Photo: Nathan Lawrence
by Sean Doherty
Whoever placed New Zealand way down there at the bottom of the globe wasn’t really considering the convenience of the travelling European surfer, that’s for sure. From London you won’t get much change out of two days flying time to get there, and you’ll arrive looking as fresh as your last airline meal, but New Zealand will be worth every jet lagged goddamn minute.
You see all those swells that slam into Shipstern Bluff? All that moving ocean that draws off the reef at Teahupoo? All that swell that gets squeezed up the Tasman Sea toward Fiji? Well guess what other large piece of rock sits smack bang in the middle of all that swell? New Zealand, bro!
A quick analogy might help here. Just think of all that swell as Jonah Lomu, the Polynesian colossus, and think of New Zealand as Mike Catt, the weedy English fullback at the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Jonah Lomu comes steaming out of the Southern Ocean, and when confronted by the tiny landmass of Mike Catt performs what’s referred to in these parts as the “Maori sidestep” – he simply smashes headlong.
Surf consistency: 8 Wave variety: 8
Climate: 7 Radness: 7 Budget: 4
Kiwis will happily tell you they’ve got some good surf down there. There’s surf on the North Island, surf on the South Island, and there’s also plenty of surf across on the lesser known West Island – Australia – where most of New Zealand’s surfing population has migrated to over the past 30 years and laid claim to. New Zealand has waves on both coasts of both islands, but the west coasts bear the brunt of the swell generated down in the Roaring Forties. The North Island is the more groomed and civilised surfing experience, home to most of the well-known breaks and most of the surfers, while the South Island is for the more masochistic surfer – isolated, empty and cold. The best way to get around New Zealand is to rent a van and just go, and if you do so during the Southern Hemi winter you should also take a snowboard, as the South Island is home to some of the best boarding south of the Jason Momoa equator.
New Zealand’s trophy wave is, of course, Raglan, a couple of hours south from the capital of Auckland. This forever-left is actually a series of consecutive sections, kinda like a coldwater G-Land, that link up on the right swells and turn into something colossally great. Unlike pretty much every other surfable wave in New Zealand, Raglan gets a little busy, and when we say a little we mean a lot. And it might surprise you as you look out over Raglan with 200 guys out to know that just a thousand years ago there was not a single soul here in New Zealand at all. Yep, nobody, the globe’s last great uninhabited landmass. These islands down here at the bottom of the world were the final leg of the great Polynesian peopling of the Pacific, and driving around the place today it’s not that hard to imagine what those first Aotearoans saw, as much of the coastline has remained undisturbed since they arrived.