Back in March, photographer Ridge BenBen and surfer Joe Kisling traveled to New Zealand’s south island for the Single Fin Mingle logging contest, an annual event that describes itself as a “multi-faceted festival based on traditional surfing displays, art shows, film screenings and musical performances.” In other words: an all-around good time.

Unfortunately, the event was scheduled smack in the middle of the Covid crisis, which forced its cancellation and left BenBen and Kisling stranded on an island far from home. “We were supposed to be there for 12 days, but ended up stuck for a little over a month,” BenBen says, about the trip from which all of the photos below were shot. “Of course, if you’re gonna be stuck somewhere during a worldwide health crisis, New Zealand is probably one of the best and most beautiful options out there, especially before surfing was banned.”ADVERTISING

All photos and captions by BenBen

"Coronavirus canceled the The Single Fin Mingle," says BenBen. "But those who had flown out already,  along with a crew of NZ locals, all gathered for an epic surf trip up the coast one day. Big thanks to Ambrose McNeill [organizer of the contest] for getting us all together and keeping the spirit of the mingle alive."

“Coronavirus canceled the The Single Fin Mingle,” says BenBen. “But those who had flown out already, along with a crew of NZ locals, all gathered for an epic surf trip up the coast one day. Big thanks to Ambrose McNeill [organizer of the contest] for getting us all together and keeping the spirit of the mingle alive.”

"This is Joe Kisling getting comfortable on the wave where the Single Fin Mingle contest would have been held," says BenBen.

“This is Joe Kisling getting comfortable on the wave where the Single Fin Mingle contest would have been held,” says BenBen.

"When the waves slowed down in the zone where we were staying, we made a couple quick day trips to nearby breaks," says BenBen. "It seems like everywhere you go in New Zealand you’re left in awe of your surroundings."

“When the waves slowed down in the zone where we were staying, we made a couple quick day trips to nearby breaks,” says BenBen. “It seems like everywhere you go in New Zealand you’re left in awe of your surroundings.”

"After putting in plenty of miles driving around looking for surf this day, we ended up right back where we were staying, and found beautiful conditions," says BenBen. "This is Joe Kisling again, walking back from a heels hang."

“After putting in plenty of miles driving around looking for surf this day, we ended up right back where we were staying, and found beautiful conditions,” says BenBen. “This is Joe Kisling again, walking back from a heels hang.”

"On some surf trips, driving all over the place looking for waves is exhausting," says BenBen. "Not in New Zealand; it's too beautiful at every turn."

“On some surf trips, driving all over the place looking for waves is exhausting,” says BenBen. “Not in New Zealand; it’s too beautiful at every turn.”

"Cameron Haylock, making sure no one goes without coffee in the mornings," says BenBen. "If you're ever in Sumner, NZ and you're looking for the best coffee in town, Cam is the man to call. He also rips on anything you put under his feet."

“Cameron Haylock, making sure no one goes without coffee in the mornings,” says BenBen. “If you’re ever in Sumner, NZ and you’re looking for the best coffee in town, Cam is the man to call. He also rips on anything you put under his feet.”

"While videos of empty shelves of toilet paper were flooding my phone from back home, we were literally sitting right here," says BenBen. "More thankful than ever. At the time, NZ only had about 5 confirmed COVID-19 cases."

“While videos of empty shelves of toilet paper were flooding my phone from back home, we were literally sitting right here,” says BenBen. “More thankful than ever. At the time, NZ only had about 5 confirmed COVID-19 cases.”

"These are the three gentlemen behind the scenes of running The Single Fin Mingle about to enjoy a beautiful morning," says BenBen. Cameron Haylock, Ambrose McNeill and Bradley King

“These are the three gentlemen behind the scenes of running The Single Fin Mingle about to enjoy a beautiful morning,” says BenBen. Cameron Haylock, Ambrose McNeill and Bradley King

"Luke O'Neill is New Zealand's best kept secret," says BenBen "He's beyond talented and has an insane style."

“Luke O’Neill is New Zealand’s best kept secret,” says BenBen “He’s beyond talented and has an insane style.”

Luke O'Neill

Luke O’Neill

"Josh Daniel feeling the effects of surfing all day, for multiple days in a row."

“Josh Daniel feeling the effects of surfing all day, for multiple days in a row.”

"We ended most days like this," says BenBen. "On the beach with a small fire to warm everything up."

“We ended most days like this,” says BenBen. “On the beach with a small fire to warm everything up.”

"COVID-19 cases were on the rise like crazy back at home," says BenBen. "The videos and news articles made traveling back to California the last thing we wanted to do. We were definitely OK with being isolated here."

“COVID-19 cases were on the rise like crazy back at home,” says BenBen. “The videos and news articles made traveling back to California the last thing we wanted to do. We were definitely OK with being isolated here.”

"This is Joe Kisling, at the same spot, but on a different day," says BenBen. "Officially on lockdown at this point, and unable to travel home, we were waiting to hear back from the embassy about when/if we would be able to leave. After speaking to a police officer this day, we were told we were still allowed to surf."

“This is Joe Kisling, at the same spot, but on a different day,” says BenBen. “Officially on lockdown at this point, and unable to travel home, we were waiting to hear back from the embassy about when/if we would be able to leave. After speaking to a police officer this day, we were told we were still allowed to surf.”

Joe Kisling

Joe Kisling

"As the days kept going by the rules started to change," says BenBen. "We weren’t entirely sure if surfing was still allowed at this point. Exercise was, and we sure as hell needed it after a few days of being inside with nothing to do but watch the news."

“As the days kept going by the rules started to change,” says BenBen. “We weren’t entirely sure if surfing was still allowed at this point. Exercise was, and we sure as hell needed it after a few days of being inside with nothing to do but watch the news.”

Joe Kisling

Joe Kisling

"This is a wave we checked multiple times in the month we were on the island," says BenBen. "This day was finally the right time to show up."

“This is a wave we checked multiple times in the month we were on the island,” says BenBen. “This day was finally the right time to show up.”

Joe Kisling

Joe Kisling

"Empty airports are a bizarre feeling, " says BenBen. "This was our time to head home after being in NZ for over a month. We were very thankful to stay healthy, and also to those who constantly checked in on us to make sure things were OK while we were away."

“Empty airports are a bizarre feeling, ” says BenBen. “This was our time to head home after being in NZ for over a month. We were very thankful to stay healthy, and also to those who constantly checked in on us to make sure things were OK while we were away.”