Russell Ritche is an institution of South Island surfing. For decades he has championed SISA [South Island Surfing Association] and the national body Surfing NZ. Gruff, staunch, blunt and an absolute heart of gold. A product of New Brighton/North Wai’s blue collar surfing community. In the summer months he travels the country following the surfing circuit. It’s become quite the merry caravan of campers over recent years as alluded in Gina Kennings profile.
Hey Rusty how and when did you get interested in campervans and RV’s?
My start with campers was moving from a small trailer type tent thing we were given as a family to a 7m Hino bus. The bus was a fit out project that never really got finished. It was comfortable enough for my wife who had Multiple Sclerosis and because she was disabled her parking permit gave us the best spots on most water front locations. We live in New Brighton right by the sea so of course the salt air cancer got the better of the bus and it was unable to get a COF in the end because of the rust.
Tell us the story about how you got Black Bob, ‘cos it was almost by chance huh?
After my wife died I started a relationship with Roxanne who only refers to me as her ‘traveling companion’. She has a 6 berth camper called Larry she uses to lug kids around the country to surfing comps and rowing regattas. In January 2017 we were passing through Tauranga (together) on our way to the Nationals in Piha.
Roxanne said Larry needed a new light bulb for the oven and we should stop at the RV mega yard in Hewletts Rd. OK, I thought I’ll just have a wander about and see what’s looking nice as I had been looking for something to replace the bus. In the back corner of the yard (looking beautiful) was a black Mercedes Sprinter with a big sign in the window saying Xmas special. The thing that got me was it was black, not your normal white. So off for a test drive and after some negotiations I wrangled another 5k off the price and away I went. Roxanne still hasn’t got a light bulb for Larry.
We headed back to my mate Darren’s place where we were staying over night. Roxanne beat us back and as I pulled up all my gear was being thrown out onto the driveway, just like in the movies. We spent the next 3 weeks in the North Island traveling in convoy, it was an interesting holiday.
What’s the interior layout?
Black Roberta [she’s a she and Bob for short] has a different setup to most 2 berth campers, no walk through from the cab, there’s a partition and the kitchen runs behind the front seats. Bob was an English import and I would say a home done fit out. I’m a reasonably big guy and I can fit in the shower so I’m happy with that. I leave the bed at the back set up most of the time because it’s generally just me traveling. The oven and hob are better than what I have at home. As you can see from the photos there’s enough room for my fishing gear, dive gear and a few other isolation essentials. The surfboards hang up inside because there’s not enough room on the roof for racks. On top I have a solar panel, sky light, satellite receiver and roll out awning.
You’re on the road A LOT, what’s happening here, how come?
I’ve spent years traveling to surf contests with my sons and assorted teams. I fill all sorts of rolls at events these days but mainly as a judge or contest director. I was forced to give up work around five years ago because my body couldn’t take a tradesmen’s life anymore. This has given me so much more time to enjoy New Zealand by not having to rush from home to a beach and home again. We have so much to see in NZ it just blows me away.
What would be your favourite trip that you’ve done so far?
I love going to Westport for the comps there because of the people. The trips to the far North are heaps of fun as is Gizzy. It’s super hard to say yes I have to go back to that place. For me it’s all about the people, when you are involved with surfing in anyway or form there’s heaps of really good buggers out there.
Whanga Bar seems to turn it on for me when I’m passing through and I love the Mount/Papamoa because of really good mates I have there. I was super stoked the other day to have now done NZ from bottom to top in black Bob in just 3 and a half years.
– remember at night you’re trying to sleep in a tin can so plenty of blankets are a must
– spend an extra $100 on a really good house battery if you’re not going to be plugged in each night
– I take my mountain bike on most trips with me as it’s easier to get short distances and there’s some really fun tracks around NZ
– the NZMCA is a good organisation to join up with. You will get your subscription fee back from the discount on just one ferry crossing and can pick up a heap of other discounts as well.