Published on January 29th, 2013 | by nzsm15
R.I.P MIKE TEPANIA
It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of one of our greatest talented surfers of all time. Northlands Mike Tepania. Mike burst onto the scene as a schoolboy and I can first recall reading about him in NZ Surf Mag when I was playing in the whitewater as a grommet, a few years later I got to witness Mike in the flesh at his home breaks around Shipwreck and I was mesmerised, Mike instantly became my hero and the guy who’s surfing I wanted to emulate. Over the years Mike struggled with mental illness and he faded away from surfing which was sad to see. Over the years stories would filter back that Mike had been seen out on a mini-mal well overweight but still tearing it up, even two weeks ago I was up at Shippies, surfing and catching up with old friends and I heard that Mike had been seen watching surf sessions from the rocks and was trying to get fit and make a comeback. That thought alone excited me, and unfortunately that comeback will now never happen.
Many who got to witness Mike’s surfing all agree that he would have gone on to become one of our most successful surfers ever, it is sad that an illness struck an end to what was such a promising career, yet during Mike’s time at the top he did inspire a whole generation of young and old surfers and was always a down to earth guy that simply surfed for the love and smiles. May you rest in peace Mike. To the Tepania Whanau our thoughts and love are with you all!
The following is an intro to our 25th Anniversary issue from a few years ago, which contained reference to Mike and his inspiration to my own pathway of life. It is now more appropriate than ever to share.
25 YEARS OF REPRESENTING AOTEAROA SURFING.
Welcome to the NZ SURFING MAG 25 year anniversary issue, to have been the voice for surfing in Aotearoa over the years has been a mighty fine privilege, while our amazing country has a reputation around the world as the most amazing country in the world with its people so friendly and welcoming, it is not lost here with us. To travel the country’s length and width’s to all the hidden nooks and crannies our coastline has on offer, and to share experiences and world class waves with locals from Cape Reinga to the Bluff has been a moving experience and privilege over the last quarter of a century, I speak on behalf of the editors that came before me and those that will come after, to be immersed in such a wonderful culture surrounded by such a breathtaking environment is a fulfilling experience and one that changes lives forever. In this issue we put it to a varied selection of surfers to choose a magazine cover that may have inspired them over the last 25 years, while doing so a certain issue came to me, that I believe is the reason why I am sitting here today. It’s funny how life works. When I was just a little fulla I thought surfies were the coolest bunch of guys ever. Now I grew up a long way from the ocean and once I caught the surfing bug all I wanted to do was be at the beach. Once I got my hands on my first NZ SURFING mag it opened up a whole new world to me, now I had local heroes that I could look up to and be inspired by that weren’t out of this world, sure I loved Tom Carroll and Dane Kealoha, but hey lets get real, when would I ever meet those guys. So NZ surfing mag was it for me, guys like Shane Grimes, Jason Mathews and Glen Campbell were my heroes, I would catch the 11 hour bus ride to Gisborne to hang with my mate in the school holidays and hang out in the rain under my boardbag to watch these guys surf in the Gisborne Pro-am. Some days they would even paddle past me in the surf and I would be frothing that they were even on the same bank as me. Then one day I biked down to the local bookstore and picked up an issue that changed my life in a way. It featured Shipwreck Bay in the far north and pictured on the cover was a guy that looked so styly and powerful, right then I wanted to surf like him, the surfer was Mike Tepania. That issue went with me everywhere, to school, to bed, you name it. Then one day I met this guy in class in third form who went on to be my best mate, in fact my best man at my recent wedding. Well he saw the issue and talked about how he liked surfing as well and had a place at Shipwreck Bay. At first i thought he was pulling my leg, but come school holidays his invitation to come up was readily accepted, and wow I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, there we were driving around the rocks of a wave that had been in my dreams since I brought that mag, to a house right in front of that very premier wave that was on the cover with Mike “Peaks”. That afternoon I caught my first glimpse of my local hero, word on the beach was Mike was about to paddle out, now we didn’t paddle out and start snaking Mike which is all to common amongst grommets these days, we sat on the rocks and watched Mike tear the place to pieces in awe. The power and moves the guy possessed were way ahead of his time looping 720′s and Barrels over the rock were met with screams of admiration. Still to this day I would say Mike was easily the most talented surfer to ever come out of NZ. It was a sad story what happened to Mike but he slowly drifted away from the sport, but every now and then he would paddle out and still blow minds. My relationship with Shipwreck grew tight and I spent every swell over 10 years up there defining my own surfing on the points and building relationships with many of the locals that are still great friends till this day. It’s hard to believe but that one 50 page magazine provided me with a idol, a lifestyle and went on to build the person I am today. Funnily as well, I did go on to meet and work with the legends I once never thought Id meet Tom and Dane, and as an adult I was in awe just like that 13 year old grommet all over again.
May the next 25 years bring you perfect waves and good times, enjoy.
Cory Scott and the team at New Zealand Surfing Magazine
If you would like to show your respects to Mike, his funeral will be held at 11.30am Wednesday the 30th January with karakia at 203 Foreshore Road Ahipara. Later that evening local surfers and those wishing to pay respect to the man who rode Peaks better than anyone will hold a paddle out at 6:30 PM at Peaks.