The ultimate free ride – all you need is a board and a few tips and the waves are yours, thanks to Raglan Surfing School. Video / NZ Herald
Don’t let your budget (or the rain) get you down. Good summer times don’t need to cost a fortune – and can be entirely free. Canvas writers share tips and ideas for indoors, outdoors, plus
free family days out. By Sarah Daniell, Joanna Wane, Greg Bruce, Lucy Corry, Sara Bunny, Leanne Moore.
SURFING, WELLBEING AND NEW SKILLS
Ride the free wave
Sarah Daniell catches a few waves and finds the ultimate free ride.
You’re going to get wet anyway, so who cares if it’s raining. And nothing can dampen your spirits after surfing under the guidance of a guru who knows just how far to push and to pull back. I didn’t even notice about the sharp gravel biting into my soft winter feet as we walked up the path at Ngarunui Beach to the carpark – I was euphoric after a two-hour private lesson with Raglan surf instructor Makarini Milroy. I want to push the envelope, I said. Confront my fears about giant walls of water coming at me. The day before our lesson, it was huge, after a solid westerly storm. It had calmed down by the time we waded out on an overcast November Saturday. You are catching the energy of a swell that starts a long way away, and gradually builds, says Milroy, so it’s no wonder that buzz lingers for hours after the experience. Waves are free. But you will need a board, and possibly a wetsuit depending on the conditions. But once you have the basics, and some weather savvy, the world is your oyster. And there is possibly no greater feeling of liberation than stepping up on your board for the first time and riding into the shore. Milroy and his partner give lessons, rent boards and gear from their bus at Ngaurunui Beach. Prices for kids’ lessons start at $64 for 90 minutes, a bargain for a most fulfilling way to spend the summer upskilling and riding a wave to freedom. Hiring a soft board starts at $25; a wetsuit, $5.
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Depending on where you are, the water conditions may not be optimal for freediving (Tāmaki Makaurau we’re looking at you) but when you can rely only on the power of your breath and the kick of your flippers, freediving provides a window on a silent world, beneath the surface of the water where just watching the swirl of underwater kelp and life is enough to fill your cup. Freediving differs from snorkelling, in that you need practice, confidence and training. So, start in the local pool, and build up to a dip at your local beach. Ultimate free diving spots around the motu include Te Kaha, on the East Cape; Doubtless Bay, Te Tai Tokerau; Thorne Bay, Takapuna; Makara, Wellington. All you need is a snorkel and mask, a pair of flippers – a weight belt once you get your confidence – and a sense of adventure. Check out your local freediving club to get started.
Focus like it’s 1990
Those smartphone pings and notifications are like tech crack, drawing you back to the small screen and messing with your anxiety and attention span. Free yourself, mind and soul and disconnect. As inspired by the New York Times, take a tech break by setting a timer for 15 minutes silence, turn your phone down and close your eyes. Gradually build up to 20-, 30- and even 45-minute stretches. Good also for teens and dinner time. Start reading print material. Studies show our brains don’t engage deeply when reading on a screen and we develop cognitive impatience. Try reading a physical book for 20 minutes, and build up to longer periods … and turn off your phone.
You’ve probably heard the “buzz” phrase before: Around a third of what we eat is pollinated by bees. For The Love of Bees runs a hands-on Bee Experience at Auckland’s Victoria Park, led by Hawaiian beekeeper Noelani Waters, who runs the Comvita Wellness Lab in the Viaduct (you can book in there for a honey-tasting session too). Open to ages six and up, it’s a close encounter with live bees so you’ll be kitted out in protective gear with a beekeeper hat, veil and gloves. Who knows, it might even inspire you to give a little love back to the environment and set up your own backyard beehive. Bookings $20 per person. fortheloveofbees.co.nz/beeschool
ASMR is a difficult to define but pleasant feeling some people get from watching or listening to other people doing weird stuff. Some people describe the feeling as calming or trance-inducing or invoking “tingles” in the head and / or neck region. Others like to use the word “braingasm”. Producers of ASMR content are known as ASMRtists and typically post videos that ASMR experiencers find compulsively engaging and non-experiencers find exceptionally boring. Popular ASMR triggers include whispering, personal attention, tapping, scratching, soft-speaking and deliberate hand movements. Roleplay videos that incorporate some or all of these elements are particularly popular and often include doctor, spa, haircut and hospitality settings. Because the field is relatively new and wildly popular – ASMR searches are consistently among the most popular searches on YouTube – much research is going on into how it works and what its effects are. So far, some of that research has shown it can be more than a feeling – that watching ASMR content can also reduce stress, increase positive mood and help alleviate anxiety, even when those watching the content don’t experience the feelings typically associated with it.
