Aerial view of Lion Rock and Piha beach

Competition Eleven Highly Commended: PUMPING AT PIHA by

The cicadas hum.  The warm air smells of recent rain.  We drive west, climbing the Waitaks, blinking through summer shadows as the narrow road carves through deep bush.  We listen to Icehouse thinking it’s cool.  Thinking we’re cool in the blue VW beetle with boards on the roof.

From the viewpoint high above Piha, we watch the sets forming, can see the spray curling backwards, so white against the blue, blue water, and the black, black sand.  You study the rip, the fast calm running beside and behind Lion Rock, and we hear the boom and retort of the thumping surf and know it’s going to be a big day.

We drive off fast, drumming our fingers on the car roof, impatient to bury our feet in hot sand, to feel the gasp of cold water.

And the day is big. The waves so perfect and ordered from above are huge, big mamas, mountainous and powerful and steep and barrelling and the undertow grabs at our ankles, sucks holes under our feet and you’re whooping as you paddle, watching the waves build and crest beside you, cruising the rip out back. 

I surf between the flapping orange flags.  Later, I wait on my beach towel, looking for you duck diving or riding in black neoprene, and I panic when I scan the waves and I think I’ve lost you, frantic until I find you, flicking over the lip to fly from sight again, and I know, in the sharp pang of possible loss, I love you. 

You might have kissed me if you had returned.  Salt still clinging to your lashes, water dripping from your hair as you bend to greet me, waiting there on my damp yellow towel.  I pretend you love me too.  More than the siren sea.





Emily Macdonald was born in England but grew up in New Zealand. Fascinated by wine as a student, she has worked in the UK wine trade ever since. Now freelance, she writes short stories and flash fiction. In writing and in wines she likes variety, persistence, and enough acidity to add bite. Links to her published writing can be found here:



Image by wirestock on Freepik – Lion Rock, Piha Beach



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