Although practically everyone thinks of Lord of the Rings and sheep whenever they think of New Zealand, there has always been a lot more to the “Land of the Long White Cloud” than hobbits and rings of power (or wooly mammals, for that matter). Aotearoa—as the country is known by the Maori—is easily one of the most beautiful in existence, and also happens to have a plethora of quality surf setups. The north island in particular has an abundance of uncrowded surf in close proximity to major cities, and warm(er) water to boot. Whether or not you are a fan of Middle Earth, New Zealand’s north island should have no problem keeping you entertained.
The Surf: Points, beach breaks, even rock reefs—if it exists in surfing, it exists in New Zealand. There are waves for every level of surfer on the north island, but in general you can consider this an intermediate-level destination.
Five Waves Worth Surfing:
- Raglan: One of the worlds best lefthand points, Raglan isn’t exactly a secret, and can play host to quite a crowd—but it’s typically worth the hassle.
- Ninety-mile Beach: If for no other reason than the name, it’s worth checking out this endless stretch of beach break nirvana. Chances are you’ll be able to find a sand bar all to yourself.
- Shipwreck Bay: Another endless lefthand point which can provide rides of up to three minutes on its day, this wave featured in the original Endless Summer.
- Piha: Worth visiting for the surf—a series of beach break sandbars—but even more so for the vistas provided by two black sand beaches with Lion Rock smack dab in the middle of them. Breathtaking is an understatement.
- Taranaki: A region rather than a specific break, this area is rife with quality waves and plays host to the women’s WT event each year.
The Water: With hundreds of miles of coastline and large portions of it undeveloped, water clarity can be downright crystalline. Sea temperatures in Auckland range from 59–70 F (15–21 C), with northern spots warmer and southern spots considerably colder, but in general a 3/2 wetsuit should be sufficient.
The Season: Winter (July-September) for the west coast and fall (April-June) for the east coast—although with ever-changing weather and heaps of swell potential, either side can fire at any time. Luckily, it’s a short drive across the island, so you could theoretically surf both coasts in the same day.
The Vibe: Marquee spots (Raglan) and waves near major cities (Auckland) can be crowded, but for the most part it will just be you and your mates…and the Great Whites. Politically, New Zealand is one of the most peaceful countries in existence, and is adamantly non-nuke, so no issues there.
Things To Do: New Zealand offers so much it’s almost a shame we have to bring surfboards. Check out the bays in the north, Wai-o-tapu and other volcanic/thermal attractions in Rotorua, Tongariro National Park, Mount Taranaki…the list goes on and on. Oh yeah, and you can snowboard/ski there too.
Where To Stay: Although much of New Zealand is rural farmland, the country is a well-traveled stop on the backpacker/tourist path, and the north island has an almost unlimited supply of hostels and hotels. Another option is to rent a caravan and take your home with you on the road.
What To Bring: A shortboard for beach breaks and something fun in points. A 3/2 wettie in winter, or if you are planning to spend time on the southern part of the island. Cold weather clothing and some good hiking boots. An appreciation for wilderness vistas.
Getting There: Auckland is a major international airport, and is serviced from all over the world. Visas unnecessary as long as you are from a visa waiver country (http://www.immigration.govt.nz/migrant/stream/visit/visitors/). Otherwise, apply for a visa ahead of time. Airport code: AKL.