Tonga enjoys world class surfing year round with 2 very distinct seasons.
The Summer North Swell (November to March)
North Pacific winter swells (the same that hit Hawaii) as well as South Pacific tropical cyclones produce consistent swells during these months.
There are 4 rights and 1 left at Ha'atafu as well as a chain of off-shore reefs which fire during this period. "E.T.'s", "Loonies", "Sharkies", Lighthouse", Pass Right", and "Razors" are just a few of the smorgasbord of surf-spots to choose from. Some can be mindlessly perfect.
East to South East tradewinds prevail during the summer months but winds can be variable during passing storms (cyclone season). However, with such a selection of off-shore locations there is almost always one of the breaks offering clean, off-shore conditions. Resort boats are used to access off-shore surfspots.
The Winter South Swell Season (April to October)
Winter lows in the Tasman Sea and around New Zealand as well as Antarctic lows generate strong, clean groundswells which sweep the Ha'atafu coast turning on 5 excellent lefts - "The Pass", "Motels", "Corners", "The Bowl" and "Fishtraps".
South East tradewinds are directly off-shore at Ha'atafu and predominate during winter, brushing these waves to perfection.
All surfspots are either directly in front of the Resort or within a short walking distance and 100 metre paddle across the lagoon.
Details of some of the surf spots at Ha'atafu:
- "Corners" breaks in both winter south swell season as well as during summer north swell season. However the waves character changes dramatically with the two swell directions. In winter its a very fickle wave and likes a strong clean south swell to really fire. When its on its a favourite with goofyfooters ...... a thick intense barrel rifles across the reef into a distinct channel. Any west in the swell tends to shut it down near the end section but still popular in these conditions with bodyboarders. Length of ride 40+ metres. Wear some rubber. Winter is best for intermediate to advanced surfers. Summer is a different story. Much more of a fun wave. A hollow take-off section barrels for 20+ metres before slowing and offering 30+ metres of fun hotdogging through to an inside (mellow) closeout. A fun wave for all skill levels ..... even beginners. "Corners" is surfable for 3 hours either side of high tide year round.
- A long reeling lefthander which is best from head-high and bigger. At 8ft+ (faces) average wavelength is 100 mters but 200metre rides are common. This wave has a bit of everything in terms of barrels, long walls, racy sections and fun hotdogging. Can be surfed at any tide however low tide is dangerous on the inside section. Best for intermediate to advanced surfers.
- A very fickle south swell set-up about 150 metres north of "Motels". Breaks off a distinct peak that can peel perfectly for about 50 metres on good days. A fine line between a great barrel and a closeout pasteing on the very shallow reef. You'll need a go-for-it "kamikaze" attitude, good barrel riding skills, reef protection (wetsuit, boots, helmet) and also suggest travel insurance if you take this wave on. Best for experienced surfers and rideable for 3 hours either side of high tide.
- This a south swell lefthander that breaks off the same peak as "Pass Rights" just across the channel from "Pass Lefts". It's a fast wave that rarely breaks with any quality or power and mostly closes out. A "B Grade" surfspot (thus a 5 rating) and not often surfed as it's simply outclassed by the other lefthanders on offer in the area. Surfable for around 3 hours either side of high tide.
- Lighthouse comprises two separate breaks ie "Outside Lighthouse" and "Inside Lighthouse". They are both on the same reef and are separated by a long close-out section aptly named (by Margo) "The Surgeons Table". Outside Lightouse is a fast barrelling right with some super hollow sections. Wave length is about 50 metres. It's surfable at all tides and is often best on low tide .... particularly when small. However caution is advised at low tide as one mistake in timing and either you or your board (or both) could be end up on "the table" !!!! Inside Lighthouse is best on mid to high tides and is an intense barrelling wave. A heaving / pitching peak take-off runs into a warping tube that runs into a defined channel. Wavelength is about 30 metres. Both spots for intermediate to advanced surfers.
- Motels is one of the more consistent surfspots at Ha'atafu. It has a fast barreling take-off section that slows after about 30mtrs ..... enough time for a cutback ....... then hits the inside section and barrels again for another 30 - 40mtrs before finishing as a (usually) mellow closeout. Motels is mostly a "fun" wave and holds good shape up to 12ft (faces) ....... but gets heavy at that size. Surfable for 3hrs+ either side of high tide.
- Pass Lefts
- "Pass Lefts" is a south swell set-up and is an "easy" wave to surf. Very popular with learners and those who like mellow waves. It rarely holds bigger than head-high and peels slowly around the reef into a defined channel. It can be hollow but isn't dangerous and far less challenging than other surfspots along the Ha'atafu coast. Once the swell gets overhead all the wave's energy focuses on a wide peak next to the channel that breaks into a fat shoulder. Rideable for 3 hours either side of high tide.
- Pass Rights
- This is a summer north swell righthander right across the channel from "Pass Lefts". Its a fun wave popular with beginners and those who prefer mellow, less intense waves. It has a barreling take-off section that runs for 15 - 20 metres before hitting a channel. The rest of the ride (30 metres) is a mellow shoulder which is great for beginners (up to shoulder high) as it has an easy take-off, a soft-breaking sloping face and is also quite deep so its not dangerous at all. There is a slight current sweeping into the channel through the inside of the break but its not strong on small - medium sized days and easy to escape if you paddle across the rip towards the main break. It gets a little more serious once overhead and is unsuitable for beginners as current in the pass intensifies. This spot needs a straight north swell to break well. Any west in the swell and it hits too square onto the shelf and mostly closes-out. Its definitely worth a paddle most days and is one of the more consistent summer surfspots. Surfable 3 hours either side of high tide.
- The Bowl
- This is a serious wave. Short, intense and a perfect barrel when conditions come together. Deep tubes the norm. Its a fickle surfspot requiring a strong south swell to break at its best. Any west in the swell and all the energy focuses to the end section ....... only half the usual length of ride. A favourite with bodyboarders. Can be ridden across low tide but best at mid - high. Good to wear some rubber here especially at low tide.
- The Peak
- The Peak is a summertime north swell righthander that breaks off the same peak as Kamikazes (winter left). Its a super fun small wave set-up that rarely holds bigger than head-high and peels perfectly for 40 metres+ along the reef ending in a key-hole channel close-out (great for reos and boosting airs). A popular spot with local groms. Surfable for 3 hours either side of high tide.
No Beachbreaks in Tonga
All surfspots break over coral reefs, some are dangerously shallow, and for this reason we recommend that visiting surfers possess intermediate to advanced skill levels. There are reforms inside the lagoon which are ideal for supervised children or beginners.
Tonga Surfriders Association
Ha'atafu Beach Resort is the headquarters for the Tonga Surfriders Association, so guests have an excellent opportunity to meet and make friends and surf with the local surfers.