Breaking wave north of Tongaporutu, North Taranaki (B + W image)

New Zealand’s west coast is a relatively high-energy coast, exposed to persistent ocean swells that have been generated by weather systems in the Tasman Sea and the stormy Southern Ocean to the south. These swells can travel for hundreds, even thousands of kilometres, meaning that by the time they reach the New Zealand coast they often have little to do with the local weather conditions at the time.

The North Taranaki coast is a typical west coast setting, regularly pounded by large swells generated by storms near and far. Most of the time there is at least a 1.5- to 2-metre swell running here, regardless of the weather; sometimes swells of six metres or even more can roll in when intense low pressure systems (particularly in spring) churn the southern Tasman sea into a frenzy.

This breaking wave was photographed near Tongaporutu, North Taranaki, from a local fishing spot known as Fergie’s Rock, a small bedrock ledge that juts out from the main cliff face to give an almost bird’s eye view of the surf thundering in below.

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Breaking wave, Tongaporutu

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