Wellington Wave Spots, New Zealand

Just about everyone has heard that New Zealandis a very beautiful, hospitable and friendly place. Windsurfing just adds to the endless list of outdoor activities and no more so than around the capital city of ‘Windy Wellington’. The city has wind for 9 months out of 12 and the waves too. When I travelled to Wellington this February it howled almost every day.

Fact File

Windy Season October to February
Wet Suit? Yes, 4/3 suit or more.
How To Get There

I travelled to New Zealand at the end of their summer in February. The best time to go for wind and waves is anytime throughout the summer (Oct to Feb) with the windiest times being Oct/Nov.

I flew on a Qantas/ Jetstar flight from Honolulu, Hawaii to Wellington, New Zealand for US $1,900 with a two hour stopover in Sydney, Australia. (Tatiana lives in Maui!) I booked my ticket last minute so my price was on the higher end. If you book in advance you can find a more reasonable ticket. Excess baggage was US $175 there and US $60 back. This goes to show you can never know what it will cost until you turn up. Flight time for me was only 10 hours but I know coming from Europe it can take days to get there!

How The Wind Works

There are many different spots in Wellington to go windsurfing, but for the best wave-sailing go to Plimmerton or Lyall Bay depending on the wind conditions.

Plimmerton works with a northerly and northwest wind. It is mostly cross-onshore winds and starboard tack.

Lyall Bay works best with southerly winds. It also can be good offshore wave sailing in a north to north-east wind

The wind in both spots usually starts in the morning and picks up throughout the day. All the wind in NZ is produced by highs and lows in the weather system (not trade winds like Maui) but these are usually consistent enough to sail at least five days out of seven in spots like Wellington.

The Sailing Spots

Plimmerton

Best wind direction: North to north-west. The more north it is the gustier it is.

Worst wind direction: Anything with south or east in it.
Tide: Best 1-2 hours after high tide.
What’s on the bottom?: Sand.
Other water users: Kitesurfers and boats coming in and out past the channel in the sandbar.
Suitability/level: Intermediate to advanced wavesailing.
Wipe-out factor: It’s a mellow break so you will get to your gear if you happen to let go of it! Average waves are chest high, but can get up to logo high with the right conditions. The only way you will break something here is if you fall on it!

 

Lyall Bay

Best wind direction: South-west to south is best for cross-on starboard tack riding, the more south and east it gets the more onshore it becomes. It is still sailable in a south-east, just very onshore. In big southerly swells and north to north-east winds Lyall Bay produces epic down-the-line, port tack wave sailing. The offshore wind radically changes the wave, with the ability to get 3-5 bottom turns and big aerials.
Worst wind direction: North-east with no south swell and straight east and west. Tide: Around low tide is best.
What’s on the bottom?: Sand.
Any Hazards?: There is a small jetty at the western end of the bay, but you will see it!
Other water users: Surfers, swimmers, surf life savers and jet skiers. The east end of the beach is Wellington’s most popular surf spot however, nobody windsurfs there as the wind is too onshore.
Suitability/ levels: All levels when the wind is onshore(S-SW). When the wind is offshore (N-NE) Lyall bay is for experienced sailors only.
Wipe-out factor: Most of the time it is reasonably mellow, but it can get quite heavy! If it’s “on” there is usually a couple of broken masts and sails.

The Wellington Freewave Series (three events) is held every year with an expression session format and attracts the top riders from around Wellington and also the rest of the North Island.

Wellington is home to the current national wave champion(James Court) and previous champ (Clayton Dougan) and many other top level riders. On a good day out at Plimmerton or Lyall Bay almost everyone on the water is throwing forward loops and the like.

Water State

Plimmerton is a quality starboard tack jumping spot but also has a long, slow wave that breaks on the outside. The waves here are usually produced by wind swell however, if there is a groundswell it can get really good. A couple of times a year groundswells will hit from the Tasman producing logo high plus waves.

