Take a 'surfari' at Surf Shop Arabia

Take a surfari holiday and wave goodbye to boring beaches


The water may be calm in Dubai, but there are plenty of waves to catch nearby. Kelly Crane learns about Surf Shop Arabia’s surfaris.

Not exactly famous for big waves, swirling rips and perfectly formed tubes, Dubai rarely makes an appearance in many surf spot top 10s – or 100s for that matter. For that reason, one local surf school has decided to offer the local beach-loving community a special series of short breaks, devoted entirely to catching some bigger waves.

Carl de Villiers, 37, keen boarder and owner of Surf Shop Arabia, is the man with such a plan.

He’s calling it surfari – a cross between a surfing holiday and seeing somewhere new – and things have just launched, with destinations on the line-up including Sri Lanka, the Maldives and neighbouring Oman. Running until October 2013, surfari trips are already booking up fast.

‘Dubai’s surf community is growing,’ says Villiers. ‘There has been a real interest in learning the sport. The waves here are ideal for beginners and quite mellow. For kids, it’s the perfect activity to keep them active and healthy and for adults, many have always wanted to learn but never really had the opportunity in their home countries.’

Great weather eight months of the year – that’s minus these ‘I’m-melting’ current few – Dubai enjoys a beach-culture lifestyle and what it lacks in surf breaks it certainly makes up for in enthusiasm to learn.

‘Although the surf is actually quite good here, there are limited surf breaks along the UAE coastline. The waves cater for beginners and intermediates who are learning the sport,’ said Villiers. ‘The swells here that create the waves can sometimes be inconsistent throughout the season – so for those surfers who are looking for a bigger wave, or at least a more consistent wave, then travelling to places which offer more is a must.’

Emirati-owned Surf Shop Arabia, run by South African Villiers, has provided surf, skate and watersports equipment in the UAE since 2009.

‘Our surfaris are aimed at three different countries, each offering a unique experience,’ says Villiers. ‘Oman is the most affordable and easiest trip as we drive from Dubai.’ The accommodation is simple but perfectly situated just a stroll from the surf break or “spot” as the cool kids refer to it. ‘Sri Lanka is a magical place and is your typical “island style” vacation. It’s tropical, there are a lot of beach and point breaks to choose from,’ he says.

According to the surf guru himself it’s a guest house stay suitable for beginners, intermediates and advanced surfers.

Then there’s the daddy of surf locations – the Maldives. If you thought the atolls were only geared towards luxury-resort living, then think again.

‘This one’s the premium surf trip,’ says Villiers. ‘World class waves in paradise.’

A surfari is about ‘sharing your passion for the ocean with others’ according to Villiers.

Fun in the water, meeting new people, going on dawn patrol – surfing as the sun comes up, obviously – getting active, recharging the batteries and experiencing a vacation is food for your soul. Who knows, you might even find love.

‘We’ve had a few romances develop on these trips. It’s such a great way to meet like-minded people. Travelling as a group and sharing fun times is conducive to building friendships.’

It’s beyond radical, beyond extreme, beyond all-out danger. Simply put, it’s gnarly baby.
From Dhs1,000 (includes food, accommodation and instruction, excludes flights). info@surfshoparabia.com (04 379 1998).

Surf experiences in the UAE

Surfing lessons on Dubai’s beaches are currently on hold while licensing issues are resolved, but check out these two locations to try your hand at catching a wave.

Wadi Adventure
This Al Ain water and adventure park has a dedicated wave pool for surfers, perfect for those eager to learn but lacking the patience to wait for waves in Dubai. Lessons are also available.
From Dhs150. Al Ain (03 781 8422).

Wild Wadi
Not exactly the real thing, but the wave rider here is certainly an option for those who want to get a feel of things.
Day entry Dhs235 per person. Umm Suqeim (04 348 4444).

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