Surfing the South Island of New Zealand | Winter
“It forces you to rely on your instincts, to hone a deep trust in your ability to rise to a challenge and in the quieter moments of the journey, to turn inward.” – Apolla Echino
Canadian filmmaker Apolla Echino was tired of seeing men get to have all the fun in adventure films and is on a one-woman mission to change that around. Her documentary series, A Woman’s Guide To The World, has taken her aboard a tall ship sailing to Antarctica and into the wildest corners of the Amazon jungle. But it’s the latest chapter, a wintertime surf trip across the stunning South Island of New Zealand that has attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers from across the globe.
The film charts Apolla’s journey from the breathtaking Kaikoura coastline, south to the Catlins and west to the wild and remote Jackson Bay. Apolla even chances upon a freshwater break at the mouth of the Buller River – a rare event that only occurs a dozen times a year. In the freezing New Zealand winter, Apolla is often the only surfer in the water – a fate that she says was both intimidating and exhilarating, “At times I wondered what the hell I was doing taking such a gutsy trip.”
It’s a sacrifice she felt it was necessary to take in order to show other woman what is possible. Apolla says she wants other women to be inspired by her films, “I started the series with the hope it might encourage women to be the subject of their own adventure stories.”
“Solo travelling is one of the greatest ways I have found to build a deep and lasting relationship with yourself,” says Apolla. “It forces you to rely on your instincts, to hone a deep trust in your ability to rise to a challenge and in the quieter moments of the journey, to turn inward.”
Remarkably, Apolla only started surfing in her 30s after a relocation to Los Angeles from New York, “I bought a 9’4 board and found my sweet spot as a long-boarder. I loved the laid back vibe of it and the sturdy feel of it under my feet on a wave.” Now that same green board with a heart on it that she’d surfed in California accompanies her throughout the film as she journeys across the South Island.
Despite donning a 5.5mm wetsuit, the cold was a constant on the trip, “Since I was surfing every day and sleeping without electricity at night, my wetsuit, booties and gloves never had the chance to dry. Putting on the wet gear in the morning after a cold night was never pleasant,” she says.
This surf, adventure film is not without an emotional undertow. The trip came at a challenging time for Apolla who was in the early throes of a relationship breakup. She says the time spent alone out in the water was actually the perfect medicine, “If you ever have to make a big life call, doing it out in the surf is the way to do it. You feel calm, quiet and connected to something bigger than yourself.”
“Surfing the South Island of New Zealand – Winter” is produced by Apollonia Productions and Wrestler. Starring Apolla Echino. Cinematography and editing by Conor Lui. Motion design by Fox&Co Design. Filmed over the course of three weeks in June, 2016.
Thank you to Education New Zealand, Ama Balm, Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferry, Whale Watch Kaikoura and Pacific Horizon Motorhomes for the sponsorship! And SURF2SURF for the guide book! And CURL mag for your support! And to all the great people I met in and out of the water in New Zealand!