The law of the ocean

Surfing helps lawyer lead a balanced lifestyle.

Surfing helps lawyer lead a balanced lifestyle.

LIVING THE DREAM: Looking forward to the lawyers’ Easter surfing festival in Gisborne are Mana Taumaunu, Elliot Lynch, Marguerite Vujcich, Michael Gordon and Nick Witters. Pictures supplied
WAVE OF JUSTICE: Gearing up for March are Gisborne lawyers and friends, club members, partners and children, (from left) Elliot Lynch, Greg Kassel, Sam Gibson, Gisborne’s regional surfing development manager Kelly Ryan, Caleb De Lacy, Marguerite Vujcich, Christopher Vujcich, Nick Witters, Joe McNaughton and Michael Gordon. In front are Ben Kassel and Nikki Kassel.

Lawyers do surf and the New Zealand Lawyers Easter Surfing Festival to be held in Gisborne during Easter (March 31–April 1, 2018) will present the evidence, writes Nick Butcher from the NZ Law Society’s LawTalk.

There’s a night scene on a sandy beach during the original Point Break movie from 1991 where the undercover FBI agent Johnny Utah (played by Keanu Reeves) says he went to law school. He is talking to the surfers otherwise known as criminal group the Ex-Presidents.

The film’s protagonist Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) says, “You’re a lawyer. Well at least you’re surfing”.

Another of the Ex-Presidents chimes in, “lawyers don’t surf”, and Bodhi quickly replies, “this one does”.

In New Zealand they can be found, especially on the North Island’s East Coast.

One of those is Adam Simperingham, a partner at the Gisborne law firm Woodward Chrisp.

The 47-year-old had never surfed until he moved to sunny Poverty Bay but he caught the bug once he got a whiff of the ocean on his doorstep.

Along with litigation, a big chunk of his legal work is in criminal defence — so surfing is an ideal escape from the often hectic courtroom atmosphere.

Mr Simperingham came to Gisborne in 1999 after five years of practising law at a large law firm in Auckland.

“I randomly got a job as a Crown prosecutor in Gisborne. People said it’s the ‘G-trap’, in that once you go there you can’t leave.

“That’s how it has been for me. I intended to go there for a couple of years. Someone said it would be career suicide to stay longer but I think I died and went to heaven, to be honest,” he says.

So, 18 years later, Mr Simperingham and partner Nicola Pittar have five teenage children. The family live close to Wainui Beach and he manages to fit surfing into his busy work and family life.

How a city boy became a surfer

“Do you surf, mate?”

Surfing for Mr Simperingham came about because that seemed to be the question most people would ask him when he arrived in Gisborne.

“I borrowed a board for about two years and couldn’t ride it for love nor money. I had some lessons with Frank Russell, who lives on my street and teaches surfing. He is American and also a high school physical education teacher.

His guarantee was that all people will be able to stand up on a board, and he was right,” he says.

As Mr Simperingham got more involved in the waves, he became aware of the fraternity of lawyer surfers in the region.

“There are many of us who surf. You know, if we all lived in Wanaka, we would all probably ski.

“Legal work can have some high- pressure moments. Surfing is the complete antithesis. Obviously there’s the physical aspect, but there’s also a spiritual aspect to it, similar to yoga. Sometimes I’ll be out at northern Makorori and it’ll just be me, or perhaps one other surfer. What a way to unwind. At seven in the morning you’ve got the sun coming up over the horizon and hills, it’s spookily cool.”

Surfing gives him time to think about how the waves have been created by the wind and have rolled in from the other side of worwld across the ocean.

“Then there is the surface of the board and balancing on it. This all comes together beautifully, like a spiritual ballet on the sea.”

A balanced life

Mr Simperingham says surfing helps toward a balanced life.

“In law you’re dealing with stress, disputes, conflict and crime, whereas with surfing you’re dealing with nature and there’s the physical outlet to it. I think having some sort of physical activity that gives you a buzz is essential to practising well as a lawyer.”

