I have known Torren Hickling since he was a young teenager and best mates with one of my sons, writes Steve Dickinson.

Torren’s a guy who is always laughing and enthusiastic to ‘go and do stuff’. At 30 years old, he is an accomplished builder working in Auckland as a self-employed contractor, mainly on renovations around Pt Chev and Epsom and after 12 years on the tools, he knows how get a job done (apart from marrying his long-time partner Ella, who is as cute as a button Everyone agrees he is punching way above his weight!).


Out the back at Maori Bay.
Out the back at Maori Bay.

SD: How old were you when you started surfing and why did you get into it?
TH: I started as a wee grom at 10 years old under Dad’s wing at Maori Bay, Muriwai. Dad dragged me out the back one day and it felt huge. I later found out due to photos it was only one and a half to two foot but it felt HUGE!

Being able to read and understand the power of the ocean has given me great respect for it. The ocean is my ultimate zen zone, whether on the board or in a boat. Being on or in the ocean is my ultimate form of meditation.

I’ve been surfing as part of a pack with three of my best mates since high school. We struggle to hit the waves without each other. If I’m at work and a drop of rain hits the floor, the phone lights up and we’re outta there!

SD: Where did you surf the best waves?
TH: Best waves I’ve ever surfed were at Raglan, Shippies [Shipwreck Bay, Ahipara] and Bingin in Bali – the best left hand breaks I’ve ever seen.

Surfing local waves.
Surfing local waves.

SD: Where did you surf the biggest waves?
TH: My biggest surf was a bluebird winter’s day at Raglan out at Indicators with perfect six-foot runners. A Raglan local was shouting at everyone he didn’t know, telling us to go back to Auckland. It was my first taste of what it felt like not to be surfing on your local waves.

SD: Worst wipe-outs?
TH: Low tide days out at Maori Bay, being dredged across the sand with all oxygen knocked out of my lungs.

SD: How often do you drop the tools when you know there is some swell and the wind swings off shore?
TH: Every time! Ella, knows she’ll always be a surfing widow.

SD: Overseas surfing – where and how was it?
TH: Enjoyed insanely good conditions at Bingin, Bali. At least two surfs a day at sunrise and sundown.


SD: Do you have a preference for bigger projects over smaller ones?
TH: Bigger projects are always better for the yarns, but I enjoy the jobs where I can work with other builders who are also passionate about the craft. I always want to achieve the best outcome for the client.

SD: Are you still hands-on or more into project organising?
TH: I’m hands-on, but as time goes on and the body gets a bit sore, I’ll pull out my organisational skills and get those young pups to work.

SD: What’s the most challenging thing about running your own business?
TH: I’m a contractor. The most challenging aspect of my job is making sure the job meets my (very high) expectations. I want to make sure the client is stoked with the result, so I can be a stickler for the detail.

SD: The worst part about building?
TH: Digging holes in winter. Why? Because it’s cold or they keep filling up with water. Who wants to be shovelling dirt? One word – nobody!

SD: How do you get most of your work?
TH: I have been getting my work through the same contractor, who specialises in residential renovations, including extensions and villa restoration. Luckily the reno market has been very steady throughout my career and we’ve been able to build some beauties all across Auckland.

SD: Who did you do your apprenticeship with?


TH: My love for fishing started at a young age up at 90 Mile Beach with

A Far North skipjack tuna.
A Far North skipjack tuna.

my grandfather in a 1942 Willys Jeep with the kite fishing rig hooked up to the front. Memories as a young fisher are of me digging tua-tuas for bait with Granddad and Dad and loading up the longline hooks with tua-tuas and mullet.

We’d sit back with a few VBs for an hour or two waiting with anticipation to see what we pulled up. When we got home, Granddad and Dad would fillet our keepers and I’d run down to the wharf for round two. Our family bach at Houhora has been at the centre of my best fishing memories and my ongoing quest to catch more kingies.

SD: I know you like a fish – who do you go out with most?
TH: My Mum and Dad, but when the wind is over two knots and Dad doesn’t want to go out, I ring up the lads and we go out on a mission. Ella’s happy with the promise of sashimi.

SD: Any specific places?
TH: An island off Henderson Bay, stick baiting and popping for kingies. Closer to home, we head out on the Kaipara and also love chasing the work-ups in the Gulf.

SD: What type of boat?
TH: A 5.7-metre McLay with a 100hp four-stroke.

Snapper and kingfish from the McLay.
Snapper and kingfish from the McLay.

SD: Best snapper – where and when and on what?
TH: Best snapper I ever caught was last summer, in the work-ups out off the Cable Zone. I didn’t have any scales, but I reckon she would have been between 6-7kg. Fresh fish for days! Before that I hadn’t cracked it with a big snapper but was just happy to get a feed in the bin. I’m never chasing the big donkeys or wanting to take too many.

SD: Are you a plastics man, a bait man or both?
TH: Lately I’m liking lures because it’s the cleanest way of fishing and means no need to wash dried bait and blood from the decks of the boat.

SD: Biggest kingi – where, when and how?
TH: A specific kingie mission off Henderson up on Northland’s east coast. I would have thrown the stick bait at least 40 times and had them follow all the way to the boat every time with no takes. Finally, after a few hours, an 11kg kingie fell victim and we headed home feeling absolutely stoked. It’s such a rush seeing them follow the stick bait or popper and getting that initial hit. A kingie catch never gets old.

SD: Fish you are most proud of?
TH: Any kingie I catch on top water gear is a winner.

SD: Most embarrassing moment?
TH: Being kicked out of my 7th Form ball in a bright yellow suit. I’m pretty sure home brew rum played a part in it. The fact that this was over 10 years ago must mean it’s time to get loose…

SD: Biggest achievement to date?
TH: Buying a house with my girlfriend Ella.


SD: Ella is such a great catch, I presume you keep asking her and she keeps saying no?
TH: It’s gonna happen, mate. She just needs to learn how to surf first. So, next summer maybe? Watch this space.

SD: I am guessing it would be the Kraken as the drink of choice?
TH: Kraken all the way – or maybe a delicious cold craftie. But if we’re up north at the bach, you’ve got to follow Granddad’s drink of choice – VB. Nothing else is allowed through the door.