Volleyball, football, cricket, surfing and more outdoor activities to try
Mercato Beach Sports to play: Frisbee. This very flat beach is a great alternative to playing Frisbee on a field, and it’s one of the city’s quieter beaches, so you’re less likely to knock someone out with a stray flying disc (which, let’s face it, nobody wants to happen). If you want to mix it up a bit, there is also a lone volleyball net on the far south side of the beach, in the direction of the Burj Al Arab.
Get started: ‘Pick-up Ultimate Frisbee is self-governed, so levels of spirit and honesty need to be high,’ says Monica Saadé, events manager at organiser Duplays. ‘Professional discs weigh 175g (look for the Wham-O brand), and you’ll need light and dark shirts to distinguish teams.’ Visit Carrefour in Mall of the Emirates (800 7 32 32) for starter discs, or log your interest in ordering a pro disc with DUPA on the forum at www.dubaiupa.com for recommendations and help. Opposite Mercato Mall in Jumeirah 1: turn right onto 71a Street from Jumeirah Beach Road, and turn right again at the T-junction. Beach access is on your left.
Kitesurfing Beach Sports to play: Beach volleyball. The extremely sociable and active nature of this beach (there is an outdoor gym, soapy soccer and usually at least a handful of kitesurfers knocking around) means that even if you arrive a few members short of two fully fledged teams, you should be able to recruit more players without too much trouble. If you find yourself tiring in the sun, there are plenty of robust parasols under which you can seek refuge.
Get started: ‘All you need is an outdoor volleyball, plus sunglasses and a hat for afternoon games,’ Monica explains. ‘You can have either two, four or six people to a team. Make boundary lines with a rope or by drawing lines in the sand, which should be smooth.’ Turn right at Safa World Mall from Jumeirah Beach Road: the beach is located at the corner of 39a Street and 2nd Street.
Jumeirah Open Beach Sports to play: Bat and ball games. Make the most of the space on this lengthy beach by playing doubles rather than singles, or getting a mini tournament going among friends, rotating partners depending on who wins and loses. There are toilets and showers here, as well as lockers in which to keep your valuables, plus picnic tables, umbrellas and a volleyball net. The beach is also well known for its running and cycling tracks, and is popular with rollerbladers.
Get started: ‘Use wooden paddles of any shape, but roughly the size of a padel tennis racket, and either ping-pong-sized plastic balls or shuttlecocks (if there’s no wind),’ says Monica. ‘If you’re not using a net, the ball must be “reachable” according to the players or your nominated ref.’ Turn right onto 47a Street from Jumeirah Beach Road, just after Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa and Palm Strip Mall, opposite Jumeirah Mosque (04 344 3379).
JBR Sports to play: Bodyboarding, kayaking and occasionally surfing. Construction work on the new mall has shifted traffic on this beach, and if you’re prepared to walk a little further to the right, you’ll find there’s plenty of room. Depending on the weather, you can try bodyboarding and surfing on the infrequent rougher days at this spot, and kayaking when the water is calmer (which is typically more often).
Get started: Nautica 1992, the watersports centre at The Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa, hires a variety of different equipment, including kayaks. The staff tell us that mornings are best for heading out for a paddle, when the water is typically calmer, up to around lunchtime. From Dhs50. Dubai Marina (050 426 2415). Access the beach via The Walk at JBR: entrances between Meydan Beach Club and The Ritz-Carlton Dubai.
Sunset Beach and Umm Suqeim Beach Sports to play: Surfing and paddleboarding. A hugely popular spot in the shadow of the Burj Al Arab, this beach is as busy with paddleboarders as it is tourist buses. Surf Dubai is located just around the corner, and you’ll often spot people ferrying boards barefoot across the road between the two. Get started: ‘When stand-up paddleboarding, keep your knees bent and stand in the centre with feet opposite each other, and look out to sea, not at your feet,’ explains Surf Shop Arabia’s Carl De Villiers, who teaches at the beach. ‘As for surfing, the best way to fast-track is to get a few lessons.’ He notes that in both instances, beginners should always opt for the biggest board possible – 9ft for surfing (available in the store), and at least 11ft for paddleboarding (check out www.coreban.com). Group lessons from Dhs125 per person. www.surfschooluae.com (04 379 1998). Lessons with Surf Dubai from Dhs125, board hire Dhs75 (050 504 3020). To access the beach, turn right before the Emarat petrol station on Beach Road in Umm Suqeim 3 (04 348 5665).
Jumeirah Beach Park Sports to play: Cricket or rounders. Beyond the park, this well-kept beach has enough length and depth to host a decent-sized game of cricket, or rounders for those who can’t get their hands on a wicket. For anyone who didn’t grow up in the UK, rounders is best described as a playground version of softball, and is much loved for the fact the rules are simple, and the game can be played in small groups. You’ll be pleased to note that the park also has showers, toilets and a small restaurant to keep players comfortable and refreshed.
Get started: ‘Though beach cricket is often improvised, keeping score makes things more interesting,’ explains David Jenkins, general manager of ICC Global Cricket Academy. ‘All you need is a bat – something with a flat, hittable surface – plus stumps (a deckchair, some wood, or a bin), and a tennis ball. Agree your boundaries, preferably closer to water to get the benefit of harder-packed sand, and play against one another to an agreed number of bowls or until everyone is out. If you want to invest, starter cricket sets, tennis rackets and balls are available at all major stores.’ Dhs5 per person, Dhs20 per vehicle. Jumeirah Beach Road, opposite Beach Park Plaza (04 349 2555).
Sunset Mall Beach Sports to play: Football, and kitesurfing for beginners. This beach has acres of space and relatively low footfall compared with many other beaches along the coast, which could be because parking is a little hard to come by. The fact that it gets great winds with little crowding makes it a good place to get started with kitesurfing – the sport after which the beach has recently been renamed (which may confuse those familiar with the original, near Saga World mall).
Get started: ‘Beach football is very different from normal football,’ explains Pat Riordan, academy manager at IFA. ‘The uneven surface makes dribbling almost impossible, so the most important technique players need to work on is getting their foot underneath the ball and scooping it up into the air.’ He recommends using a volleyball, as a normal ball will be too hard on your feet. Try Intersport at Dubai Festival City (04 206 6581). To try your hand at kitesurfing (for which you should be supervised), contact AWE Kitesurfing. Introductory semi-private lesson Dhs250, regular lesson Dhs350 per hour. www.kitesurfdubai.ae (050 558 6190). Beach access free. Turn right before Sunset Mall in Jumeirah 3, go to the end of the road.
Al Mamzar Beach Sports to play: snorkelling. There are four beaches to choose from here, but whichever you opt for in the sprawling, flora-filled beach park, make sure you’re close to the breakwaters that extend out at the sides of each small bay. Stay along the inside to ensure you’re a safe distance from jet-skiers, and dive in to check out the many brightly-coloured fish and crabs in the area. You might even spot the odd ray or two.
Get started: ‘The Aqua Lung sport range by Technishub is good quality, stylish and affordable,’ says Ceri Duff of Al Boom Diving. ‘Snorkelling itself is great for fitness and lets people see the underwater world without actually having to scuba dive.’ Dhs5 per person. Drive north on Jumeirah Beach Road and continue about 5km beyond Al Hamriya Port to the Al Mamzar residential area (04 296 6201).