Surfbreak Protection Society
Surfbreak Protection Society
News Archive
Whangamata Bar is broken! – 50 surfers attend meeting 6th May

About 50 people turned up at the Whangamata Surfclub on the 6th of May 2012 to focus their concerns over the deterioration of the quality of surf on the Whangamata Bar.

Whangamata surfer John Wilson, who facilitated the meeting, explained that “The Bar” was one of the top three sandbar surfbreaks internationally and it was important for the New Zealand surfing scene that it is retuned to that position. It was also one of the 17 listed surfbreaks in the New Zealand National Coastal Policy Statement.

An expert panel consisting of coastal scientists Jim Dahm and Dr Shaw Mead and wave conservationist Paul Shanks addressed the meeting. The scientists explained the science behind decision-making around coastal management at the Regional Council, using the Whangmata Bar as the example.

Mr Dahm put in plain words how the Bar is formed and the sediment transport system that exists in the Whangamata estuary. Dr Mead spoke in surfer terms, introducing the relatively new field of ‘surf science’. He explained how waves are shaped and how they break, using images of bathometric surveys of the Whangamata Bar.

Paul Shanks talked about attending an international wave conservation symposium Spain in October last year and visiting the world renowned surfbreak Mundaka. “The problems surfers faced at Mundaka were the same as those that are happening here in Whangamata”.

A straw poll was taken asking the surfers present if they had noticed a change on the Bar in the last few years. The vote was unanimous to the affirmative. It was decided that a specially dedicated group focusing on the Whangamata Bar would set up a scientific survey method using time-lapse cameras that will enable the measurement of the wave breaking conditions on the Bar. It would be a first in New Zealand. (Funding for the establishment of the time-lapse cameras is required – click this link if you would like to contribute.

The national wave conservation group, Surfbreak Protection Society, would support this initiative. Whangamata could become a pilot for any other surf break communities wanting to collect scientific data.

Surfbreak Protection chairperson and Whangamata local Paul Shanks said “What was uplifting about the meeting was firstly the participation of the young surfers and secondly that we are doing something that other surfers can utilise if their breaks come under threat.”

For further info contact: Paul Shanks, President Surfbreak Protection Society ph 021 2671492 or email:

Coastal Scientist, Mr Jim Dahm, presenting information at the meeting.

Coastal Scientist, Dr Shaw Mead, presenting information at the meeting.

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