We visit Dunedin in New Zealand often as this is my partners home town. We always stay in the best part, (St Clair) right next to the ocean. There is a little cafe and bar strip along the esplanade and at the end there is an outdoor saltwater pool, similar to the one in Bondi, on the rocks next to the ocean, but much less crowded, less instagrammed and much much colder.

To the right of this is a little track which takes you to some beautiful cliff faces and Seconds Beach. Sometimes you can see seals, sunbathing on the rocks, other times you have this mini sanctuary to yourself. Occasionally James would suit up and paddle out if the swell was right.

This is one of the first set of photos we took with our DLSR. It was just after we bought it in Dunedin from a local camera shop called “Jonathans Photo Warehouse” and I remember how James’s mother encouraged us to support the locals (we have way too many chain stores these days!).

You can see how good I was at keeping still while poor novice James fiddled around with the camera settings. At this point I was oblivious to how I may start using these photos to document  stories and I was very naive at how difficult it was to capture the right photo with the right light. Lucky enough for me, I was marrying an artist who would later teach me the importance of the right balance between light and shadows.

So with my salty hair drying in the wind and the sun on my skin, I frolicked along at seconds beach with my partner by my side who was constantly analysing whether the storm that was brewing would bring waves.

Aramoana is a small coastal town in the South Island of New Zealand. This little town has less than 300 residents and the Maori name translates to “Pathway to the Sea”. I visited this beautiful sea town for the first time four years ago and part of the natural beauty I experienced was this eerie feeling from the land. It’s only a 30 minute drive away from Dunedin and full of wildlife, Sea lions you can usually see at the spit, penguin sightings at sunrise and sunset as they run across the sand. There are no shops or stores, so ensure you bring a picnic with you and a jumper because it gets pretty cool and windy.

The pre surf stare at Aramoana, New Zealand James Kerr

Location – Aramoana, New Zealand, James Kerr

@Jamesbkerr took me here as this was one of his local surf spots he grew up on, with the beach break at its best during north and east swells and plenty of uncrowded lefties and rights with a hollow tubes and picturesque “A” frame waves that all bystanders can appreciate.

I came across this collection of photos this Valentines day, the same day that we had the horrible news from Florida, America about the school massacre, where seventeen people lost their lives and I reflected on the eerie feeling I had this day in the photo where the camera was capturing what I could not see, but feel.

Friends doing the pre surf stare at Aramoana, New Zealand

The pre surf stare at Aramoana, New Zealand James Kerr and Niall McColm

As beautiful as Aramoana is and how lovely the word sounds, it ruminates the memory of New Zealand’s largest massacre, where thirteen people were shot by an aggravated local who had disputes with his neighbors and was not mentally well. That day resonates with most New Zealander’s, I was only four at the time, but recall studying this in school in my later years and that has always tainted the name for me. The decision was made to burn down the perpetrators house three days after the incident and what many people fail to see as a positive out of all the death and tragedy that happened, that day paved the way for the review and restriction on gun laws and all weapons. These new laws were passed in 1992 and I am proud of little New Zealand and the choices that were made at that time. This does not mean New Zealand is gun free, actually there are more than 1 million firearms in New Zealand, its just there are more permits required before you can order a gun online, restrictions on amount of ammunition sales, inspections and requirements so weapons are securely stored and requirement of re-vetting of all licensed gun holders every ten years. I think this is important to remember as there is a perception that reviewing gun laws will result in, no guns.

Aramoana, New Zealand

Eerie beach break, Aramoana, New Zealand

Although little New Zealand did great, I think its also important to look at the facts. That day I researched whether the additional laws reduced the deaths occurred at the hands of guns in New Zealand. I came across a paper which conducted a review of 40 incidents following the two years of implementation of the firearm policy. What this paper identified was that of the 40 incidents resulting in death, 62% of them were registered guns and of these, 100% were shot by a family member, spouse, friend or acquaintance and not in a dark alley way or because of a robbery but in their home, work or perpetrators home. The average age of the perpetrator was thirty-one and 83% of the victims shot, were shot by someone who had never had a criminal record or conviction for a violent crime. These facts alone made me rethink the way I feel about guns and whether we are doing enough even in Australia and New Zealand.

In a perfect world we would not have violence or guns, however not one human is perfect. We are full of imperfections and feelings. We react at times in anger or become depressed and every normal being has these feelings and its what we do at these times which can prevent the future violence and harm of others in the community. Would the world be happier with out Guns? Sure, however, that not necessarily possible and with the facts at hand, even reducing the risk to ensure personnel are law abiding citizens who are mentally well at the time of applying for a gun licence does not fix the ongoing issue. So, would it be better to talk more openly about anger management, mental health, bullying and domestic violence and educate and create identifiers and reporting lines in the community to prevent these crimes before they happen?

I think this may be the best solution forward. I’m sure there are more checks and restrictions we can add to the management of gun laws and I fully support this, however I think prevention is key, educating people that guns are not bad, but every person, regardless of how smart, educated, happy, rich they are, has the potential to at one point be pushed to their limit and react in a way that could hurt or harm others and themselves.  This may change how people feel about owning one or reporting on their friends and family when they are in times of need if they are gun owners.

 

Click Here if you would like to read a study conducted on the 2 years after gun laws were ammeded, by Philip Alpers & Barbara Morgan.

Regardless of how long it took us to get there, how pumping the waves are, how long its been since the last surf, my partner does not break the ritual of the pre-surf stare.

I used to think it’s his way of focusing on the surf, checking out the conditions and best spot to paddle in, however I realised regardless of the conditions he will still surf (I should know better) and it couldn’t be the latter as the habit still happens at our local break.

I used to get frustrated and impatient. (Seriously, there has got to be someone else out there who has a relationship with a surfer and has to deal with this long extended silent stare) I just did not get it! He was always so amped (how I feel when I see chocolate cake) and then as soon as we get there, rather than getting straight into it, he just stares at it! The crazy thing is, the better the waves, the longer it’s been since the last surf, the higher his anticipation, the longer the stare! (Unlike me, the more delicious looking the cake, the closer I am to it, the less time it has to live).

Over time It stopped bothering me because my patience grew as it seemed all surfers would do the same carpark glare, however it wasn’t until recently I developed a theory on the why. I realised it may be a form of mediation…

Reading about colour therapy, I thought how the blue sea tones bring calm and tranquility. So after some digging I learnt that staring at the ocean actually changes our brain wave frequency and puts us into a mild meditative state. The ocean breeze and smell soothes you while the blue colours calm and restore peace which may have something to do with the negative ions in the air that you’re breathing in. It then dawned on me, he’s not staring, he’s completing a pre surf meditation, his personnel way of zoning out and connecting with the earth, just watching each wave roll in, preparing himself for rolling out into the waves. Upon realising this I began respecting this moment and wishing this worked with me and chocolate cake.

My surf wife life has tested my patience over the years, but I have learned that taking him to the ocean ensures he is always in the best headspace, whether my theory is right and the pre surf stare makes him a better person or its just the endorphins generated from the physical output of actually surfing, he always comes out of that ocean stronger and more loving than ever.

If you have some more insight into my little surf theory, please share, I would love to hear what you think or know, or what I don’t.

Photo Location – Main Break, Margaret River, Western Australia