The Kennings family are NZ surfing royalty; generations of the name are inscribed on multiple National Championship trophies. This story is all about Gina and her drive to create memories and adventures for her branch of the Kennings family.
Gina, tell us about why you wanted to get Raymondo, like did you have camper trips as a grom, or did you want to make family camping memories…or did you want to go to surf comps?
Yep all of the above. But I seriously started thinking about getting an RV after I took my, then, young daughters (aged two and four) to the NZ Surfing Nationals in Piha 8 years ago. My husband Ben [who is the General Manager of Operations for Surfing NZ] is always very busy during the Nats, and usually has his own accommodation, so I thought ‘what a great opportunity to camp with my gals!’ The beach, surf, that awesome waterfall, cool campground!
Well, it took me about 2 hours to put my 4 man tent up with help from my girls holding the poles. I honestly thought I was going to ace putting that tent up by myself. It didn’t help that Torah, my 2 year old, ended up crying and throwing a tantrum. By the time I had totally set up, it had taken me 3 hours. I was feeling really sorry for my little girls and we were all hungry. On day 3, India my four year old woke with red dots on her back and neck. Chickenpox. So after a visit to the medical centre in Henderson, I decided to pack up which only took 2 hours this time with both girls crying tugging at my shorts.
Not the greatest camping experience for us.
I decided there must be a better way to take kids to surf comps. Where they could get respite from the sun, play in the ocean, rest, eat, but still have the best view of the ocean and be close to dad! And did I mention that wine is chilled all day too!
You were getting a lot of resistance from your husband Ben on the idea of a RV huh, how did you wear him down?
Ben is a great guy, but extremely stubborn. His reason for not purchasing an RV was the cost. Which is a viable reason. He would break out into a sweat every time I showed him my latest favourite RV on trade me. It took me 3 years to wear him down. It got to a stage where I stopped going to comps and stayed home with our girls. I organised a couple of sneaky family holidays where we picked up rental motorhomes in Auckland. I made sure that we spent a hefty amount of time at surfspots that were family friendly, to prove to Ben that life is better in an RV!
We quickly realised that being in a small space suited our family. We live minimal and simple anyway. So motorhome living fits us perfectly. Those holidays in a rental let us experience what it’s like to swap hectic schedules for a slower paced holiday following natures rhythms instead of societal ones.
How did you research the right RV for you and what was on the needs and wants list?
I spent a shitload of time on Trade Me. At one stage I had about 60 motorhomes and buses on my watchlist. I think I might have been a little obsessive about achieving my dream of getting an RV. I had no idea what I wanted for a long time, that’s probably why I had 60 on my watchlist! Top of the list was somewhere to store our surfboards (and not in the toilet) …and I didn’t want a double bed at the back where I would have to convert to a dining area in the morning then back to a bed at night.
What is Raymondo and how does he fufil those needs, how and where did you find him?
Raymondo is a 6m 2003 Carrioca Fiat with a Peugeot motor. He is epic for my family because he has a great configuration, where there are bunks at the back, a dinette that can convert to a king single, a good sized queen overhead cab, a spacious shower which is separate to the toilet. It has a sizey garage area under the bunks that we can put in all of our surfboards or snowboards when we travel away.
I’m the main driver of Raymondo and he is manual and a breeze to drive. Me and a friend flew to Wellington to pick him up from a lovely couple that had kept him in perfect condition. He sleeps 5 comfortably, however this one time my sister Renee was back from London and I took her, her 4 kids and my 2 kids to Hot Water Beach for the weekend getaway. The 6 kids top and tailed and we had a great time, all 8 of us. With Raymondo I just find a way to make it work.
Can you explain the name for our readers?
I named him after my dad, Raymond. He died while Ben and I were in Canada snowboarding in 2003. Dad instilled in me independence and a love for the outdoors. He seriously would have loved holidaying in Raymondo.
Dad was a real handyman and he would have been the perfect person to help me with leaks, rust, flat tyres or the odd motor question. I added the O at the end of his name to sound more Italian, because the Carrioca model was made in Italy. And Raymondo sounds like Italian eye candy.
You’ve owned Raymondo for five years now, how’s he matching up to expectations and how are you and the family using him?
Raymondo is very versatile. We take him to parties so we don’t have to drive home, for school camps as a base, BBQ’s that end up going too late. We used to take him for weekends to Whakapapa ski field and park up in the carpark (secret spot). I’ve taken my girls on many weekend getaways around the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula. We even took him to National park where we lived for a term while I was on a teaching sabbatical, studying.
Raymondo has been to every Surfing NZ surf comp in the North Island. My oldest daughter India is 11 years old and competes now in the Grom comps. She enjoys the experience because she makes a lot of new friends, and they can hang out together under the awning and relax between surf heats. We have been on many family holidays all over NZ freedom camping, staying in campgrounds, DOC sites, POP overs. I’ve loved every minute of owning Raymondo.
Repairs…c’mon give us the list 🙂
We had to replace a window by the overhead cab….Ben left it open. Don’t ask, it’s a sore point!
Last year I had to replace the air filter, fuel pump and cambelt (Ben broke out into a sweat when he saw the bill!). It took the mechanic ages to fix, but he worked it out that the motor was a Puegeot not a Fiat motor. A couple of months later I got Raymondo back. But we had missed out on a lot of summer holiday and beautiful weather. Which made me appreciate the freedom of owning Raymondo even more.
It would have to be our South Island trip that Ben, me and the girls took about 3 years ago in the July holidays. I know everyone says it, but the South Island is beautiful. The July holidays are the only ones in the year that Ben doesn’t have to run a surf comp. So we had the whole 2 weeks to explore. The girls had never been on the ferry before so that was a treat for them. I loved the wineries that we stopped off at a couple of times for a little drinky and lunch.
We loved Kaikoura. We stayed there for about 4 days. We freedom camped at ‘Meatworks’ and surfed, explored the beach, watched the seals and cooked dinner on the open fire. There was snow on the mountains and the ocean was freezing, but there is nothing like rugging up together in a small space with a milo, talking about the day and dozing off to sleep.
The surprises of owning a motorhome?
The time it takes to pack it, unpack it and clean it. It can be time consuming especially if you are time poor.
The amount of time I pull over to the side of the road to let traffic pass me during trips. I haven’t experienced road rage from other drivers yet.
I love how we never have to stop to go to a public toilet.
When you pass other RV’ers on the road they wave at you. Sooo cute!
The plan for the future.
Our workloads got a bit hectic last year and we didn’t end up using him much. Weekend trips or surf comps became stressful for me as I found it difficult to balance work and life. We aren’t sure what the future holds with Raymondo or just in general now that Ben is out with a broken back. We will keep Raymondo until the end of the year and then reassess. Jeez, he’s like my child – I will be devastated if I have to sell him.
Gina’s four unexpected tips of RV’ing
-Torches are gold with kids. We have a small torch hooked to the wall beside every bed, two in the kitchen, and lantern style ones that I store in the cupboard. My girls use them all the time, to play spotlight, to use around the campground at night, to share with other kids that don’t have a torch. A kid’s independence grows with a torch in hand.
-One of the first things I store in the shower is two large black plastic buckets to put in wet suits, dirty clothes and towels. Otherwise the inside of Raymondo would look like a laundry mat. I leave one bucket in the shower and the other one outside for the wetsuits.
-My girls don’t have devices, so instead I got them both a tackle box. This was a game changer for me. They keep felts, pens, journal, a chapter book, crafty stuff that they like. It keeps them busy on long trips. So easy to pack up and store away too.
-Before heading off, always double check that the windows are closed, especially if you asked your husband to do it.