New surfers' reef fails to make waves

Town's £3m project, designed to create world-class breakers, is labelled a complete waste of money
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The Independent Online

In the parlance of the surfing community it was supposed to attract, Bournemouth's new £3m underwater reef was meant to be Gnarlatious, creating giant Honkers from Atlantic swells and so bringing in legions of Dudes and Dudettes who flock to resorts in Cornwall and Devon each year to ride Bamboras.

Instead it has turned out to be Bogus, and is making waves for all the wrong reasons.

As work on the reef at Boscombe comes to a close, surfers say there is still no sign of the promised "world-class" waves it was meant to create. Residents are furious that the project, which is more than a year behind schedule and has cost three times the original budget, is failing to deliver.

Dr Tony Butt, a surf scientist, said the swells in Bournemouth were not reliable enough to make the reef work regularly. "The reef makes the best of poor conditions, but most of the year the swells aren't the kind that will be enhanced by the reef because they're short and choppy," he said. "The reef will come into its own on the handful of times that you do get nice groomed swells from the Atlantic – but some years you don't get those type of swells at all."

The project was partly funded by selling off a beach-front car park to be developed into flats, a plan which Bournemouth councillor Ben Grower says was flawed.

"Instead of bringing great benefits to Boscombe it's just brought problems. Surfers live in vans and hardly spend anything, and now we've lost our beach car park. It hasn't helped anyone in this recession; it's a complete waste of money."

One Bournemouth resident and former professional surfer, Guy Penwarden, added: "It's a weird situation. There's already a reef up the road at Kimmeridge that's free and infinitely better." Steve Kent, the chairman of Boscombe Traders' Association, is also angry. "Businesses were preparing for a promised 20 per cent increase in trade, but it never happened because the reef was a year late. It was badly thought out and badly managed from start to finish."

However, Shaun Taylor, owner of Sorted surf shops, is still optimistic.

"It's only just been finished, so it's unfair to comment on performance yet. What I've seen so far I've been encouraged by, and we need to see a winter season if not a whole year before we pass judgement."

A spokeswoman for Bournemouth council confirmed that the structure was complete but had not been officially opened because health and safety checks were incomplete.

Mark Smith, director of tourism at Bournemouth council said: "The reef is still being fine-tuned."