Getting wet and wild in Abu Dhabi's Western Region
The usually tranquil coastline of Al Gharbia is about to get very wet and very wild. Crowds of surfing, wakeboarding, kayaking and kitesurfing daredevils, all eager to show off their prowess on the waves, will be hitting Mirfa Beach next week for a 10-day festival of watery antics.
It’s the third year running for the Al Gharbia Watersports festival, which has almost doubled in size since it first launched in 2009. More than 100,000 visitors are expected to attend this year, to take part in events that embrace the extreme and the gentle, the modern and the traditional, as the line-up includes competitions as diverse as wakeboarding and dhow boat racing.
Festival manager Obaid Khalfan Al Mazrouei says: ‘The programme is rich with competitions and tournaments in beach football, beach volleyball, kiteboarding, kayaking, wakeboarding, heritage and modern sailing boats, in addition to swimming. A number of heritage activities will be organised on the sidelines of the festival to enhance its appeal to different social and age groups.’
As if the fun-factor weren’t enough, there’s a total of Dhs900,000 in prize money up for grabs, which will be divided between the winners of various competitions hosted throughout the week. So, whether you’re a footie fan or a water-skiing whizz, you’ll have the chance to go home with a pocket full of cash.
Since Al Gharbia has some of the best wind and wave conditions for watersports in the UAE, one of the biggest draws of the festival is the Al Gharbia Kiteboarding Championship, which brings enthusiasts from across the Gulf and even further afield to Abu Dhabi. This year, kitesurfers will be competing in both race and freestyle categories. The freestyling contest is a chance for the pros to pull off jaw-dropping stunts such as bee stings, front flips, hoochie glides and all sorts of other gravity-defying showstoppers. The winner in each of the categories (Emirati, women and general) get a Dhs10,000 reward. But if you’re not quite up to joining in the competitions just yet, head to the Kitepro Abu Dhabi base for a free trial session. Look for a white flag with a flying fish, where team members will be stationed throughout the festival, or, to book a free lesson in advance, just call Sameh on 050 544 1494. Kitesurfing races are on Fridays and Saturdays, but during the weekdays free trials or lessons will be held all day.
If you prefer to keep your feet dry, there’s still plenty more to do on Mirfa beach. Beach volleyball and beach football contests will be on every evening, but if even that sounds too active, you can take the chance to find out about Abu Dhabi’s heritage. A series of traditional-style Bedouin tents will be available for visitors to explore, and an old-style souk will be open for business.
Al Gharbia Watersports Festival 2011 March24-April 2. Mirfa Public Beach, Al Gharbia. For directions and information about the festival visit www.algharbiafestivals.com
Don’t miss out on these events and activities
March 24 If you want to check out the whole festival from up in the air, book a parasailing session
March 25 The Kite Surfing Championship launches today – even if you’re not competing yourself, the freestyling contest will be really worth watching. You’ll be awed by the tricks these guys can do
March 26 Watch experts take time-honoured boats out on the waves in the Traditional Dhow Race
March 31 Like to keep things simple? Sign up for a good old-fashioned swimming race
April 2 Join in with the beach football and volleyball contests taking place all evening