Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Piha gets break as favourite among Auckland surfers

The surf break at Piha has come out top in a survey of board riders' favourites. Photo / APN
The surf break at Piha has come out top in a survey of board riders' favourites. Photo / APN

The surf break at the west coast beach of Piha has come out tops in a survey of surfers' favourites by Auckland Council, which is considering development controls in the new Unitary Plan.

Piha's left-hand break is not only the most surfed in Auckland over 12 months but also the surfers' favourite.

The online survey had 1452 responses, mostly from experienced riders with 67 per cent having surfed for more than 10 years.

Most listed Auckland as their home while others came from places including South Africa, China and Sweden.

Surfing Piha Surf Shop proprietor Mike Jolly said he was not surprised at the result and it showed people still flocked there, despite television programmes like Piha Rescue.

"We are Auckland's closest surf, only 45 minutes from [the] CBD and parking right at the beach, whereas some places you have a long drive and then a walk.

"It is also the only sheltered spot - a corner protects from the southwesterly wind in winter."

"There is always something to ride, though the best surf occurs when it's smaller and it's offshore wind."

Piha will host its 10th national surfing championships from January 13-19 at the south end of the beach.

Although Piha pulls up to 500 board riders on a good day, Mr Jolly, who has lived there since the 1970s, does not think the surf is getting overcrowded.

"You can spread out and we always have surf."

He said the popularity of breaks depended a lot on how far they were from surfers' homes.

Most North Shore residents go to Muriwai/Maori Bay further up the west coast, which are placed No4 and No5 in the survey.

They found it a quicker trip taking the Upper Harbour Highway and State Highway 16 to Muriwai.

Central, south and west Auckland residents found Piha handy.

Surfers faced a two-hour drive for the best breaks on the Auckland east coast - in the area between Mangawhai and Pakiri.

"But Piha is consistent whereas the east coast can be flat for weeks on end."

However, Wayne Glover, who runs Aotearoa Surf School, said Te Arai and Forestry at the northern end of Pakiri Beach, were justly voted second and third favourite.

"When there's a sniff of a swell on the east coast, that's where Aucklanders head for."

"They've a few options and there's a range of conditions that the beaches will be surfable."

Mr Glover said the beaches faced slightly different directions which meant, say, a norwest wind blowing down the coast would give good surf at the Mangawhai Bar but it would be more sheltered at Forestry.

Ben Kennings, of Surfing New Zealand, said the survey rightly identified Piha as the most frequented but as for favourites, he thought Maori Bay was "up there".

The survey also showed learners favoured east coast spots - Tawharanui, Omaha and Orewa.

Responses showed concern about the effects of further coastal development, in line with the Surfbreak Protection Society's submissions.

Council environment and sustainability chairman Wayne Walker said the survey results came in time for inclusion in the draft Unitary Plan, out in March.

Auckland's 5 top surf breaks

Piha (west coast)

Te Arai (Rodney east coast)

Forestry (Rodney east coast)

Muriwai (west coast)

Maori Bay (west coast)

Survey of 1452 surfers

- NZ Herald

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