This article was originally published by SURFER.
Back in March, photographer Ridge BenBen and surfer Joe Kisling traveled to New Zealand's south island for the Single Fin Mingle logging contest, an annual event that describes itself as a "multi-faceted festival based on traditional surfing displays, art shows, film screenings and musical performances." In other words: an all-around good time.
Unfortunately, the event was scheduled smack in the middle of the Covid crisis, which forced its cancellation and left BenBen and Kisling stranded on an island far from home. "We were supposed to be there for 12 days, but ended up stuck for a little over a month," BenBen says, about the trip from which all of the photos below were shot. "Of course, if you're gonna be stuck somewhere during a worldwide health crisis, New Zealand is probably one of the best and most beautiful options out there, especially before surfing was banned."
All photos and captions by BenBen
"Coronavirus canceled the The Single Fin Mingle," says BenBen. "But those who had flown out already, along with a crew of NZ locals, all gathered for an epic surf trip up the coast one day. Big thanks to Ambrose McNeill [organizer of the contest] for getting us all together and keeping the spirit of the mingle alive."
"This is Joe Kisling getting comfortable on the wave where the Single Fin Mingle contest would have been held," says BenBen.
"When the waves slowed down in the zone where we were staying, we made a couple quick day trips to nearby breaks," says BenBen. "It seems like everywhere you go in New Zealand you're left in awe of your surroundings."
"After putting in plenty of miles driving around looking for surf this day, we ended up right back where we were staying, and found beautiful conditions," says BenBen. "This is Joe Kisling again, walking back from a heels hang."
"Cameron Haylock, making sure no one goes without coffee in the mornings," says BenBen. "If you're ever in Sumner, NZ and you're looking for the best coffee in town, Cam is the man to call. He also rips on anything you put under his feet."
"While videos of empty shelves of toilet paper were flooding my phone from back home, we were literally sitting right here," says BenBen. "More thankful than ever. At the time, NZ only had about 5 confirmed COVID-19 cases."
"Luke O'Neill is New Zealand's best kept secret," says BenBen "He's beyond talented and has an insane style."
"Empty airports are a bizarre feeling, " says BenBen. "This was our time to head home after being in NZ for over a month. We were very thankful to stay healthy, and also to those who constantly checked in on us to make sure things were OK while we were away."