapped beaches here, which really is amazing. It's good to have options, so everyone can spread out."
The Coromandel offers breaks for surfers of every level. The likes of Onemana, Whitianga and Pauanui cater for the beginners; while more advanced riders can dabble in heavier breaks like Whiritoa and Kuaotunu Beach.
In Whangamata, there are plenty of breaks along the main beach alone that offer something different. For Williams, the variety in the region provided the spark that ignited her surfing career.
The 2013 Junior World Champion started surfing at the age of 4 on the front of her father's board. She soon got her own board - a pink six-foot fish shaped by the late Raglan legend Craig Hughes - and that was that. "I had the option to sit on the beach and make sandcastles or go out surfing," Williams explains, "so obviously I just got into it."
And despite still having plenty of the country's waves to explore, Williams says she's seen enough in nearly 20 years of surfing to know New Zealand in itself is one of the world's hidden surfing gems.
"You go over to Australia and it's super, super crowded. Like, it's a beautiful beach with good waves, but there are so many people. Then you come here, you've got pretty much exactly the same thing, just a bit colder at times, and you can have uncrowded world-class waves."