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Surfing celebrated in new exhibition at Kaikōura Museum, Wharenga – First Wave

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Date: 21 May 2024
Kaikōura Museum Media release

Surfing celebrated in new exhibition at Kaikōura Museum, Wharenga – First Wave

The distinctive geography of the ocean bed along its coastline means Kaikōura is one of the most consistent and enticing surf regions in New Zealand. The waves started attracting surfers to Kaikōura from the early 1960s. These adventurers helped shape, and continue to influence, the social fabric, culture and economic life in Kaikōura. However, their stores are mostly untold and contribution largely unknown. Until now that is.

Wharenga – First Wave, is a fun, interactive and multimedia exploration of the history and geological forces that are connected with surfing in Kaikōura. Te Awhina Arahanga, Museum Curator, said there are many Kaikōura stories that we already know but this the first time that an exhibition based on the story of surfing is being shared. Wharenga – first wave brings to light the surfing culture, science and matauranga Maori and the interconnection between these elements. We’re pretty sure this is a first for Aotearoa.

This wonderfully collaborative project, lead by Pearson Architecture and Canyon Creative, involves content contributions from the local and wider surfing community, oral and surfing historians, and professional surf photographers, including the venerable Warren Hawke. There is also significant content from GNS and NIWA, who’ve created some pretty remarkable 3D models and wave simulations of local surf breaks. The result is a visually stunning and fascinating exhibition that will be of keen interest to surfers and non-surfers, young and older alike. And not a cliché in sight.

Matt Moriarty, of Canyon Creative, says that as a designer and a surfer it’s been a cool project to be involved in. “Something I’ve really enjoyed is getting out and talking to the surfing community about their stories. It’s really reinforced that surfing is much more than paddling out and getting a wave or two. It’s about community, wellbeing, connection to nature and being part of something bigger than your daily grind. It’s something to really celebrate. I’m looking forward to seeing how this translates, how the audience responds to the exhibit”.

The project was started with initial funding from Lotteries and the Aotearoa Gaming Trust and the Kaikōura Community Op-Shop recently came on as Principal Sponsors along with others that include Dolphin Encounter and Warren Hawke photography. Museum Manager, Stephanie Lange, said “it has been both humbling and motivating to also get backing from within the community and we greatly appreciate those that have come on board to help make it happen”.

“It’s really exciting to bring this to our community and visitors. It’s a distinct move away from the last 7 years which have been focussed on recovery from earthquakes and Covid 19 and will provide a positive and fun offering for Kaikoura and another reason for people to visit and stay a little longer in town” Stephanie added.

This long term exhibition opens to the public from Friday May 24th at Kaikōura Museum.


Stephanie Lange

Museum Manager

Kaikoura Museum

96 West End

Kaikoura 7300

021 024 04579


Editor’s note: Kaikoura Museum is a proudly independent Museum, a registered charity and receives no regular funding.

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