Summer is supposed to be the time of year when we cast off the gloomy grey mood of winter, embrace the bright blue attitude of summer, and live our best lives, but there are many reasons we might be unable to do that: Remembering what we’ve lost, worrying about the year ahead, feeling anxious, stressed, depressed and a smorgasbord of other bad stuff. These feelings are only intensified when it seems like everyone else is having a great time in the Coromandel. As science has shown, the two most effective ways of dealing with serious mental health issues are talk therapy and medication, but a growing evidence base attests to the complementary mental health benefits of reading, and specifically reading fiction and poetry. The name for this practice is bibliotherapy and among its leading advocates is a charity called Relit, which was founded by British Shakespeare scholar Professor Sir Jonathan Bate and author Paula Byrne. They describe it thus: “The underlying proposition is that attentive immersion in great literature can help relieve, restore, and reinvigorate the troubled mind—and can play a part in alleviating stress and anxiety, as well as other conditions.” Because the ways in which we relate to literature are complex and personal, bibliotherapeutic prescriptions are not straightforward, but a good place to start is with Bate and Byrne’s poetry anthology, Stressed, Unstressed: Classic Poems to Ease The Mind, which contains chapter titles like: stopping, composing, releasing, grieving, feeling alone and living with uncertainty. Another good choice, The Emergency Poet: An Anti-Stress Poetry Anthology, is recommended by Auckland Libraries on its bibliotherapy page, which is jointly curated by the Mental Health Foundation and librarian Anne.
Make coffee an artform
Joanna Wane signs up for Latte Art 101.
First, an admission. I failed my Year 9 art exam. I know, right! What kind of school does that to a 13-year-old? However, as a measure of my artistic talent, it was probably spot on. So my expectations are low when I sign up for a Beginners Latte Art course at Altura Coffee Company on Auckland’s North Shore. They fall even lower when trainer Micah Symister shows me one of his best designs, a winged Pegasus stallion he’s been working on for months. “I’m still perfecting it.” He has only three hours with me.
Symister has been a judge at the NZ Latte Art Championships; last year’s winner qualified to compete for the world title in Taiwan. A family of pandas is the most impressive “free pour” design (using no stencil or tools) he’s come across since the whole concept of latte art took off dramatically on social media. Baristas aren’t joking when they say making (good) coffee is an art form. But he says even a relatively straightforward tulip or fern adds a special touch. “It means you’re being looked after. The person behind the machine has taken that extra care to look after my drink.”
You’re usually required to have at least a passing acquaintance with an espresso machine before doing the latte art course. However, getting the basics right is so important that the first hour is devoted to the foundations of making a good cup of coffee — from grinding, tamping and extraction to a chemistry lesson on steaming and “stretching” the milk to create a smooth, velvety finish, “like wet paint”.
Baristas, like wine connoisseurs, have a language all their own. A watery, under-ripe shot tastes medicinal, explains Symister, “like swallowing a Panadol without water”. Overcook the extraction process and it tastes bitter, with “rubbery, scorched-ash flavours coming through”. Even professionals don’t always strike the perfect bittersweet balance. “Coffee is evasive,” he says. “Like a piano, it’s difficult to master.”
A golden-brown crema — the foam on top of an espresso shot — is the canvas on which you learn to paint, artfully pouring the perfect steamed milk straight from the jug. It’s a tricky technique to master and it reminds me of learning how to drive a manual car. There are so many different elements to juggle and a simple error can be fatal.
If you have an espresso machine at home, there are plenty of basic latte art tutorials on YouTube. Altura’s masterclass costs $195. Bookings at alturacoffee.co.nz.
