Daniel Van Dooren of The Surf House explains why it is perfect conditions to learn to surf in Dubai, and where you should head to catch a wave.
Time Out Dubai staff
Dubai “The most popular surf spot here in Dubai is Sunset Beach. On a day when there are waves, you can see between 50 and 70 people out on the water at a time. It gets quite crowded but the break is probably one of the best ones here.
“The spots are getting a bit more crowded because there’s less choice. There used to be waves along the whole coast of Dubai and you could pretty much surf anywhere and you’d have different breaks. But because they built the World Islands and the Palm islands, they’ve pretty much blocked all the surf. Now there are four beaches where you can surf and they’re slowly being taken away as the years go on. For example, there used to be a really nice break near the Hilton hotel on JBR, but recently they’ve built that Dubai Eye so that’s stopping all the waves again.
“But starting from Sunset Beach all the way down to Russian Beach, they’ve built groynes, which have made the waves better. Because of the natural sand movement, the sand builds up and creates what we call a bank along the groynes. It’s called a point break – so the waves will break from the groyne, and then break down along the beach. Those have actually brought a lot more spots, which has helped out with the crowds.
Mamzar Park “Just before Sharjah, there are three bays. Because of the Palm Deira, you only get waves on the last one. The swell direction and the winds have to be right for that place to work. If it’s coming in too north-easterly, which is from Qatar way, it might not hit properly, so it’s quite hit and miss.”
Ajman & Sharjah “There are no Palm islands or World Islands, so there are waves along the whole coast. It’s all exposed to the open swell. You probably want to wear a rash vest or something a bit more covered up. You can’t just go out there with board shorts on.” Abu Dhabi “The sand gradient is very, very steady as it goes out to sea. What you need for a wave to break is deep water and then all of a sudden a shallow surface of sand or reef. If it’s gradual then it doesn’t have anything to break on. I have surfed Saadiyat Island but there are residences and the hotels so it’s difficult to get access.” Fujairah “It’s not as consistent [as Dubai]. You need to check that the conditions are right. There are waves right next to Snoopy Island. You do get reef breaks; there’s a nice break there called Tim’s Reef – named after Tim who found it and was the first person to surf it. Whenever you get a big cyclone over Oman you definitely want to head down to Fujairah because there’s going to be a good swell.”
Surfboard, paddleboard and kayak rentals Dhs75 (one hour), Dhs100 (two hours), Dhs200 (all day). Open daily 7am-6.30pm. The Surf House, Umm Suqeim Road, near Sunset Beach, www.surfingindubai.com (050 504 3020).
Daniel’s top four tips for beginners 1. “Always learn on a soft board. A lot of people try and learn on the small, high-perform short boards, but they’re very difficult to use if you’ve never done it before. You won’t be able to catch the waves or stand up. Get a big board with lots of flotation.” 2. “Always have a qualified instructor or somebody who’s got surf experience with you. It’s not advisable to rent a board and head out by yourself if you’ve never done it before. You need about three to five lessons [first].” 3. “There are rules like any sport. You can’t go out there not understanding the etiquette because you could get injured and get in people’s way. People could run over you, or you could even break your board. That’s one of the main reasons you want to go out with an instructor.” 4. “Find a good instructor. You’d be surprised how easy it actually is if you get taught correctly. [The Surf House] guarantees that you can stand up in the first lesson.” Swell searching If you want to surf some gnarly waves, The Surf House updates its online surf report at 7am each day with basic, straightforward info about the waves and the best times to catch them (www.surfingdubai.com) using information from Wind Guru (www.windguru.com) and Magic Seaweed (www.magicseaweed.com). They also have a five-day advance prediction.
The Surf House In addition to surfing lessons, The Surf House rents out boards and kayaks. What’s more, there’s a cafe serving coffee and healthy smoothies, and a shop selling merchandise from surf brands such as Mr Boho, Vampirate and Sun Bum. It also runs yoga sessions and international ‘surfaris’, plus it has a repair shop and a recording studio.