Posts Tagged ‘Center’

My journey back to Kiwi-Land!!!

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

As most of you know, this January I returned to my homeland, New Zealand, for a quick vacation to catch up with family and friends (and a little bit of skiing). After 14 months in the United States, I was shocked at how climatized I had become to the American (and by American I mean mainly “Southern”) culture, without even realizing it. Small things that had once seemed bizarre to me, things like tax not being included in the price displayed, the average vehicle being the size of a small elephant, Police with guns (Not allowed in NZ!!!), and 400lb people wedging themselves into little carts to buzz around Walmart, had become a usual sight for me, and the change when I got home was unreal!!

Walking through the shopping mall when I was home, I was suddenly immersed back into familiar slang, food, and fashion. I know it sounds silly but it really is that obvious! People walking past in Stubbies, a singlet, and jandals (Roughly translated, that would be short, thigh length shorts used for playing rugby, a beater/tank top, and flip flops), or all the cafes, wedged between every second or third shop, with folks sitting outside stopping for a quick coffee and “sammy” (Sandwich) on their lunch break.

Walking through Wellington city in the late afternoon/evening it was just nice to see people finishing their days at work or Uni (college) sitting down in parks, or big open areas of grass, just unwinding. A group of young guys throwing a rugby ball or Frisbee around, or a few stranglers with their noses in books, or some people just there to people watch, as everyone made their commute home, either by foot, or what seemed like the second most popular mode of transport – skateboard. I guess the only place I’ve really seen with a similar culture like this in my time in the States would be San Fran.

Anyway, that’s enough about culture. I was only home a matter of hours before I was reminded as to what made Florida so appealing. The infamous Wellington winds started gusting up, turning our lake into something similar to the ocean, with the temperature being cold enough for a Floridian local to dress in snow gear. In actual fact, it was still around 60-65 degrees – but that’s cold enough!!! Luckily the winds gave up and we were granted beautiful water, sadly the not-so-warmness hung around. One big thing about New Zealand that you have to be really careful about, apart from speed cameras, is the sun. There is a big hole in the ozone above New Zealand, and it makes a big difference!! In Florida you can happily sit out in the sun for 3 hours – unless your last name is Small or St. Onge -and you may get a little pink, but you won’t notice it too much. In New Zealand however, if you don’t slop that sunscreen on, those 3 hours will nuke you!! I made that mistake the second day I was back, falling asleep in the warm sun for only two hours in nothing but shorts, and after my entire body shedding a layer or so of skin, six weeks later, and I am still rocking distinctive tan lines halfway up my legs!!

As far as the quality of skiing goes in New Zealand, I will admit we are a little behind the times, with anyone who can do a Front to Back automatically advancing to being one of the best trickers in the country. And with fairness – that front to back is a sucker to learn!!! But these days, we’re starting to catch up with the rest of the world, with more kiwis travelling out to Florida to ski with us at the World Barefoot Center and taking what they learn home, modern coaching techniques have been introduced and its great to see a group of young kids coming up, learning the correct way. What was once just another ski school, the name barely memorable only a couple of years ago, has now become an icon for barefooting back in New Zealand, helped greatly with today’s social media, and more importantly, the results of the skiers that come back after weeks/months of training at the school!!!

So, even though there are some major differences dividing these two countries from one another, there is also one big similarity – the passion for barefoot water skiing, and the huge sense of family you get from anyone else involved in this great sport, no matter where you are on the planet. The greatest thing I think I noticed while in New Zealand was the general level of skiing, as us kiwis move into the modern era of footing, all thanks to what’s been going on here at the school. As far as myself goes, the journey I have taken personally here at the ski school has been a life changing one, with life-lasting friendships being formed, finding a second family, a second home, and a whole new platform for my skiing.

And as much as I have loved every minute of this trip….it’s always nice to go home :)

– Ben Groen, New Zealand