Learn how to ollie
Get your groove on as a “skater girl” at one of the free clinics running over summer. It’s not just about looking cool and getting fit; the wāhine skate crew at social enterprise Wellness Riders — currently operating in Auckland and Hastings — encourage girls and young women to break out of their comfort zone and get off the sidelines, with a focus on both mental and physical wellbeing. Family-friendly sessions are open to boys (and their mums) too. Auckland skateboarding school Girls Skate NZ is also holding free classes through the school holidays at skateparks all over the city. wellnessriders.com and girlsskatenz.com
FAMILY AND FREE
Movies and music in the parks
Thankfully, this highlight on Auckland Council’s cultural calendar hasn’t yet been axed by Wayne Brown. The Movies in Parks and Music in Parks series are probably the best free entertainment for families, or anyone, in Tāmaki Makaurau over the summer. Music in Parks kicks off its 45th season today at the Auckland Domain Band Rotunda with te reo jazz duo Goldsmith Baynes and The Con Alma Big Band. Tomorrow, Sam Bartells, Keith Pereira and Louis Jarlov play at River Reserve in Helensville. Take a picnic and spend the afternoon lounging outdoors, getting to know some of Auckland’s best local artists. Later in the month, the Movies in Parks series launches with movies playing on Friday and Saturday nights in local parks all across the city. There are food vendors on site for the movie nights and pre-movie entertainment to keep you occupied until sunset when the movies will roll. On the schedule this year there’s Minions: The Rise of Gru, Moana Reo Māori, Top Gun: Maverick and lots more.
Auckland’s CBD is a bit of a ghost town over summer but towards the end of the month, as the tumbleweeds begin to clear and workers begrudgingly return to the office, Auckland International Buskers Festival will be ushering in a new year of central city shenanigans. Over Auckland Anniversary weekend there will be live performances by street theatre artists from Japan, USA, Italy, Canada, Australia, South Korea and of course Aotearoa. There are some outrageous acts from contortion that could make you a little squeamish to fire-breathing, magic, hula hooping like you’ve never seen, comedy and dance. Performances start at 12pm with night shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. If you want to have your mind bent a little, take a trip into the CBD on Auckland Anniversary weekend, wander the streets and see what weird and unexpectedly wonderful talents you stumble across.
There couldn’t be a cheaper and easier way to exercise, improve your mental health and explore your surrounds than to put on some comfy shoes and go for a walk. But if you’re not a self-motivated, fitness watch-wearing, step-counter then you might like the support of an organised challenge and supportive network to get you out of your physical or mental slump and pounding the pavement, bush track, beach or wherever your little feet can take you. Walk1200km is an initiative run by Wilderness magazine that encourages Kiwis to walk 100km a month in 2023. Registration is free and you get access to a progress tracker, micro-challenges, walk recommendations and tips, and a supportive online community where you can share your experiences with a like minded group of walkers. This is only the initiative’s second year and the first time they’re teaming up with the Mental Health Foundation to raise money as well. There are no rules to the challenge, you could clock some big digits by doing some of this country’s great walks or you could do the whole 100km each month in your own neighbourhood. Last year’s participants cited overcoming grief, combating degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and improving overall physical and mental health as reasons they took up the challenge. Whatever challenges life throws your way this year, walking could be an important part of the solution or at least a pretty great coping strategy if you commit to it.
Hamilton Garden Arts Festival
Waikato friends, don’t let your zest for life wane when summer does because the newly named Hamilton Arts Festival Toi Ora Ki Kirikiriroa is coming February 24-March 5 to lift your spirits and help you milk those late summer evenings for all they’re worth. If your budget can stretch to paid performances, there are some exciting ticketed events that could even warrant a trip to the Tron for out of towners. Highlights include The Soundtracks From Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs & Pulp Fiction performed by Tami Neilson, Laughton Kora, Milan Borich and Booga Beasley; the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Tutus on Tour; Te Kaahu; the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge performed by a rock opera ensemble and Mansfield in her Own Words – Unplugged. There are also myriad ways to enjoy the festival without spending a cent. The festival hub has live performances every night from 5pm, there’s the This is Kiwi – Indigo Festival and the Festival in the CBD events, which are all free. Plus, there are koha entry events like the Sunset Symphony and Summer Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.
You can’t beat Parnell Baths on a good day
It was a rough start to swimming season for Tāmaki Makaurau’s summer institution Parnell Baths. The major slip behind the baths delayed its opening for weeks but it’s up and running now and as nostalgic as ever. Walking up the ramp to the reception desk, past the enlarged photos of people swimming at the baths from the early-mid 20th century, reminds you of the thousands of secrets and stories that this site must hold: returned servicemen reconnecting with their families after the war, blossoming romances, childhood friendships. You can make a full day of a visit to the baths by booking a barbecue, hiring an umbrella for shade, taking a good book and a litre of sunscreen. It’s open until 8pm every night so dinner at the baths is also a marvellous way to end the day. And like all Auckland Council owned pools, kids under 16 swim for free.
