A Northland beach provides a sharp test of David Rowe's Hasselhoff skills and his 'TWT' awareness.
My David Hasselhoff moment came two days into our holiday at Waipu Cove.
The sea seemed calm and sparkly at nearby Langs Beach as my pregnant wife, Julie, our 2-year-old daughter, Poppy, and her 69-year-old grandmother, Anne, got out of the hot car and headed for the sand.
Poppy did her own impression of Baywatch-era Hoff as she sprinted to the sea, knees rising high. Mother and grandmother followed right behind and were soon splashing happily in the shallows.
However, there be demons in that Northland surf. The undertow was fierce and the waves had lots of guts. The tumult was also concealing a drop in the seabed, trapping the trio and knocking Julie off her feet. Grandmother Anne bravely swooped Poppy up in her arms as another wave hit, Anne's feet sinking into the sand.
From the beach I heard a shout for help. Casting aside my sunscreen and cap (Black Caps), I ran to the water. I could feel the strength of the tide as Anne handed me Poppy and the four of us waded to safety. We were all a little traumatised, and Poppy is still talking about the day "the big wave came and Mummy got scared".
The trip up north last month was our first insight of the dangers of TWT (travelling with toddlers). The first jitters hit when we arrived at our rented house in Waipu Cove. It was a flash place - open-plan, modern kitchen, staircase, ranchsliders, hammock, water bucket for sandy feet - the lot. But the house opened to a steep, shared driveway, regularly traversed by neighbours' SUVs and large trucks working on a building site up the hill.
Thankfully, through constant and nervous surveillance, Poppy came away unscathed. The only casualty was a pink ball with stars on it, named "starball", which rolled down the driveway, never to be seen again.
Sleeping is also a common TWT problem. The change in location and schedule played havoc with the toddler's normally settled sleeping habits and, at our worst moment, we were both exhaustedly imploring her at 11.42pm to go to sleep in the room we shared with her porta-cot.
The trip had its charms. Waipu Cove is beautiful and well served with a decent cafe to keep latte-loving Aucklanders happy. It's not far from Mangawhai, which has an estuary that is a much safer swimming spot for toddlers, Bennett's cafe and a TWT-approved chocolate shop.
We found ourselves wondering, as many no doubt do, whether we could decamp there for six months (in a fenced property) and leave the city behind. Would we rent or buy? Could we work remotely? Would we get bored? Could we still get Sky? Julie even went so far as to check out Waipu's Playcentre.
Those dreams have since faded, but we are still keen to return for another summer break.
Next time, we'll be better versed in TWT management and we'll book a family-friendly campsite.