The Ultimate Guide to Surfing in Oceania

by Asia Kaczmarczyk

Surfing in Oceania is a true adventure that means hitting the SW-SE swells of the Southern Ocean on famous breaks like Bells, Noosa, and Teahupo’o.

Australia Oceania

The good

  • Some seriously legendary spots
  • Long swell seasons and wide swell window
  • Warm water

The bad

  • Sharks
  • Large distances to cover

Our in-depth guides to the best places to go surfing in Oceania

An introduction to surfing in Oceania

Some of the world’s best surfing awaits in Oceania – the clue is in the name, folks! A vast corner of the planet that covers over eight million square kilometers, it ranges from the desert coastlines of Western Australia all the way through to the long-lost South Sea islands of Polynesia, closer to Hawaii than to Perth. All the way, the one thing tying the whole lot together is salt water, and a whole load of it.

Yep, this is the home of the South Pacific, which pulses up continuous southerly swells throughout the storm season to bless everywhere from South Island New Zealand to the points of the iconic Gold Coast in Oz. The same engine room is responsible for powering up the now-hallowed slab barrels of Teahupo’o and others, which push the Kai Lennies and Slaters among us in the peak winter seasons between April and October.

That’s not it, though – the Indian Ocean also plays a part. Anyone in WA will tell you that. It offers steady SW sets all along the fine surf coast of Margaret River at a time when typhoon swells break into eastern Australia to allow for peeling longboard cruisers.

Vast as it is, Oceania surf is a mix of well-trodden (Manly, Bells, Piha) and totally unknown (hey, we’d list them if we knew!). Some jet in to score the right points of Eastern Australia. Others go further, to jungle-clad isles where the reefs and continental shelfs are still being discovered.

The best places to surf in Oceania

Oceania counts 14 individual countries in its roster, but there are some obvious ones to look at for that surf adventure. We’ll focus on those here…

Australia

Australia surfing wave

Where do we begin? Australia has a claim to being the current home of surfing. It’s churned out champs in the form of Mick Fanning and Sally Fitzgibbons and offers up some of the planet’s undisputed pearlers, from Bells down south to Margret River in the west and Noosa’s peeling rights over in the east.

One seriously massive country, Australia counts a whopping 21,000 miles of coast – that’s two thirds of the whole of the EU, in one, single nation! More than that, it spans the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, meaning swell seasons on two halves of the country.

The main draw is arguably eastern Australia. That has a surf coastline that might be plagued by great whites and bull sharks but has such quality it’s hard to not be tempted. Famous beaches run all the way from north Sydney to the top of the Sunshine Coast there. WA is also a corker, but there’s undiscovered surf lands in South Australia and Tasmania.

Check out our ultimate guide to Australia surfing

New Zealand

New Zealand surfing

The land of the goofy wave, New Zealand often hits the headlines for the rifling lefts of Raglan. But we don’t think they’re even close to the main reason to come here. This double-island nation in the depths of the Pacific is a true scorcher if you’re wanting a surf-travel adventure. It changed the way we see waves and understand surfing when we first went – the variety and sheer beauty of it is hard to comprehend.

The surf is divvied out pretty evenly between the north and south. In the first, you get the striking rock stack at Piha and the bending points of Raglan. They are busier but sheer class. Down south is wilder and rawer, offering breaks under the snow-capped Kaikoura Mountains that let you draw squiggles in the water as dolphin pods pass.

We’ve got a full guide to surfing New Zealand

Tahiti

Tahiti wave

Tahiti – like Hawaii before it – is part of the Polynesian group of islands out on the far fringes of Oceania. These are lands that are firmly written into the annals of surfing history and Tahiti arguably more than others – it was here in 1760 something that the first Europeans are said to have witnessed people catching waves on boards crafted from local lumber.

Fast forward to today and Tahiti isn’t quite the surf mecca that the Aloha State has risen to be. The sport underwent a renaissance in the country in the 60s and 70s, but it wasn’t until later that it really kicked off and the pros came. That was largely down to the emergence of a single reef break that many thought totally unmakeable: Teahupo’o. It still breaks boards and bones, only these days it also features on covers of surfing mags all over the shop.

Check out our ultimate guide to Tahiti surf (coming soon)

A guide to the seasons for surfing in Oceania

New Zealand Oceania

The prime time for surfing in Oceania matches with the peak swell season all across the Southern Hemisphere. That begins in earnest around April and lasts into October. In many of the most popular spots – Eastern Oz, NZ – the shoulders of spring and fall actually reign supreme because they bring southerly and westerly offshores to bear on some of the finest breaks the continent can muster. Other locations – Teahupo’o, for example – will always be a waiting game because it’s about waiting for the prime combo of south-swell elements in the compass.

You can apply the same logic to the western fringes of Oceania, too. WA is the main hunting ground there. It needs the same SW-S systems that cover Bali, which also come in the winter months between April and October.

Beginners and improvers can still get good sessions in outside of this peak. In fact, there are some fine Oceania surf spots that work best in the summertime. That’s certainly the case over in Noosa, which hosts arguably the world’s best logger waves under tropical rainforests up in lovely Queensland. Add to that oodles of beach break all over North Island NZ and beyond and you soon realize there’s never a bad time to surf in these parts!