Battle of the beaches

30 January 2018

Piha Beach, west of Auckland.

Battle of the beaches - did the best seashore really win?

The University of Waikato’s Professor Karin Bryan had the task of helping judge the NZ Herald’s competition to pick the country’s best beaches. Narrowing nominations down to a short list of 10, the final vote was then left to the public – with Whangamata in Coromandel the ultimate winner.

But from a scientist’s point of view, the heavy weighting towards benign, white sand, East Coast beaches and amenities missed out some of the real jewels in New Zealand’s shoreline crown - the wild West Coast. Professor Bryan says her pick would have been Piha.

“From my scientific perspective a beach is defined by surf. To me, all the inspiring problems are in the surf - how the waves transfer, curl, break and refract. Piha has Lion Rock, weird refraction patterns around the headland, and a wave climate that comes up from the Southern Ocean that is just amazing.”

Professor Bryan says surf zones are where the innovative research is, as there are still many unknowns. The way in which energy transfers from one wave to another, to rip currents, and how rip currents pulse. They are all areas she says still need to be explored.

“Those West Coast beaches are the best because the energy is so extreme, they’re doing more than any other beaches. The rip currents are pulsing, they are going in unexpected directions, they are just really exciting. So I was disappointed not to see one even in the finalist list.”

Related stories

Science and 1080

In her latest blog post, Dr Alison Campbell urges scientists and conservation workers to continue…

Erin the Engineer rocking the world of robotics

Alumna Erin Sims is taking on a traditionally male dominated industry.

Major Endeavours for researchers

University of Waikato academics have been awarded funding for a broad range of major research…

The seeds of inspiration

University of Waikato researchers have been awarded funding to investigate new ways of reducing earthquake…

Geologist, mum, volunteer, author – four seasons of career

Since graduating with a Bachelor of Science followed by a Master of Science in the…

Nevada web

Scholarships for a better environment

Seven students have been awarded WRC, Waikato Tainui - Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu scholarships.

Waikato students awarded for enviro-tech innovation

A group of Waikato students came second in the national MYOB IT Challenge last weekend…

What's holding women back?

A group of geoscientists, including Karin Bryan from the University of Waikato, have taken the…

Distinguished Alumni shine

The University of Waikato’s latest Distinguished Alumni Award recipients have taken the floor, in a…

Things are looking peachy for Hydro Nation Scholarship winner

Master of Science student Hanna Peach has won a Hydro Nation Scholarship worth $300k over…

Lakes seen from space

Waikato researchers produce the first New Zealand wide assessment of lake colours from space.

Opening girls’ eyes to science and robotics

Twenty-two Rotorua Girls High School students have been getting first-hand experience making robots in the…