Lyall Bay is a beach break. It’s a fast wave that you have to be ready for. It is usually cross-on to onshore starboard tack. You can ride down-the-line and get one or two nice hits before it closes out.

During the summer the water is still cold. I had a 3/2 long arm wetsuit, but the locals were wearing 4/3 winter wetsuits.

Instruction And Kit Hire

Wildwinds provides lessons and equipment for beginners only and then advanced instruction but you bring your own kit. There is nowhere in Wellington where you can rent any intermediate and above kit. But you can in Christchurch (Groundswell) and Auckland (Map Loop windsurf school).

Accommodation

Wellington has endless amounts of accommodation available for all tastes and budgets ranging from backpackers to 5-star hotels. The best bet is to check out the following websites which both have an extensive list of what is available in the region. Below that is our favourite place we found to stay.

We definitely recommend the “Moana Lodge” which is a Backpackers close to Plimmerton. It’s definitely one of the best backpackers in NZ according to “Lets Go Guide 2002″, and the “Lonely Planet 2002″ rated it as “exceptional backpackers” (BBH Rated 97% 2002). The rooms are from NZD 20 to 45. Great place to chill out away from the city, which is only a 20 minute drive away.

Contact details: www.moanalodge.co.nz

Food

Wellington is a culinary capital, famous for its variety of cafes and restaurants. There are more than 300 of these treasures located throughout the city, offering the finest food, wine and coffee.

My favourite place to eat is located right on the beach at Lyall Bay called Maranui Surf Life Saving Cafe. It is reasonably priced too. There are so many great food options to go to. Whatever you desire Wellington will have it. Supermarkets are located all over the place.

Nightlife

Home to two universities and being a very vibrant city, Wellington has got great night life. All the bars are located in Courtenay Place, right in the city centre. Coutenay Place is good on Wednesdays (student night), Fridays and Saturdays. Town gets good at around midnight and pumps throughout the night until around 6am. It’s a great spot for people who want to party hard! It is really safe to walk around Wellington CBD at night, but make sure you stick to the main roads and under lighting. The drinking age is 18.

New Zealanders love their beer! In every bar you can get the standard Corona and Heineken but there are many local beers available. The favourites are Speights, Mac’s and Monteiths. A pint costs around $5-6 NZ.

Bored Of Windsurfing

There is always something to do when windsurfing doesn’t hit the spot. Firstly the FREE outdoor activities like biking, hiking, swimming, visiting lakes and ponds, driving up the coast to surf on the Westside (Raglan) or Eastside (Gisborne) or the Wairarapa (a 90 minute drive from Wellington). Then there is kayaking, river rafting, bungee jumping – the list is endless! This is what I loved about New Zealand, how everyone is really active and into the outdoors.

You can be deep in nature and then be in the city in 20 minutes. In the city there is a bunch of shopping, cafes, theatres and the museum of New Zealand; Te Papa. A total must see!

Hot Tips

Off the water

  • The locals here are super friendly so make sure you smile and say hi. When we travelled we ended up staying at peoples places who we had met out on the water that day. This is the way NZ works and the friendly people make it easy to travel around.

On the water

  • The wind in New Zealand comes from high and low fronts and because of this you can usually tell what weather you are about to experience by the oncoming clouds. For example in Wellington if you look to the south and there is low lying cloud it is about to get very windy!
Conclusion

Great spots and lots of wind! It got even better when I travelled up the coast to Taranaki (more on that in another Boardseeker travel feature). New Zealand is an amazing place to visit due to the quality time on the water and the endless off-water activities.

Tourist

Name: Tatiana Howard
Local beach: Ho’okipa
How many years sailing: 6yrs
Last windsurf move you cracked: Hitting the lip!
What you’re working on now: Back loops
Competition results: 5th place Aloha Classic 2006

Name: Tim Bamford
Local beach: Eastbourne
How many years sailing: 5yrs
Last windsurf move you cracked: One- handed forwards
What you’re working on now: Back loops
Competition results: 2nd Wellington Freewave Round 1 2007!

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