Part 1 Published on 3 March 2016 in the Raglan Chronicle
Part 2 Published on 17 March 2016 in the Raglan Chronicle
“In my eyes, those guys are legends,” said Malibu Hamilton, a few minutes into our conversation. He was referring to the likes of Courty, Crowie, PC… a few of the names he had picked up from reading one the most recent Surf Columns.
The same guys who had encouraged us to get in touch with Malibu in the first place. But to them, Malibu is known as Māori Mike.
Malibu first came to surf Raglan in the early 1960s. He reckons he and his friends, Māori Paul (and eventually Black Eddy and Roger Brown) were the second wave of surfers back then, but probably the first group of Māori surfers in New Zealand.
“There were very few of us [Māori] in those early days. Those Hamilton boys thought we were interlopers, coming to steal their waves. But, myself and Māori Paul actually come from around here.”
Even back then, that sense of ‘localism’ came into play on the waves. But over the years Malibu said his relationship with ‘the originals’ turned into a beautiful experience.
Born in Kawhia, Malibu’s people are all up and down the coast. At a young age, he moved to Auckland to discover the opportunities there. But as soon as surfing caught on he was making regular trips to Whaingaroa.
Malibu has watched the community evolve throughout the years. He has listened to the rhythm of the people. Taking time to observe the behaviours both in the lineup and on the streets. He has watched the wairuatanga (spirituality) of the town change.
“In the early days it was surfers who were keeping this town alive. Surfers like us, coming from Auckland, around the country and overseas. Even today surfers make up a lot of the day trips here, the night stays at different times. And the competitions bring a high profile.
Surfers have come into this community and still do. They have bought businesses, developed businesses, employed people–and have been a serious contributor to the net worth of the Whaingaroa community, both then and now.”
Our conversation turned towards the relationship of Māori and surfing–which is one that we thought would be more, connected. But it’s a bit more complicated than that.
"The interactions of surfers with Māori at the start of surfing, was one of warring against each other.
We became self-centred on getting what we wanted, which was the wave,” Malibu said.
“When we first started coming here, we would jump out of the car and down into the paddocks to get to the waves. In those days we didn’t ask. We didn’t have respect for the people that were here. …Surfers started abusing landowners as if they had a right to walk on their private land.”
After observing an altercation between one of the landowners and a couple of surfers, Malibu and his friends stepped in. They took the time to talk to the landowners, to find out what the problems were. They became stalwarts in trying to back the owners and help police the surfers.”
Although things have changed over the years, Malibu still hasn’t witnessed much respect between surfers, mana whenua and tangata whenua.
Surfing is an independent sport, and surfers can be self-centred when it comes to the surf. They don’t care to notice that the surf is connected to Karioi or the Township. They don’t always recognise the bigger picture.
But then you have the ones who have taken the time to embrace the spirit of Whaingaroa. And once that gets into you, it changes who you are. You come back to it again and again.
“There are those who have learned and developed themselves to become better people through surfing. They have learned to understand Tangaroa, Tāwhirimātea and Tāne-mahuta, you know that those people are feeling the ocean, they are with the ocean, sharing it and sharing the atua.
There are more people doing that than what a lot of people think.”
There’s a dichotomy of differing viewpoints of existence within Whaingaroa. We are all rooted to the whenua, we are connected to the same ever-flowing tides. It’s our place, as a community to teach that respect, to lead by example.
Malibu believes that Daniel Kereopa’s win of the Ultimate Waterman last year (2015) helped to prove that Māori can surf. “Here in Whaingaroa, the mana whenua hapū are in a better position because of it. There’s a lot more respect internationally, regionally and locally because of that,” he stated.
Surfing has also contributed to Malibu’s passion for the environment. He has since taken his love for the water and surfing to the land, fighting to protect what we have.
There were many instances throughout our conversation where we witnessed both Malibu’s love and passion for surfing. But one brief memory, in particular, stuck with us.
There was a period in the ‘60s and ‘70s where the whole of the west coast was closed out by 30-foot waves. From Piha to Raglan, the beaches were shut down. Malibu recalls going out to Manu Bay with a few mates, and from where the first car park is now, he remembers standing there looking out and up into the surf.
“It was peeling, nearly as far as the eye could see, breaking waves. The boulders were being lifted up and crunched back down… and that’s when the ledge was formed. …And the ledge today is still a force to be reckoned with.”
Recounting that story through a few typed up words does not do it justice. However, in that moment we felt the same sense of respect that Malibu still has gained for the water.
This respect has ignited his passion for the environment. He has become a kaitiaki, a guardian, doing what he can alongside others to protect our surf breaks and the things connected to them.
The health of the water is vital to the environment. What happens on land, eventually affects what will happen in the water.
After a number of years surfing, they began to slip when they would run across the rocks to get out to the surf. That’s when they noticed the slime starting to appear. The algae growth had been caused by the towns wastewater system. In the ‘70s, the town created the wastewater ponds, but after a few years of failure, the systems were reviewed by the council.
“Because of our experiences in the water, we went to the hearings as surfers. We were a part of taking the District Council to the Environment Court. And through the Environment Court, we were able to secure better environmental parameters and ended up with a system that treats the water so much better than what it was before.”
But the system still needs work. The parameters are still not right.
“The system is breaking down on a consistent basis, so we want to improve the system. We want to make it so there is a better outcome for Whaingaroa.”
Other contributors to the algae growth include the farm runoff, which Whaingaroa Harbour Care has done a great job of managing. And also stormwater and the stormwater drains.
“Whatever comes out of our storm drains here, comes out into the surf.”
Malibu has been advocating to get Enviro Pods placed in a few different storm drains throughout Raglan. The pods act as a catchment for sediment and debris, separating it from the water before it gets pulled out to sea. A few have been installed, but despite multiple trials, there are still vital storm drains that do not have them.
“Surfers were the ones who designed the Enviro Pods in Auckland. They have become major players in monitoring the stormwater throughout the Waikato.”
“Wastewater, whaanga coast and the stormwater protection have all been driven by surfers. Surfers wanting better water for our community and for fellow surfers. Surfers are the ones contributing to these causes,” Malibu stated.
“Surfing has contributed to our community in a range of ways. Those are only a part of the immediate issues surfers have gotten themselves involved in.”
In 2001, Malibu set up Te Ngaru Roa aa Maui, an organisation based on Tangata Whenua values. Established to help address the issues connected to the adverse effects in coastal waters and on the coastal processes that affect surf breaks.
In July 2006, a national hui was called between surfers in regards to setting up a group to look after the coasts and to work with Māori and Hapu. In September 2006, the Surfbreak Protection Society was officially set up.
When the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement was released in 2010, surfers up and down the country fought hard during the review of that document to get 17 surf breaks enshrined in the highest policy statement in the country. We are one of the few countries that has such a legislative right.
Manu Bay, Whale Bay and Indicators are protected under this policy.
Malibu was also apart of the beginnings of Lost Waves, an organisation dedicated to the future well being and unification of the global surfing tribe. Aiming to protect surf breaks from the adverse effects of inappropriate development, including discharges to the ocean environments.
Surfers have worked alongside one another for years to protect our waves, but this responsibility has to be shared. As coastal residents, whether we are surfers or not, we all have a responsibility to protect the water that surrounds us and the environment that surrounds the water.
Photo thanks to Beach Thurlow