Saturday, 06 June 2020


Hot Water Beach’s most local-locals

For plenty of New Zealanders, the idea of “small town life” is pretty uninteresting. But for most of us living on the Coromandel Peninsula, we know small town life is ideal. Maybe that’s because no matter where you are on the Peninsula, you’re never far from some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and the serenity is unbeatable.

One thing you’re guaranteed to hear in a small town or village is people referring to “locals.” To be considered a local of any village is a compliment of the highest honour. A “local” can be a hard thing to define as people have differing views. For two residents of Hot Water Beach, though, they couldn’t be mistaken for anything else.

What makes Sean Butler and Leah Clow special is they were both born in Hot Water Beach. Twenty five-year-old Sean was born in his childhood home on Hot Water Beach Road, while Leah, aged eight, was born in a little cottage just down the road from her house. Rumours are regularly flying around that they are at the moment the only two people in the world with Hot Water Beach listed as their official birthplace on their birth certificates and in their passports. It’s hard to nail down any solid evidence of that, but it’s a claim to fame in their village, nevertheless.

Sean has lived in Hot Water Beach for the majority of his life. He moved to Christchurch for three years from 2011 to 2013 to study a Bachelor of Outdoor Education. Putting his degree to plenty of use, he spent the next three years alternating between summers in Hahei as a kayak tour guide and winters at Mount Ruapehu as an instructor/terrain park builder.

Two summers ago, Sean decided it was time to start something he’d been planning since he left Christchurch - a surf school he called “Te Puia Surf Co.” “I was thinking about how I could use my degree and fit into the tourism industry while still enjoying and making the most of where I’m from,” says Sean. “I landed on a surf school.”

Two of Leah’s biggest dreams are to work for the World Wildlife Fund and to become a marine biologist. She’s currently attending Whenuakite School, one of only four students at the school (one being her younger sister, Awana) who live in Hot Water Beach.

Leah is an earth-child cross water-baby. She loves cooking, hunting, exploring, gardening and fishing. Her dad, Adam, is a fisherman by trade and has clearly passed his love for the ocean on to his children. Another of Leah’s favourite activities is surfing. Both her mum and dad are keen and experienced surfers and have been teaching Leah since she was very young. “My first surf was when I was only about two,” says Leah. “It was in Tonga. I don’t remember it, but there are photos to prove that it happened.”

As it normally goes in a village, everyone knows everyone and Sean and Leah are pretty great examples of that. Sean grew up with Leah’s dad and has been friends with the Clow family for years. Leah’s mum, Rachel, has worked with Sean at Te Puia Surf Co as in instructor for the last two summers.  Sean is “Uncle Sean” to Leah.

Both Sean and Leah are extremely proud to call Hot Water Beach home. Leah says her favourite part about living in the village is the beautiful beach two minutes from her house.

Sean says he likes it that Hot water Beach is so clean and quiet. “I feel comfortable at Hot Water Beach,” says Sean. “All my friends are around here. It feels like things can slow down here if I want them to. I get to enjoy my passion so close to home and so close to the ocean, which is something I appreciate a lot.”

Clearly Hot Water Beach makes the village’s two most local-locals very happy.


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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.