Skip to main content

Let’s go surfing now: modified Raglan campervans have it all

Tucked away down a Raglan West driveway is a small fleet of PiwiWiwi campervans which young UK couple Anna Cunningham and Niall Darwin are just itching to get on the road.

Within three months of settling in Raglan, they’ve modified their six ex-rentals — bought through TradeMe even before they arrived in the country — into the ultimate surf wagon, with nifty inside storage for up to three shortboards strapped securely along one side of each van and two longboards strapped from the ceiling.

A trendy carry-bag is stored under one of the lift-up seats to conveniently toss the damp wettie in when it’s time to hit the road again, while the NZ Surfing Guide Book listing more than 400 breaks, is kept in the glovebox.

Having surfed and campervanned their way all over the country about 18 months ago, the couple had their own ideas on that “point of difference” when creating a small company. And it didn’t include dripping wetsuits hanging from the ceiling or having to “cuddle up” with boards, as they’ve seen so often, when it was time to go to bed.
Neither did they want boards stashed under the double bed, taking up valuable storage space, or across the three seats up front.

Unlike other campervans, their Toyota Hiaces — high enough to stand up in — also include USB charging front and rear for all gadgets and JVC stereos with MP3, WMA, AUX and USB input “for your own tunes.”

Welsh-born Niall (pronounced Neil) has been busy enjoying the practical handyman side of things rather than the design work he’s more used to as an engineer, and Anna’s had a ball outfitting their self-contained vans with everything from cutlery and crockery to some zany bedding and colourful crates for carpeted storage spaces created by Neil.
“All you need is your self, your clothes, surfboard and food,” Anna says, and campervanners can hit the road, straight from the airport if need be.

The couple have gone “the eco way, the Raglan way” too, says Anna — an environmental consultant in her last life — with chemical-free cleaners and a system in place encouraging their campervanners to donate to Whaingaroa Harbour Care should they want to “offset the carbon they’re burning.”

The enterprising couple, now in their thirties, have gone as local as they can by also using signwriter Dan Mills, car painter Frank Turner, Raglan Ink for printing and by working in with the town’s two shuttle services to and from Auckland and Hamilton airports from which much of their customer base will come.

They’ve trialled one or two of their campervans so far — heading off to Piha and the Coromandel for weekends so they can point their surfing clientele, knowledgeably, in the right direction.

Meanwhile they’re completing — through Wananga night classes at the community house — the National Certificate in tourism Maori which they’re finding really interesting. “We’re learning Maori culture from a Kiwi perspective.”

Now they’ve got to get the hang of marketing their ex-Maui rentals (2003) which they believe are “robust” and sturdy enough to do the job, having used the vans themselves from what is one of Australasia’s biggest rental van companies.

“They’ve been well looked after and thought out, and just keep on going,” the couple reckon.

Anna and Niall aren’t expecting to get rich from their new venture, but want a “lifestyle” from it so they can enjoy the things they love about Raglan that brought them back here after staying at Manu Bay’s Solscape eco retreat.

That’s when the couple “fell in love” with Raglan. Despite continuing on with their world surfing trip, when finally back in the UK they investigated visas to return and set up their venture. And the name PiwiWiwi? That comes from how they describe themselves — Anna being a “Pommy Kiwi” (Piwi) and Niall a “Welsh Kiwi”(Wiwi).

Edith Symes

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.