A few years ago I met a Kiwi named Roger down at one of the local Jet Ski shops in Las Vegas.
Over the past few years we ended up being pretty good friends and we traveled to some events together. Roger always told me that I needed to go down to New Zealand to come ride. For a few years I just laughed about it and figured I wouldn’t be able to make it happen. I recently went through a few life changes and decided to say “Screw it, I’m going on an adventure”.
I decided to go down to New Zealand during their biggest free ride event called the Festival of Free ride (FOF). After looking at flights I discovered that traveling to Australia wouldn’t cost too much more and just like that I had some plane tickets for an adventure of a life time. I didn’t really have any plans for the trip. The goal was to attend the FOF and just have fun. Everything else I just figured out during the trip.
I was a bit nervous and a bit hesitant going into this trip. This was my first big international trip and I had a 24 hour travel period for me to make my way down under. It took a total of 3 flights to make it down to Auckland and I was pretty out of it by the time I arrived. Once I survived customs I met up with Roger and we headed to get some food. Driving on the other side of the road was the weirdest feeling. What was even more weird was the pizza selection. For dinner we had a banana and salmon pizza along with a caper and onion pizza. Both pizzas were surprisingly good and I would choose the banana pizza over pineapple any day of the week.
After grabbing some dinner I got to meet John Wright who was one of the race promoters for the area. It was cool to see how they hold jet ski races on the other side of the world. John also gave me a place to stay for a few nights during my trip which I was very grateful for. After getting a good nights sleep Roger and I grabbed some breakfast and headed to the shop so we can prep the skis for our riding trip. At breakfast I got to experience a meat pie and it was life changing. I wish we had meat pies in the United States.
After prepping the skis we headed just outside of Auckland to ride at a river called Les Batkin Reserve. While riding the scenery reminded me of Oregon lots of trees and grass everywhere. It felt awesome to ride a ski without a wet suit. Going from winter to summer was the best idea that I ever had. After a quick ride at the lake we loaded up the skis and headed off to Tauranga. Tauranga had a beautiful harbor and an amazing surf setup. We launched at the harbor, rode around the island, and played in the surf for a few hours. The surf wasn’t super powerful, but it was clean and playful. I had a blast riding Roger’s Super Jet out there.
After our surf session I ate dinner with everyone that rode surf with us. Dinner was an interesting experience. We went to a burger place and a handful of people in the restaurant didn’t have shoes on. I asked Linda Thompson if this was normal and she confirmed that it was normal. I still think no shoes in a restaurant is one of the craziest things ever. After grabbing dinner Roger and I headed to Gareth Wing’s house where we stayed for the night.
The next morning Roger and I loaded up and headed back to Auckland. On our way to Auckland we made a quick stop to repair Paula Power’s steering cable.She was in the process of getting her super jet ready for the FOF and was ready to make a comeback.
After a long day of traveling Roger and I arrived at our motel in Waiuku. All of the riders at the motel were having a few drinks and talking about jet skis. I also met up with Mark and Abraham at the motel. After a few hours of socializing it was time for bed so we could ride the next day.
We were up bright and early so we could head down to the beach. The Kariotahi beach was amazing because it had black sand. At the event registration I ran into Tayne and Terry Lemon. I haven’t seen the Lemons since World Finals back in the USA. After registering I rode for a bit in the surf. The surf at the FOF was much more powerful than what I rode in Tauranga. The surf was actually big enough for me to do a few flips and rolls. It was first flips and rolls that I did since I totaled my surf ski. It really made me miss surf riding.
The second day of the FOF was amazing. The surf cleaned up and the weather was perfect. I couldn’t ask for a better day of surf riding. The FOF had some pretty good contests and my favorite was the Wave Blaster biggest air contest. It was nothing but carnage. Paulie Paul tried to do a backflip and bailed and Mike Hay bailed off of his ski and absolutely wrecked it. After the carnage was over we went to the awards ceremony. The ceremony had a massive amount of raffle prizes and quite a few awards to give out. Some of the awards were comical; my favorite award was the most injured award which the winner was given a carbon fiber toilet seat. The awards ceremony turned into an after party that was a pretty good time.
The following day Roger and I headed back to Auckland for to recover from the few days of riding. We met up with John and his wife for nice dinner overlooking the harbor in Auckland. This was probably one of the more relaxing parts of the trip.
The next day we were headed off to Mangawhai for some more surf action. The surf here was awesome and the water was bright blue. New Zealand seemed to have a little bit of everything when it comes to surf riding. After our surf session we went back to the river to flush the skis out. At the river we met up with Shane King, Pete Dimoline, and a few others. Once the skis were flushed out it was time to pack my bags and get ready for Australia.
I looked out my window on the plan as we were about to land in the Gold Coast and I really liked what I saw. Nothing but beautiful water and white sand beaches. As soon as I landed my buddy Justin Belczowski picked me up and we headed straight to Surfers Paradise. The beach down there was amazing and the weather was perfect. Justin showed me around the beaches and waterways while we headed over to Worx Racing. On my trip I made it a point to meet up with people that I have seen over in the States. I usually catch up with the boys at Worx racing during the IJSBA World Finals. After my visit at Worx we headed back to Justin’s house for dinner. After dinner we went down to park and I got to meet some other Joeys. It was pretty crazy to see kangaroos just hanging out everywhere at sunset.
The following day Justin had to work, but he was nice enough to give me the keys to his truck. So I hit the road and went straight to the beach for a nice breakfast while looking at the ocean. After breakfast I walked the beach for a bit and then it was off to Springbrook National Park. I played tourist for a day, which was nice for a change. I drove around and saw some breathtaking views. After a day of exploring I headed back to meet up with Justin and Naomi for dinner. I enjoyed a very nice dinner with some great friends that day. After dinner we checked out some of the nightly entertainment that the Gold Coast had to offer. While walking around Justin and I found the iconic Meter Maids and we decided to get a photo with them. Seeing the Meter Maids really reminded me of Freemont Street in downtown Las Vegas. There were a handful of other street performers, but the Meter Maids were my favorite.
The next morning Justin showed me around for a bit. We ate breakfast on the beach in Kirra. Kirra was absolutely amazing. It looked like something that you would see on a post card or in a travel brochure. I highly recommend stopping there if you are in the area. After eating at Kirra we headed to Jet Pilot Headquarters to meet up with some of my sponsors. Getting a behind the scenes tour of JP was really cool. I got to see all of the new gear coming out for the next season. Jet Pilot was even nice enough to let me go on a bit of a shopping spree. I came home with tons of new gear.
After my stop at JP we went down the road to Australian Jet Ski Parts so I could catch up with some of the guy that I’ve met in the states. It was cool to see how AJSP operated.
For the remainder of my Australian experience I explored the waterways on a boat, checked out some street fairs, and ate some amazing food. My last stop was in Brisbane where I stayed with my friend Tim O’Neil. I have known Tim for a few years after meeting him in the states. He was nice enough to accommodate me before I flew out to return home.
Overall my trip far exceeded my expectations. I had an absolute blast and I met some awesome people along the way. Escaping our winter for two weeks was probably the best idea I have ever thought of. I was very fortunate to stay with friends throughout my whole trip so it was very affordable. I was very nervous to go on my first international trip and now I want to do an international trip every year. I recommend traveling to everyone. There is a whole world out there, you just need to go explore it.