Imagine sailing here! This dream can come true. Each year in summer (January and February) we run a few Surfari Trips in South Canterbury, our Canterbury Lakes Discovery Trip. Based in Twizel, in beautiful McKenzie Country, we have a good variety of lakes to chose from, depending on the wind direction and weather conditions. We often get asked what exactly to expect, what sort of wind, is the water choppy, how cold are those lakes (they have a reputation),….. In this blog post we want to shed a bit of light into all of those questions, giving you an overview of what to expect if you were to book onto our Canterbury Lakes Discovery Trip. There will be further blogposts going into more detail of the different lakes and spots, this here is just an overview.
Which lakes are we talking about?
The main lakes in the area are Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki, Lake Ohau, Lake Ruataniwha, Lake Benmore and Lake Aviemore. Each of those lakes works in very different wind directions and has a very different character and landscape around them. During our Canterbury Lakes Surfari Trip we aim to get you out on the water on as many different lakes as possible. Usually that’s one lake per day, but if conditions ask for it, we can even move during the day from one spot to another as the distances are not that big.
Climate and water temperature:
Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki and Lake Ohau are situated in The MacKenzie Basin, which is surrounded by mountains. It is hot and very dry in summer, and cold and dry in winter. The lakes in the MacKenzie Country are glacier fed an can be fairly cold even in summer.
Lake Benmore and Aviemore are in the Waitaki valley and are a series of dammed lakes. The further downstream you go, the warmer the water gets.
With water temperatures ranging from 17-22 degrees we recommend to bring a good 4/3 wetsuit and you are well sorted on all the spots.
Water access and rigging area
Rigging is usually on grass or shingle, with water access being shingle. They can be slippery at times.
Booties aren’t a must but make life more comfortable.
Wind and water state:
In general we expect 15-25 knots of wind during our summer Canterbury Lakes Surfari. However, it can also be more or less wind. If it is too windy we can usually find a spot with less wind to get everyone on the water.
Most of those lakes are fairly long and can have a good fetch in high wind. Depending where on the lake you are and what the wind direction, waves can build up to a considerable height.
We recommend the Canterbury Lakes Surfari for wingfoiling and windsurfing. The water drops deep quick, no shallow areas. The lakes can be a bit tricky to launch and land a kite as there is often limited space on the beach or trees in the rigging and launching area.
For the lakes, we like using windy.com together with lots and lots of experience. It requires a bit of getting used to how to read the forecast for the different spots and understanding what is going to happen. There are a lot of local effects that you can’t neglect when deciding which spot to go to. As a rule of thumb: Northwest wind works on Lake Ohau, an Easterly flow gives you a good chance of wind in Aviemore.
If you attempt to explore the area by yourself, be prepared for some mindboggling beautiful and wide landscapes. You will be seriously off the beaten track and on most spots completely by yourself. This is adventure travel at it’s best.
However, with adventure comes exploring and potentially failing. It took us a long time to understand all the local weather patterns around those lakes. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get wind every day (because you might be on the wrong spot). Bring some hiking boots or a bike and make the most of what the day offers, there are plenty of great places to check out!
If you want to increase your chance of wind, join us on our Canterbury Lakes Surfari Trip. You will be at the right place at the right time. Curious to read up more about that trip? Check our blog post about our inaugural trip in 2023.