Artificial reef fails to make the right type of waves

A £3m artificial surf reef at a coastal resort is producing the wrong type of waves, too short and too difficult for the average surfing enthusiast, a report has found.

The man-made reef at Boscombe, near Bournemouth, was the first of its kind in the northern hemisphere, but has had a mixed reaction from surfers. Now the local council is withholding a £150,000 performance payment from its creator, ASR Ltd, until the problems are resolved.

The study published yesterday identified problems with the length of ride and the frequency of waves, while the waves themselves need to be "slightly less challenging" to attract journeyman surfers. The findings were based on an assessment by experts at Plymouth University showing that the reef had achieved only four of its 11 objectives since opening in November.

The reef, made of 55 sand-filled bags 225m out to sea, was intended to make surfing conditions better and attract watersports enthusiasts to the resort.

Bournemouth Borough Council's summary of the report said: "The reef does work and, in the right conditions, is producing steep, challenging waves suitable for expert surfers. But the ride is not as long as required; frequency of surfing waves is not as often as [those on] the beach; and the wave would be surfable by more people [ie intermediate as well as expert surfers] if it were slightly less challenging."

The information was partly garnered from cameras monitoring the breaking waves' shape and strength.

The council is looking at whether the reef has properly bedded in or needs more time to settle. ASR Ltd, a New Zealand firm, is to present a proposal for "refinements".

Bournemouth council's service director for leisure, Roger Brown, told the Bournemouth Echo: "Obviously there is an element of some disappointment but I always thought the reef would probably need some modifications."

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