Coral, Blood and Gary Busey: The Raglan beaches are home to some of the best left-handed curls in the world. Yeah, I didn't know what in the hell that meant either. I had pretty much ruled out ever learning how to surf the same day that I saw 'Point Break' and realized that someday the people of Earth would need me to kill Gary Busey. But I changed my mind (about surfing, not about Gary Busey) after I had spent a few hours in Raglan. Standing on the beach, watching the waves rolling in and all the people riding atop them, I couldn't help myself. My colleague, Dennis, and I had just driven into town that morning and had the entire day to kill before we were to check into our hostel. I had to rent a big, foam "learning board" and a wetsuit at the beach, but learning was actually fairly easy once I set myself up. It's much more intuitive than snowboarding or skiing (if that's possible) and people who were already out there were more than happy to give me pointers. Dennis and I spent almost 8 hours surfing the first day we were in Raglan. Though we did have to take sporadic breaks - even the 7mm wetsuits couldn't keep us totally insulated from the cold water. Eventually, the only thing that really got us off of our boards was the fact that the sun had started to disappear. Our departure was expedited when I managed to wipe out on a coral head around 6:00 - tearing my wetsuit and leaving a long, profusely bleeding gash in my leg. Always nice to have something to show for a day of hard work. We caught a little shuttle (that had a first aid kit) from the beach back to what was the most rustic of the hostels that we stayed at on the trip. It was also the cheapest and most aesthetically pleasing. It was basically just a collection of refitted railway cars, tin/wood shacks and a couple outhouses nestled in the forest at the top of a hill over looking the beach. Seriously cool. I've said it once and I'll say it again; don't stay in hotels or motels if you're a genuine traveler and trying to see and do everything you can in any given locale. Especially in New Zealand, hostels are absolute gold. We had a traditional Maori feast thing the first night we were in Raglan. It involved burying a bunch of meat and vegetables, wrapped in some leaves, in the ground with some rocks that had been in a fire pit all day, leaving it there for like 2 hours and digging it up. Have I mentioned how much I like the Maori? I think I paid something like 11 dollars (thus doubling my room and board expenditure for the day) for all the meat and beer I could get my hands on. One of my most vivid memories of the whole trip was going to sleep that night under the stars - full, shivering, exhausted and infinitely content. I decided the next day that Raglan would be a good place to grow old. Dennis and I spent the whole day in town (essentially the mold from which all other surf towns are cast) hanging out with the locals, swimming (the ocean was literally 200 feet from the main street) and paying genuine attention to the postings outside the local realty office. We gave night surfing a shot after we got dinner at a local pub (for 3 dollars) but gave up when I almost broke my board and Dennis cut the s*** out of his leg on the same coral head that I had become familiar with the day before. Was still fun. We made up for lost time the next day by enthusiastically waking up at 7:00am and surfing until we were weak from hunger. We were loathe to go to sleep that night, knowing that we would have to leave the next day. We planned a trip back on the bus the next morning.