Stretch and bend
There are plenty of online yoga classes around for free, and you can always head to the park and flex your Ashtanga under a shady tree. But to get the benefit of proper instruction and studio vibe, Eastwest in Tāmaki Makaurau has dropped its Summer Special – 5 classes for just $55. These classes last 1 month after the date of purchase and end JAN 16. If you prefer to practice in the comfort of your own space Eastwest have an online yoga platform via www.eastwest.co.nz
Pick your own
You don’t have to be a smug, ‘look I planned ahead’ gardening type to enjoy the benefits of freshly picked fruit or veg. Gather your mates and car-pool to a pick-your-own farm. You’ll pay for what you pick, but what you eat while you’re there is generally free.
Picked lots of corn? Once you’ve nibbled away those juicy kernels, turn the cobs into stock. Plop 4-6 stripped cobs in a large pot with half an onion, a carrot and a stick of celery. Cover with cold water, then simmer gently for 40 minutes. Cool and strain into suitable lidded containers, then chill or freeze.
Eat shoots and leaves
Got a garden full of weeds? There’s a good chance you’ve got fixings for a foraged salad. Use Dr Google (or Johanna Knox’s excellent book, A Forager’s Treasury) to help you identify things like chickweed, nasturtiums, wild fennel fronds, fat hen, dandelion and oxalis.Use your common sense (don’t eat anything you can’t identify, and avoid sprayed, contaminated or dog-visited areas).
Leg of luxury
Why spend $50 on dubious sausages when the same amount buys you a succulent leg of lamb that will feed 8 with ease?. Bone it out yourself (hello, YouTube!) or ask a friendly butcher. Marinate it in a cocktail of garlic, chilli, soy, olive oil and vinegar. Bang it on the barbecue, let it rest, then serve with pita bread, garlic and mint-laced yoghurt.
Getting amongst nature is a summer holidays essential, and it doesn’t have to be all about sand and sea. Head inland to underrated spots like Whirinaki Forest in the Bay of Plenty or Wairarapa’s Waiohine Gorge, or see a new side of Waiheke Island from a walking track (see walkwaiheke.co.nz for ideas). For an outdoor fix along with a boost of good karma, try volunteering on a conservation project – there are groups throughout the county looking for helpers to roll up their sleeves.
‘Travel’ the world on a shoestring
Dreaming of a getaway in Sicily (thanks, White Lotus) but the bank account says no? Join the club. But with a bit of creativity and planning, you can still bring the international travel buzz to your place. Centre a themed dinner around a particular country’s cuisine, complete the picture with a globe-trotting playlist (who doesn’t feel like they’re in South America while blasting ‘Girl from Ipanema’) add some travel-related movies and you’re away. But not. Whether it’s transforming an old coal barbeque into an Argentinian asado, or getting crafty with spices for a Moroccan-inspired spread, the foodie treats can be as simple or extravagant as you like. And better yet, share the costs and double the fun by roping in friends or neighbours for a progressive dinner or potluck feast.
Low-cost designer style
Create your own designer T: Grab an over-sized T-shirt and cut off the sleeves at a jaunty angle.The cap sleeves will give it a fashion-forward nudge that will have your friends asking which design store you bought it from. The cut edge of the sleeve will curl, which is exactly what you want. The more curl, the better. It’s all part of the directional-design aesthetic.
Themed charity-shop challenge
Set a budget, then let friends and family loose on local charity shops to see who can create the best outfit. Give the competition a movie theme, choosing films that have a strong sartorial look. Go for a mix of eras, such as Funny Face (classic Audrey Hepburn in black cigarette pants, black polo neck jumper and black ballet flats), The Breakfast Club (a range of oh-so 80s styles to choose from), A Single Man (Colin Firth in a crisp white shirt, dark tie, dark suit) and Iris (Judy Dench doing bookish and comfy clothes perfect for long hours at a writing desk). Draw straws to allocate the characters. At the very least, you’ll have something to wear to the next fancy dress party. At best, the outfit you create could be so good you end up adding it to your everyday wardrobe.
Support the planet
If consuming more consciously is on your mind for 2023, you could cut down using one of the most expensive appliances to run, your clothes drier. Another planet-friendly habit to drop is dry cleaning your garments. Instead, simply hang an outfit outside to air before putting it away in your wardrobe. And if you want to make mindful clothing choices a priority, next time you’re out shopping ask yourself these three questions: do I really, really need this, was the garment designed with longevity in mind, and were the people who made it paid and treated fairly in their workplace.