Surf's Up UK Beach Town Hopes for Hawaiian Waves

With a planned artificial reef, a British seaside resort hopes to cash in on European surfing tourism. When completed, the underwater ramp is expected to create waves as high as 13 feet.

Good waves tend to have a tractor-beam-like pull on surfers. And that's exactly the kind of draw the British seaside resort of Bournemouth is hoping to profit from soon. The city is currently building Europe's very first artificial surf reef -- once finished, it will be one of only four in the world. The seaside town was previously known only for its relatively mild breakers, but with the new project it is hoping to transform itself into a surfing mecca that will draw wave pilgrims from all across Europe.

In August, the reef's foundation -- a giant mat the size of a large football pitch -- was anchored to the Boscombe Beach seabed using cement blocks. During the next phase of construction, the 55 large geo-textile bags filled with sand that will comprise the artificial reef will be stacked up to amplify the surf, taking rolling Atlantic swells and transforming them into what planners hope will be Hawaiian-sized waves.

Graphic: Bournemouth's artificial surf reef

Graphic: Bournemouth's artificial surf reef

Similar articifial reefs have already been built for surfers in Australia and New Zealand, where officials sought to provide relief for overcrowded surfing beaches.

In Bournemouth, located on the English Channel, local officials would like to see the project provide a shot in the arm to tourism. According to the BBC, the city is already has the third largest surfing community in Britain. City planners are seeking to attract as many as 10,000 surfboard-toting visitors a year when the project is completed in autumn 2009. The project was initially scheduled for completion by the end of 2008, but inclement weather during the fall apparently led to construction delays.

Until it's completion, it will be difficult to tell exactly how big the swell will be, but estimates suggest surfers will be able to look forward to waves rising between two and four meters (6 and13 feet). So it won't be quite as dramatic as Oahu's north shore, where the Hawaiian Pipeline registers as a grade 8 wave for difficulty, but it is still being described as "challenging," with what is expected to be a grade 5 swell.

dsl -- spiegel


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