Welcome to the wildest stretch of exposed surf coastline in New Zealand.
The turbulent Tasman Sea continuously assaults the South Island West Coast with 3 metre steam roller wave sets lined up to the horizon. Ironically surfers on ‘The Coast’ often have to wait for the swells to drop before they can safely get amongst the waves.
The dramatic coastline has superb scenery and amazing marine wildlife, so exploring the many uncharted reef breaks can be rewarding for the zealous board rider. Although the environment is harsh you will find the local people are very friendly and laid-back.
Farewell Spit, at the northern tip of ‘The Coast’ has very exposed beach breaks on its 30 km crescent of moving sand. Fergusons Beach and Wairaiki Beach west of Pakawau, both have beach breaks that are good on all tides. It is virgin territory from here down to Westport with very little surfing intelligence available, although Little Wanganui and Waimarie do have good river bar breaks.
Westport has plenty of surfing action, however. The breakwater at the mouth of the Buller River offers a good beach break. Shingles is a unique freshwater beach break 1 km inside the river mouth, but requires a real north-west storm surge to make it perform well.
Tauranga Bay is a recognised surfing mecca and seal colony down the Cape Foulwind road, south of Westport. It has a left-hand point and beach break, which is best at low tide in a 2 metre swell. Just over the hill is Nine Mile Beach, which faces south-west and puts up some of the best beach breaks along this coast in the right conditions.
River bar breaks occur at Charleston and Fox River, and Punakaiki has two beach breaks that are fun to ride in a small swell. Camping here gives you heaps of options for adventure activities if the surf is in storm mode.
Greymouth’s Cobden Beach has a left-hand bar break along the breakwater in swells up to 2 metres. Blaketown, south of the Grey River mouth has a right-hand bar break. Further south is mystery land. ‘Thar be Dragons to Slay’ there if you have the experience and mindset to explore and conquer. Start at Harihari where some accessible surf spots can be found and take it from there.