A Brief Guide to Christchurch Surf

Thomas Nicklin


From remote Magnet Bay on the Banks Peninsula, learning to surf at Sumner Bar, possible barrels at Taylor’s Mistake and a world class right point break just three hours north of Christchurch; the Canterbury region is a surprisingly great place to be a surfer. This is a brief guide to some convenient and quality waves that every Christchurch surfer should make time to conquer.

  1. Sumner Bar
Sumner Bar: Sumner is great beach for learners, but the often small waves mean you’ll probably need a longboard. Photo Credit – Sam Brett.

If you want to learn to surf then Sumner Bar, a beach that is just a 45 minute bus ride or a 10-15 minute drive from Christchurch, is about as good as it gets. This statement may seem bold, but the requirements for a good beginner wave are this; a sand bottom, a slow breaking wave that doesn’t break too far in or too far out, and weak currents. Sumner has all of these things with only one down side, cold water.

There are two places that rent surfboards and are close by; Learn To Surf (which will also give you a lesson) and Stoked Surf, Skate & Snow. Learn To Surf is located out of a van in the parking lot at Sumner beach. You can get more information about them on their website. Stoked is located at 10 Wakefield Ave, Sumner, with more info on their Facebook page.

If you’re not a beginner, you can still surf at Sumner but I would recommend using a Longboard as the waves, even on bigger days, have very little power.


  1. Taylor’s Mistake
Taylor’s Mistake: Looking down the picturesque beach at Taylor’s Mistake. Photo credit – Sam Brett.
Taylors Mistake 2: In the right conditions, Taylor’s Mistake can produce powerful waves for a more advanced surfer. Photo credit – Sam Brett.

If you’re an intermediate to advanced surfer with a Shortboard, Taylor’s Mistake is the place to go and it’s only a five minute drive from Sumner. On a good day, you might find yourself in the right spot to make it out of a right or left handed barrel (expect close-outs).

A popular local spot, the hazards are the crowds, and ironically the lifeguard boats that tend to train in the evening, zooming through the surf and back to the beach over and over.


  1. Magnet Bay

Magnet Bay: Looking across the rocky break at Magnet Bay. Photo credit – Sam Brett.

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Magnet Bay 2: Popping up on a wave at Magnet Bay. Photo credit – Sam Brett.

A regional classic, Magnet Bay is about an hour and a half south of Christchurch on the Banks Peninsula, and offers a nicely formed left handed point break.  Recommended for intermediate to advanced surfers, the wave holds a fair bit of size and offers a lot of room for turns, especially at low tide.

Don’t expect to get barrelled at Magnet, but you might find it a great place to practice cutbacks or nose riding. It breaks over nice pumpkin sized rocks, which are probably the biggest hazard, and at times can be a bit crowded.

Bring a solid leash and your favourite Shortboard, Longboard or Funboard to have a great time. Oh yeah… The road to Magnet is not particularly user-friendly, sporting steep cliffs, no guard rails and one-lane dirt roads with two-way traffic. Enjoy!


  1. Mangamaunu (Mangas)
Mangamaunu: The iconic Mangamaunu, a world class point break. Photo credit – Banks Ireland.

This is a world-class wave, and I really mean that! Mangamaunu, also known as Mangas, is about three hours north of Christchurch, but when it’s good the drive is well worth it.

Sporting a wave so long that your legs might just be burning by the end of it, this right point with its minimal crowds and extraordinary scenery may indeed be my favorite place to surf in the world. As an American who has surfed in the US, Puerto Rico, the Gold and Sunshine Coasts of Australia and Cloudbreak in Fiji, that’s impressive!

One of the most amazing parts about this wave is that you can ride any type of board here, and assuming there is enough size to begin with, you can choose the size of wave you want to surf. At the peak of the point you’ll get the biggest waves, but by the time you get to the end of the point the wave size might be a ¼ of that.

The downsides include cold water, rocks and currents.

For the adventurous surfer, there are plenty of waves to be had. Photo credit – Sam Brett.

Being a surfer in Christchurch is truly rewarding for those committed enough to brave the cold, and the potentially long drives. If you’re willing to look past those minor hurdles, you should be able to find sufficient waves almost every day of the week.