Surfing the Southern Edge - Surfing New Zealand


It is no wonder that we are passionate about surfing, our 6,000 kms of exposed coastline offers some of the most consistent and crowd free surfing in the southern hemisphere. The variety of surf breaks is simply awesome - from clean barrels rolling onto pure white sand beaches on the east coast, to gnarly freight train sets pounding rugged west coast beaches.

Surfing the Southern Edge - Surfing New Zealand

Surfing New Zealand

Check out our ‘supertubes’ with one kilometre long joy rides at Ahipara and the consistently perfect peelers at our hottest surf spot, Raglan. Experience giant steamrollers and Malibu-style wave sets at Murderer’s Bay in Dunedin, as well as velvet-smooth tunnels at Gisborne. Our beaches can be surfed all year round.

The North Island has very warm temperatures in summer (December-March) and wet suits are not usually needed. The South Island waters are colder and generally call for some neoprene protection. The long insular shape of the country means that you can quickly move across from one coast to the other. So wherever you are in the country there’s bound to be a good break nearby. A glance at the local weather map will tell you which coast has the right swell.  What makes the culture of surfing distinct in New Zealand, is its growth through surf-lifesaving.

In other countries, surfing developed early on as a kind of loafer counter-culture. Here, it is a sport for anyone and features no one specific stereotype, you could be in the water with a doctor or lawyer one minute and a plumber painter the next. It is so popular with young New Zealanders, that it is even available as a sport option in some high schools. We see it as an opportunity to challenge nature and the elements, and to conquer something that can only be conquered for a moment in the great out doors. Surfing New Zealand’s fastest growing recreational sports.

Surfing sunset New Zealand

Some of the Top New Zealand Surfing Spots

Raglan Beach

Famous for surfing, music, artisans, cafés and bohemian lifestyle’s, the Raglan community is only 35 minute drive from Hamilton and just two hours from Auckland on the beautiful west coast of the North Island. This is a relaxing isolated place where you can spend time at one of the many black sand beaches swimming, surfing, and body boarding or just working on the perfect tan! The area is world renowned for it's surfing and has some of the best waves in New Zealand, especially just out of Raglan at Whale Bay and Manu Bay where clean glassy left handers roll into the beach. Nearby are the Bridal Veil Falls which are an impressive sight falling around 60 meters (196 feet) – well worth a look.

Surfing Raglan New Zealand


Piha, Auckland's favourite west coast beach is probably New Zealand's second best-known surfing beach after Raglan, and it has a reputation for awesome surf. It was the birthplace of New Zealand board riding in 1956 and has been the scene of both New Zealand national and international surfing championship competitions. This black ironsand beach is notorious for its rips and currents, so is not a good beach for novices to attempt. Two Surf Lifesaving Clubs provide surf patrols in summer.

Surfing the black sands of Piha

Gisborne Surfers Paradise

Fancy a visit to a genuine, laid-back Kiwi surf town, which boasts some of the best summer weather, warm water and a bucketful of different surf breaks to suit board riders? Gisborne’s marvellous surf beaches have attracted surfers since the early 1960’s. The coastline is affected by long ocean swells coming from both the east and south so you can usually catch a wave at one of the local beaches. Dawn surfing is a buzz because Gisborne is the first place in the world to see the sunrise each day. Makorori Point (8 kms or 5 Miles from Gisborne) is a famous surf location, which has all the qualities of a perfect surfing hangout. A right-hander breaks over a shallow reef system setting up a long sweeping ride that is a surfer’s dream. Watch for a south or south-east swell and waves around 2 metres from mid to high tide for the epic wave that will replay over and over in your mind. 

Surfing East Coast North Island at Gisborne

Big-Wave Surfing in the Deep South

In a place known as the Deep South, is a region stretching from Dunedin to the bottom end of the South Island. Geographically the area is wide open to big uninterrupted Southern Ocean swells ranging from 1 m-3m, but 4m to 6m-plus waves are a regular occurrence throughout the year and has all the makings of a big wave rider's dream. So if you are an experienced thrill seeker wanting to put everything on the line then hunt out the Deep South big-wave scene that has begun to emerge lately - a tight but significant core of eager and able surfers who are paddling and towing into ever more serious slabs of ocean. Centre (Rarotoka) Island and Papatowai are two formerly obscure spots which have regularly been ridden in the last few years, and new discoveries and previously untameable Shark Island-type waves have started to tempt those willing to brave the consequences and the cold.  But in New Zealand, size comes at a price. The trade-off for being the only part of the country to receive genuine big waves is the biting cold and radical weather. Even on glassy, sunny days, the full rubber kit from head to toe is essential. Winter days are often plagued by squally gales of such force that they make going outside an unlikely option, even for the farmers.

Southland Surfing

Ready to plan your surfing experience in New Zealand?

Get in touch with our Travel Specialists who will be happy to assist you with arranging your dream trip

There’s all the wave-riding adventure you could possibly desire on our shores, complemented by stunning scenery, uncrowded waves, kiwi culture and friendliness - all absolutely free for your enjoyment. 


Brent Narbey
Brent Narbey
: 5 Sep 2010 (Last updated: 8 Apr 2022)

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