Seasons Changing: New Zealand.
Words and images by Joe Brightwell.
In March, as the world started to get to grips with the covid-19 pandemic, almost on cue, the waves in the upper North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand stopped as we entered into level 4 lockdown when our Prime Minister “Aunty Jacinda” told us that no surfing was allowed.
Then in early May, lockdown rules eased as the country went down to level 3, and the swell returned. Surfers and bodyboarders around the country rejoiced as the surf gods rewarded us for our collective hard work and for behaving ourselves as a “team of 5 million” combating the spread of a terrible virus.
For the past 3 months, Kiwi boogers have been lucky enough to score a healthy number of memorable sessions, consistent swells and offshore winds from tip to tail, east to west. Winter 2020, despite being bloody cold and dismal with lots of rain, was actually one of the best winter seasons for a long time in terms of good waves for the upper north of the country.
This run of consistent surf has finally come to a screeching halt as Spring is now upon us with its constant onshore winds and large swells pounding NZ’s west coast for days and weeks on end. Meanwhile over on the east coast, “it’s flatter than a flounder” as my Aunty would say.
Combining these poor conditions with the chilly water temps (4/3 steamers are recommended in the north, 5/4 steamers with hood/gloves/booties in the south) and it’s safe to say that Spring truly is the worst season for surf for the majority of NZ.
To keep ourselves sane, some bodyboarders partake in other activities like fishing, mountain biking, and hiking. Others get into a bit of DIY work around the house, spend time with their loved ones (gotta get those brownie points/surf credits locked in for summer), play video games, watch the footy, and generally make the most of the longer hours available thanks to daylight savings coming into play.
There are a few nooks and crannies in the Far North, Deep South and East Coast that can offer relief to wave-starved frothers. But for those who don’t live in these lucky locations, they simply have to put in some serious hours behind the wheel to take a shot at scoring clean and consistent waves.
In normal/non-covid times, trips to overseas locations like the South Pacific and Indonesia are usually undertaken for those with fat wallets and an addiction to barrels of a higher quality.
For the majority of us Average Joe’s, we simply have to do other things to survive a couple of months of madness until summer’s tropical storm patterns start sending some swell for the east coast and cleaner winds for the west coast. Unlike some other countries, some of the best conditions in upper NZ are actually during the summer months, especially whenever a cyclone decides to show up.