New Zealand Surf Spot Guide

New Zealand facts

Capital:
Wellington
Population:
4,173,460 (July 2008 est.)
Area:
268,680 sq km
Coastline:
15,134 km
Climate:
Temperate climate in the south island and sub-tropical climate in the North Island. The terrain, prevailing winds and the length of the country lead to sharp regional contrasts
Language:
English (official), Maori (official)

Surfing in New Zealand

A thousand miles south of Australia, New Zealand is composed of two large islands steeped in world-class point and beach breaks.

The mild, moist climate means that wetsuits are not usually needed in summer on the North Island, which is home to 75% of the country's population and a number of famous breaks such as Raglan, a ridiculously long left point near the city of Auckland.

The best and coldest surfing on the South Island is around the Otago Peninsula on the southern tip, where there is a choice of at least 40 breaks within an hour's drive of Dunedin City. On the downside there have been great white sharks sightings down here.

This sparsely populated island is an adventurer's dream. Although some spots have a solid reputation, there are dozens of potential reef breaks on the relatively isolated and largely unexplored south-east coast, and the west coast presents the wildest stretch of exposed surf in New Zealand.

The North Island is packed with variety, from the wild, desolate black-sand beaches of the 'Winterless North' including the infamous Shipwreck Bay - a surfing Mecca since its appearance in the 1966 film 'The Endless Summer' - to the genuine, laid-back Kiwi surf town of Gisborne, home to a choice selection of consistent spots to suit all abilities.

Dutch explorers observed Maori wave-riders in canoes and huge home-made surfboards as far back as the 17th century, although the sport was later outlawed by Calvinist missionaries from England. Reintroduced in 1915 by Hawaiian legend Duke Kahanamoku, who staged a demonstration in Lyall Bay near the capital city of Wellington, by the turn of the 21st century there were at least 100 000 local surfers. In 2002 New Zealand staked its claim to surfing history by winning the World Surfing Games, although the islanders have remained refreshingly low-key. In the words of local surf journalist and photographer, Logan Murray, 'New Zealand simply does not have an image.'

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