The problem with an event as massive as the Whangamata Beach Hop is where the hell to start. There are so many cool things to do that you would need to be a clone to take it all in. This is not a negative, I’m just trying to emphasise how huge the Beach Hop has become since its inception by Graeme (Noddy) Watts seven years ago. From humble beginnings the Beach Hop has grown into an event that many people pivot their car building around, and it’s a place you’ll often find fresh and previously unseen cars. Like Kumeu and Muscle Car Madness, the Beach Hop has become a staple of our automotive diet.
Beach Hop is great in that it is a celebration of the ’50s and ’60s, allowing cars of various origins to participate as long as they fit within the pre-1972 bracket. So you get an eyeful of Yankee, Aussie and Pommie tin, making for an eclectic weekend of viewing. For most, the event kicks off on Friday, but for the dedicated, Wednesday is the key day to arrive and start the fun.
“It is absolutely overwhelming how many cars, motorbikes, rock ’n’ roll dancers, kids on low-rider cycles and people can be crammed into the main drag of Whangamata”
The opening event was the Cragar Wheels Pauanui Beach cruise, followed by Anzac Day ceremonies. The evening was taken care of with some street cruising and by catching a few bands playing in the local bars.
Thursday dawned and the weather was looking set for the weekend with clear skies making for some good cruising. The Harcourts Cruise the Loop got underway, bringing the surrounding hills to life as the continuous rumble of V8s, hot sixes and four bangers echoed through the hills. There were more colors than Walt Disney could handle and the nearby towns got to see one hell of a rolling car show. Once back from cruising the options were varied: from rock ’n’ roll dancing lessons or a quiz, through to the ever-popular drive-in movie, with The World’s Fastest Indian up on the big screen. This turned out to be a great little gathering and a good time to catch up with old friends and talk about their cars or whatever else made its way into the conversation.
Friday was the big day and saw an onslaught of extra travellers rolling into town. The range of vehicles was just staggering, with over 1100 cars and a bunch of bikes registered for the event. The Streets Ice-Cream Thunder Cruise got underway, snaking out to Onemana reserve where Al and the Wildcats had the tunes cranking in the background. With an array of cars layered on the grounds and the beach as the backdrop, you could be forgiven for never wanting to leave. Sadly we had to, so it was back into town to prepare for the big Friday night Street Party. To keep control over the cruising, a time limit was set and, with cars parked up, it was into the bars to check out some cool tunes from the bands.
Several acts had made their way over from Aussie, including the likes of The Retro Rockets, The Bobkats and Blue Denim. Favourite Aussie band of the weekend for me was Wes Pudsey and the Sonic Aces. Man, those guys just rocked the joint. Local bands made a huge impact with The Recliner Rockers back by popular demand, Alan Lavis showing folks how the guitar should be played. It was about this point that it became really hard to know how to divide my time. Which cars to check out, which bands to go see, running into people every five steps, trying to have a beer, another band, there’s another car¦ It just went on and on like this all night. I finally hit the sack around 2am and tried to get some sleep for the fast-approaching day, which was destined to be one of the largest Saturdays in the history of the Beach Hop.
“With an array of cars layered on the grounds and the beach as the backdrop, you could be forgiven for never wanting to leave”
It was around 6am when I heard the firing of the healthy Camaro parked across the way. I don’t know why he was up that early, but it seemed to set off the surrounding cars like a pack of wild dogs on the prowl. It was pointless trying to sleep any longer, so I donned my threads and hit the streets. A quick brekky and it was nearing time for the Repco Grand Parade and Street Festival. There is simply no way to explain in words just what this part of the weekend is like. I have tried, but it’s just useless. It is absolutely overwhelming how many cars, motorbikes, rock ’n’ roll dancers, kids on low-rider cycles and people can be crammed into the main drag of Whangamata. The best you can do is just walk until you’re tired, sit for a bit and start again.