The Mount has been a Kiwi surfing mecca since the 60’s (some would say 50’s!) with its more forgiving waves than the wild West Coast.
Mount surf spots are mainly beach breaks that offer two to four foot ‘fun surf’ on the average summer day. They run from the busy left-hander ‘The Blowhole’ at Main Beach, south past ‘Shark Alley' (not really sharky), to Tay Street, and Clyde Street, and then on down the coast through Papamoa. It’s a surf scene where generally, you can work up some skills without battling fierce currents and gnarly waves, or 80 other aggro surfers scrapping over territory.
Apart from the odd week when a tropical cyclone pumps some big groundswell and brings the shortboarders out, it’s ‘mini-mal’ or longboard territory – the longer boards that best suit smaller surf. And of course, body boarders of all ages are in their element.
Mount Maunganui features New Zealand’s only artificial surfing reef constructed 250 m offshore at Tay Street. The delta-wing-shaped reef is a world-first, constructed from geotextile bags — the biggest more than 50m long and 3.5m high — filled with sand. How to spot the reef? Look out from Tay Street to the sea —to sight the buoys at either end. Controversy has simmered over how much it cost and how well it works. Pipeline it certainly 'aint, but as the country's only artificial reef, it's still an attraction - white elephant or not.
So you’ve never surfed? You’re in one of the best places in the country for professional lessons from well-qualified companies that have been in the business for years. Rebecca Taylor at Hibiscus Surf School is a professionally-qualified instructor with 7 years teaching experience. The charge is $80 for 2 hour group lessons (8am, 10am and 2pm), and HSS also offers private lessons. (Free one hour board and wetsuit hire after every lesson). Hibiscus also offers two and five day intensive surf clinics, designed to get your surfing on a fast track. They also lead surf trips as far afield as Bali! The school can be found under a marquee at Main Beach Mount Maunganui, where they also rent all sorts of boards, including stand up paddle boards. Gift vouchers available. (07) 575-3792 or 027-2799 687, www.surfschool.co.nz
Mount Surf Shop is the only surf store at the Mount that runs its own surf school with qualified instructors, and its lessons are the cheapest, at $60 for 2 hours. It’s close to the beach at the northern end of the downtown shops. You get a free lesson if you buy a board, and they also offer ‘buy back’ deals to suit backpackers and other travellers, who are going to be using their board for only a few weeks, or months. This well-run shop at 96 Maunganui Road (with a second outlet store in Tuatara Street – and Surf Museum!) will kit you out with everything you need, from long or short boards and stand-up paddle boards, to wax and wetsuits. (07) 575 9133, www.mountsurfshop.co.nz
Also close to Main Beach at the Mount is Backdoor at 24 Pacific Ave. They hire surfboards, wetsuits, body boards and wakeboards. They also have demo boards. (07) 575 7831, www.backdoor.co.nz
What’s the Surf Doing? You can of course, check the surf from the comfort of your home computer, lappie or blackberry. The best way to get clued up on local conditions is to with the www.surf2surf.com website – which provides daily surf reports complete with surf cam views of various local breaks. There’s a wealth of other info, from tide times to water temperatures, and surf forecasts for coming days. We suggest you sign up for the Outlook newsletter and surf alert that goes out on a Friday - with surf predictions for the weekend, including easy-to-read charts, etc.
Essential reading for any wannabe surfer or long time devotee is the chunky little New Zealand Surfing Guide, found in all local books shops and surf shops, or online at www.surf2surf.com The guide has 550 pages packed with information including detailed maps and tips on local surf breaks, weather analysis, and more. The guide is the work of long-time local surf forecaster and longboarder, Peter Morse, and Paul Brunskill, who co-founded the surf2surf website.