He laughs as he says one of the best things about surfing is that he can keep his board in the basement deeds room at his law office.

“Not too many people get to keep their board at work.”

The law office is one kilometre from Roberts Road, which is a mellow surf break. His children have also got into surfing and last summer Mr Simperingham and one of his teenage sons went on a surfing trip to Mexico.

“It was just amazing, we were taken out in a boat to the waves, the biggest I’ve ever ridden,” he says.

The surfing competition for lawyers

The first New Zealand Lawyers Easter Surfing Festival will take place in Gisborne at Easter.

Gisborne Boardriders Club is backing the event and, while it’s a competition, the main objective is to get lawyer surfers of all levels involved and on the water.

Kelly Ryan is the Gisborne regional surfing development manager and part of the festival organising team.

“We know there are lawyers who surf throughout the country and we want to get them involved. It’s as serious as you want to make it. The most important part is taking part in the event,” says the former national longboarding champion.

The competition will offer trophies for the overall winner and the group that performs the best.

Surfers will need to tick which area of law they practise in when they enter the competition.

“We might link criminal and family lawyers against perhaps commercial and property lawyers, independent bar and partners, and recently-admitted lawyers on their own,” he says.

Makorori or Midway Beach are the location choices for the event.

“Those two beaches offer a massive variance in waves. We could find that at one end they’re up to three metres high and yet at the other end the waves are a metre, which is more what we are wanting for the events.”

It will be just like the surfing competitions on television.

“No different to the world surf league,” Mr Ryan says.

The World Surf League judging criteria was rolled out at all events in 2010. Judges analyse the following elements when scoring waves:

  • Commitment and degree of difficulty
  • Innovative and progressive manoeuvres
  • Combination of major manoeuvres
  • Variety of manoeuvres
  • Speed, power and flow.

Gisborne Boardriders Club has many members and a large proportion of them have been trained to judge surfing competitions, so they are up for the challenge.

“They’re used to running events. We hold a lot of them,” Mr Ryan says.

The contest will be divided into age groups and there will be both men’s and women’s divisions.

“Everyone will be catered for, including longboarders and shortboard riders.”

There will also be a stand-up paddle board division.

Lawyers’ surfing events are not new. In Australia there is an Australasian Surfing Lawyers Association. They hold events and even feature big names such as Nat Young, who was a four- times world champion and three times Australian champion.

Lawyers do surf and the New Zealand Lawyers Easter Surfing Festival to be held in Gisborne during Easter (March 31–April 1, 2018) will present the evidence, writes Nick Butcher from the NZ Law Society’s LawTalk.

There’s a night scene on a sandy beach during the original Point Break movie from 1991 where the undercover FBI agent Johnny Utah (played by Keanu Reeves) says he went to law school. He is talking to the surfers otherwise known as criminal group the Ex-Presidents.

The film’s protagonist Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) says, “You’re a lawyer. Well at least you’re surfing”.

Another of the Ex-Presidents chimes in, “lawyers don’t surf”, and Bodhi quickly replies, “this one does”.

In New Zealand they can be found, especially on the North Island’s East Coast.

One of those is Adam Simperingham, a partner at the Gisborne law firm Woodward Chrisp.

The 47-year-old had never surfed until he moved to sunny Poverty Bay but he caught the bug once he got a whiff of the ocean on his doorstep.

Along with litigation, a big chunk of his legal work is in criminal defence — so surfing is an ideal escape from the often hectic courtroom atmosphere.

Mr Simperingham came to Gisborne in 1999 after five years of practising law at a large law firm in Auckland.

“I randomly got a job as a Crown prosecutor in Gisborne. People said it’s the ‘G-trap’, in that once you go there you can’t leave.

“That’s how it has been for me. I intended to go there for a couple of years. Someone said it would be career suicide to stay longer but I think I died and went to heaven, to be honest,” he says.

So, 18 years later, Mr Simperingham and partner Nicola Pittar have five teenage children. The family live close to Wainui Beach and he manages to fit surfing into his busy work and family life.

