Catch a break in Tairāwhiti Gisborne

A strong swell, consistent winds and wide, open beaches have created some of New Zealand’s best breaks.


Tairāwhiti Gisborne has some of the most consistent surf in New Zealand. A strong swell passes our coast, moving from south-west to north-east, and there’s a steady sea breeze, creating many different types of breaks for new and expert surfers.

We’re very passionate about surfing as this incredible documentary (below) by Damon Meade shows. We've profiled some of the awesome breaks below and check out our listings for more surf shops. Special thanks to Blitz Surf Shop who provided the information on this page.

Midway can pump nicely

Town beaches

Roberts Road/Waikanae: This is the most mellow area of the town beach, great for beginners and surf lessons or people just wanting to cruise. Be aware though that even here the surf can get big and can have some pretty horrendous rips. The swell hitting here tends to be from the South or South West.

Gizzy Pipe/Midway: This might be the "Town Beach” but this area can get regular, quality, powerful waves especially from autumn to spring when we get regular swells from the southerly quarter. The surf is almost always bigger here than the Roberts Road end of the beach but often also more crowded. South West and South swells are the best. The biggest East swells can sometimes wrap in but it will be smaller than the coast beaches. Winds are offshore from the North West and Northerly direction and light North East winds are generally okay too. The area straight in front of the midway Surf Club usually has the biggest waves but Pipe often has the best shape.

Up the coast

Sponge Bay: There are several spots that you can surf at Sponge Bay. It picks up swell from the South West to the East depending on which part you plan to surf. Winds are offshore from North West through to almost the East. Most of the time when the surf is small it is a pretty mellow place and good for beginners to intermediate but it can get pretty serious from time to time on a big swell. Sponge Bay is one of the more hazardous places to surf locally with submerged rocks, logs and sometimes hazards that have been illegally dumped here mingling with surfers in the line-up. Be vigilant!

The Island: The Island is for competent surfers only and locals are a bit more protective of this area than other spots. Depending on your fitness it is a 15-30 minute paddle to the Island on a shortboard.



The Island with a view towards Sponge Bay. Both require vigilance but can be spectacular

Wainui has consistent, powerful surf

Wainui Beach: Wainui throws up world-class waves across an extended area from the Stock Route north, past the Wainui School. The quality of the waves is heavily dependent on the tides relative to the banks so can vary quite a lot even within the space of a couple of hours. There are plenty of places to easily access the beach so go for a drive and find yourself the best spot. Wainui will receive most swell directions but will tend to be smaller than elsewhere on swells from the southerly quarter. Beginner to intermediate surfers should check with locals first before going surfing at Wainui if they think it is outside their surfing ability, as it can get quite serious here. Broken boards and leashes are common, so are serious rips. Surf here all year and on all tides depending again on the banks.

The Pines is a great place to watch the experts

Pines/Okitu: From the Wainui Surf Club north to Whales there are several more breaks that on their day can produce truly epic waves. The Pines and Chalet areas are probably less consistently surfed than Wainui but can also often hold much bigger surf and still stay rideable. At times it’s only good for the crew with jet-skis. The Pines carpark is a great place to watch the action when the surf is pumping and the experts are getting big pits! This whole area will get swell from the South West through to North East.

Makorori has consistent breaks but also hazards such as rocks

Makorori Beach: Over the hill from Okitu you will find Makorori Beach which is a relatively untouched bay around 10kms from the centre of Tairāwhiti Gisborne. The southern part of the beach is surf rich and probably has the most consistent surf conditions in Tairāwhiti Gisborne. Makorori is a mixture of rock and sand bottom breaks with the sand tending to build up behind the rocks making more slowly changing banks than elsewhere on the coast. Swell from the South West through to North East will hit different parts of Makorori Beach and winds will be offshore at the northern end by the houses from North East to North West, the southern end is better from North West to West.

Makorori Point can sometimes stay reasonably clean on a lighter South West wind. Like most places in Tairāwhiti Gisborne, Makorori Beach can be surfed on all tides depending on banks and swell direction.

Catching a break in Tairawhiti Gisborne

There are several surf spots as soon as you drive over the hill into Makorori with The Point, Centres, Red Bus and Makorori Creek within the first 1.5 kilometres. The main hazards are semi-submerged rocks at lower tides. The winter months can see visiting seals call into Makorori for a rest so if you are taking a dog there keep an eye on it at all times. Be wary of big crowds, mals and SUPs out at the Point when it gets good.

The Northern Part of Makorori by the houses tends to be a bit softer and smaller than other areas so is great for beginners, kids and surf lessons but from time to time can get really quite good and quite powerful.

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