SURFING AND SHOPPING AT BOURNEMOUTH REEF

News reaches me of late that Bournemouth reef now has the ‘official’ go-ahead (I thought it had had this long ago, but ‘officialdom’ moves in exceeding slow and mysterious ways) and we can expect to be surfing pristine south coast waves next October.

Well, well…

Its many moons since I last surfed the Bournemouth

area, with hot local kneeboarder Martin Corr (are you still out there Martin?). I had made the unwise decision to spend some time forging a career in London (I lasted less than a year with that ill-conceived project…) and Bournemouth was one of the best options for getting a wave if you had the great misfortune to be based in that over-crowded, over-priced corner of the country.But it wasn’t much cop to be honest – crowded, mushy and pretty shapeless, on all but two occasions when I surfed there it really was a case of making the best of a bad job as you slalomed your way through fishing lines dangling from the pier and boogie boarders and kooks clogging up the inside.

But this is all set to change. The Bournemouth Tourism press release promises a doubling in the size and consistency of the waves on the new reef, to be built 225 metres offshore at Boscombe – so good will it be that the waves will be ramped up to a ‘grade 5′ on a good swell (apparently Pipeline is a ‘grade 8′, but I’m not sure where this grading system comes from). Indeed Paul Clarke of Bournemouth Surfing Centre says it will be “…the nearest thing to an Atlantic roller this side of Cornwall” (what about Kimmeridge, I can’t help but ask…?). Whatever…

This is all going ahead thanks to the input of Dr. Kerry Black, an expert in artificial reef design and development who has also been involved in similar surf reefs in New Zealand and Australia.

And on top of the super new break at Bournemouth, surfers visiting the area will also, after emerging from a sesh on their grade 5 peaks, enjoy a veritable surf cornucopia of designer surf pods (don’t ask me…), a surf ‘academy’ (no mere surf school for Bournemouth), and a ‘surf-themed retail outlet’. I have to say that latter phrase sent a cold shiver down my spine – Top Shop meets Pipeline. Lord help us…

Right then. This being a blog forthright opinion is clearly called for on this new development in the world of UK surfing, so here’s what I think…

I’m resolutely old school, and whilst that leave me unsure about the wisdom of tinkering with Nature to create waves, I’m all for more quality surf on wave-starved areas of coastline like the English Channel. Although I have to say that it does take quite a stretch of the imagination to see Bournemouth’s surf suddenly doubling in consistency and size – it seems to me a pretty common scenario on the south coast is two-foot, gutless and onshore; well four-foot is better but gutless and onshore is still gutless and onshore…we shall see, and as the author of the upcoming third edition of Surf UK I will certainly be making the journey to the reef when it opens to see what comments it’s worthy of in ‘the definitive guide to surfing in Britain’ (ahem…).

But I seriously do wish all involved in it the best of luck.

However, we then we come to the associated onshore developments in conjunction with the reef. I’m sorry, but for us old schoolers this simply has nothing – I repeat nothing – to do with the surf experience. I’m sure I won’t be alone when I say surfing is about enjoying quality, QUIET waves with just a few mates, chilling out on a lovely beach afterwards, then popping into a nice pub for a pint before heading home, thoroughly stoked and surfed out.

The idea of designer beach huts (the ‘surf pods’), a surf ‘academy’ and God help us a surf retail outlet is truly hideous. Why not just call it Kooksville and have done with it? The ‘real’ surfers who are making the most of the reef will be lost amidst a sea of wannabes and poseurs in the shallows, the ‘pods’ and the ‘surf-themed retail outlets’ convincing themselves that yes, I’ve hired the gear and bought the t-shirt so now I’m a surfer.

I could go on – I already have for too long – but in a nutshell the reef idea is innovative and deserves to work. But what a shame it has to come with all that’s worst about 21st century surfing and living tacked on to it. ‘Surf-themed retail outlet’? – as Father Ted would have said: “Feck off!”

 

 

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