The kilometre-wide strip at Sunset Beach, at the height of season, is packed. As the coastline gets ever more developed, and more palm-shaped protrusions added to it, Dubai’s significant population of surfers have seen their surf spots slowly deplete. Danny Van Doreen, who heads up Surf Dubai, is one of those surfers. ‘When I was growing up, we used to have waves along the whole coastline but now you only find waves on Sunset Beach,’ says Van Doreen. ‘That means you get 100 surfers packed into one area. It can get pretty busy.
He’s also adamant that things just weren’t like this in the old days: ‘The waves have definitely lost their power. They just can’t come in because they’re blocked by these offshore constructions.’ It’s for this reason that Surf Dubai has decided to let frustrated surfers in on one of their best-kept secrets: an isolated, pristine beach, just over three hours from Muscat in Oman that offers consistently good right hand point break waves. ‘The wave wraps constantly around the point and always goes in the same direction, so no matter what type of wave comes in it’s always going to come in from the right.
‘The first trip we did to Al Asilah was back in 2000. There are great waves on offer, particularly at this time of year, which is great during the summer.’ Van Doreen explains that the surfing really is non-existent in Dubai at this time of year and that Oman offers some relief from these long months of pond-like surf. ‘We get the odd swell every one or two weeks in Dubai, like two days of constant one or two feet waves. Al Asilah is on the point of a massive bay, so the waves are a lot smaller by the time they hit the bay, perfect for beginners, but if you go right to the tip of the point that’s where the maximum power of the wave is. This is great for intermediate surfers.’
Heading out, road-trip style, Surf Dubai takes groups on the eight-hour journey to Al Asilah, providing all camping gear, surfing equipment and food. ‘It’s over three days so we give everyone the usual ABC surf lesson, which is according to the British Surfing Association criteria. After the three days complete beginners should be surfing comfortably by themselves and having fun,’ Van Doreen says. The group has also managed to attract the attention of a group of locals. ‘We left some boards a few trips ago and started them off with a couple of lessons. Now they’re hooked. They get better and better every time we see them.’ From the sounds of things, Surf Dubai has managed to roll up, camp and take over the beach for a weekend without stepping on any locals’ toes. ‘Every time we go down they join us, bring along some local food, coffee and dates and are really stoked to see us.’
Van Doreen reckons that Oman represents an overlooked opportunity for Gulf surfers. With the country’s southern coast almost entirely undeveloped, he’s keen to explore further: ‘There is potential for world-class waves in Oman,’ he insists. ‘It’s very fickle though, you just have to catch it in a period of between an hour to three hours.’
But what about the Dubai scene? Keen surfers can’t pack off to Oman every weekend, and the proposed artificial reef that would provide Dubai surfers with persistently strong waves remains firmly on the distant horizon. ‘It’s not great here, but we do get fun waves, good enough to keep us sane, basically. While it doesn’t compare to world class waves, this is perfect for the beginner; the water is warm all year round and there aren’t many dangers out there for the surfer. It’s a good place to come back to for practice.’
Surfing in Dubai was almost wiped out earlier this year when the Municipality placed a ban on surfing at Sunset Beach, saying the sport was a danger to swimmers. ‘We’re still working with the municipality on this, but they’re not banning surfers anymore. They’ve realised now that we’re a good thing for the community. Surfers rescue swimmers.’
The next Surf Oman excursion takes place on September 17, Dhs1,200 per person, including transportation, food, lessons and all camping gear. For bookings call 050 346 3558 or see www.surfingdubai.com. Lessons in Dubai continue during the local peak season, from October through to June.