How a city boy became a surfer

“Do you surf, mate?”

Surfing for Mr Simperingham came about because that seemed to be the question most people would ask him when he arrived in Gisborne.

“I borrowed a board for about two years and couldn’t ride it for love nor money. I had some lessons with Frank Russell, who lives on my street and teaches surfing. He is American and also a high school physical education teacher.

His guarantee was that all people will be able to stand up on a board, and he was right,” he says.

As Mr Simperingham got more involved in the waves, he became aware of the fraternity of lawyer surfers in the region.

“There are many of us who surf. You know, if we all lived in Wanaka, we would all probably ski.

“Legal work can have some high- pressure moments. Surfing is the complete antithesis. Obviously there’s the physical aspect, but there’s also a spiritual aspect to it, similar to yoga. Sometimes I’ll be out at northern Makorori and it’ll just be me, or perhaps one other surfer. What a way to unwind. At seven in the morning you’ve got the sun coming up over the horizon and hills, it’s spookily cool.”

Surfing gives him time to think about how the waves have been created by the wind and have rolled in from the other side of worwld across the ocean.

“Then there is the surface of the board and balancing on it. This all comes together beautifully, like a spiritual ballet on the sea.”

A balanced life

Mr Simperingham says surfing helps toward a balanced life.

“In law you’re dealing with stress, disputes, conflict and crime, whereas with surfing you’re dealing with nature and there’s the physical outlet to it. I think having some sort of physical activity that gives you a buzz is essential to practising well as a lawyer.”

He laughs as he says one of the best things about surfing is that he can keep his board in the basement deeds room at his law office.

“Not too many people get to keep their board at work.”

The law office is one kilometre from Roberts Road, which is a mellow surf break. His children have also got into surfing and last summer Mr Simperingham and one of his teenage sons went on a surfing trip to Mexico.

“It was just amazing, we were taken out in a boat to the waves, the biggest I’ve ever ridden,” he says.

The surfing competition for lawyers

The first New Zealand Lawyers Easter Surfing Festival will take place in Gisborne at Easter.

Gisborne Boardriders Club is backing the event and, while it’s a competition, the main objective is to get lawyer surfers of all levels involved and on the water.

Kelly Ryan is the Gisborne regional surfing development manager and part of the festival organising team.

“We know there are lawyers who surf throughout the country and we want to get them involved. It’s as serious as you want to make it. The most important part is taking part in the event,” says the former national longboarding champion.

The competition will offer trophies for the overall winner and the group that performs the best.

Surfers will need to tick which area of law they practise in when they enter the competition.

“We might link criminal and family lawyers against perhaps commercial and property lawyers, independent bar and partners, and recently-admitted lawyers on their own,” he says.

Makorori or Midway Beach are the location choices for the event.

“Those two beaches offer a massive variance in waves. We could find that at one end they’re up to three metres high and yet at the other end the waves are a metre, which is more what we are wanting for the events.”

It will be just like the surfing competitions on television.

“No different to the world surf league,” Mr Ryan says.

The World Surf League judging criteria was rolled out at all events in 2010. Judges analyse the following elements when scoring waves:

  • Commitment and degree of difficulty
  • Innovative and progressive manoeuvres
  • Combination of major manoeuvres
  • Variety of manoeuvres
  • Speed, power and flow.

Gisborne Boardriders Club has many members and a large proportion of them have been trained to judge surfing competitions, so they are up for the challenge.

“They’re used to running events. We hold a lot of them,” Mr Ryan says.

The contest will be divided into age groups and there will be both men’s and women’s divisions.

“Everyone will be catered for, including longboarders and shortboard riders.”

There will also be a stand-up paddle board division.

Lawyers’ surfing events are not new. In Australia there is an Australasian Surfing Lawyers Association. They hold events and even feature big names such as Nat Young, who was a four- times world champion and three times Australian champion.

The law of the ocean

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