The South Island offers some of surfing's cooler experiences shall we say.
But Canterbury is home to the country's hottest young surfer, the 14-year-old Avonside Girls' High student Ava Henderson.
Henderson shocked the surf world by winning the national open title at Dunedin's St Clair Beach last weekend.
Henderson had a head start in her sport, being part of a serious surfing family. Mum Donna runs a Sumner surf school and dad Callum owns a surf shop. (Donna also competed at St Clair, winning the over-45s and placing third in the longboard division).
Ava chats to the NZ Herald about her plans, the Olympics, the environment and even a pesky sea lion.
How did you feel, the moment that you won the open title?
Overwhelmed…it was pretty crazy. I couldn't believe it…no way. It was a bit of a dream.
Do you have a surf hero, and do you model your style on that person?
(Australian) Stephanie Gilmore. She has won the world title seven times and the way she surfs is so cool, so smooth. She looks really nice on the waves. But I don't try to copy anyone. I don't want to spend all my time trying to be like someone else, when I can go off on my own. People call my style lanky, because I'm tall.
You are in a surfing family…
Mum and dad used to always go down to the beach and I kind of worked my way into it. Now the whole family surfs apart from my 12-year-old brother George. He's not really into it – he comes out on a body board or body surfs next to us.
Surfing must be a chilly experience at times down south…
In winter the cold just drains you. You have all the gear – booties, gloves a hood. But it is still so freezing it is hard to get motivated. In winter the air temp gets to freezing - the water temp gets to seven degrees I think. The North Island is so warm. They are so lucky up there.
We hear you may head north to the surf academy at Raglan Area School…
Definitely. I'm in Year 11 next year so I'll be old enough to do it. You get so much more surf time and coaching, and can keep on top of the school work as well. Hopefully I will get in, so long as my grades are good. I try and keep on top of those, as much as I can.
What did you learn at the world junior championships in California last year?
It was definitely a big learning experience, to see the level on the international stage.
Everyone surfs so fast and so consistent. It was really surprising. It was interesting surfing different spots and being part of a team.
You have competed quite a bit in Australia – is it extra competitive there?
Definitely..they've all got their parents pushing them. It's pretty crazy. Everyone is very focused whereas it's more of a chilled surfing environment in New Zealand. In Australia it is more cut throat and you are there to win. At the start I was kind of blown away. Whoa. Okay. But then I just got into it. I guess if you are nice to everyone they are nice back. That was my tactic.
You have been described as a "bulldog" in the water – are you that competitive?
That was mum's description of me in a story. I usually try not to be brutal in the water because it's about having fun. But you are there to win, not to make friends in the water. Out of the water everyone is friends and that is super cool. But I probably am super competitive.
What is your favourite surf spot?
Mangamaunu in Kaikoura. It's a right hand point break, so much fun.
I first went there when I was about 10. It's on the main coast road but reasonably uncrowded and super consistent, and the wildlife is real nice. There are mountains in the background which you can see while you're surfing. There are seals and dolphins everywhere. The seals come close, the dolphins swim under your board. The seals have touched my board at times – it's kind of scary when they open their mouth.
We've heard a sea lion turned up at the national championships…
Yeah, it was terrorising everyone before the competition, coming up and jumping at us.
Everyone was screaming. It was going under everyone's boards and barking. All the North Islanders were petrified. I don't think they had seen that before.
We are more used to it – I think the sea lions just want to play but you can never be too sure.
How does being in the water so much influence you in terms of looking after the environment?
I'm definitely trying to be more environmentally conscious; about what we use and buy. Supermarkets are filled with plastic. It's crazy.
Sometimes when we are surfing there are plastic bags around – we shove them down our wetties and put them in a bin later. We try to pick up any rubbish on the beach, and be real conscious about those things. It is surprising how much stuff you find in the water - mostly just plastic bags and bottles, old bits of plastic. Sometimes there are things like tyres floating around. It is crazy how it ends up there.
Some surfers find the sport to be a spiritual experience…
It depends how you think. Some people want to connect with the ocean and everything, but I just want to catch a wave and have fun.
How do you think surfing's entry into the Japan Olympics this year will influence the sport?
The Olympics will get surfing more recognition which is great, and get more people into it. There are already a lot of up and coming young surfers and everyone is so competitive. It will definitely get more recognition and more people into it which is great. Women's surfing has got so big in the last 10 years around the world. It is so good to see - surfing makes you happy.
What are your main aims?
To make the Olympics in 2024 and 2028 would be pretty good. To do well overseas…I guess most competitors dream about being on the pro tour. I'm still really young so I'm playing it by ear. I'm not super serious at the moment. But I will definitely try to get deeper into the competitive side. I'm just staying focused and training hard.