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Update: British surf reef opens after a year delay

News | November 6, 2009 | By:

Geotextile bags help create Europe’s first artificial surf reef.

A £3M ($5M U.S.) artificial reef project expected to open a year ago was finally unveiled Nov. 2.near the seaside coastal village of Boscombe in southern England. Construction had been delayed for months by bad weather.

The Bournemouth Borough Council finished its final safety checks with RNLI lifeguards before the official opening at 10:30 GMT. (Royal National Lifeboat Institution lifeguards carried out safety tests required and approved by the Bournemouth council.)

The reef, which more than doubled in cost since original estimates, was built by New Zealand-based ASR to enhance off-shore waves. It is part of an overall £11M ($18M U.S.) regeneration of the Bournemouth area’s seafront, including improvements at the coastal suburb of Boscombe.

The artificial reef was created to improve surfing conditions by using 55 sand-filled geotextile bags that were strategically placed 225m (740ft) off the coastline.

ASR said it was enlisted to help Bournemouth improve its surfing conditions to increase tourism. But the firm also noted that the reef would provide a much more “substantial benefit” to the beachside community in terms of coastal erosion protection.

Experienced surfers

Bournemouth Borough Council said on its website that conditions were “perfect” for surfing the reef on launch day, Monday, Nov. 2.

The RNLI undertook its training on Sunday and the council said that because of the perfect conditions, it could not miss the opportunity to launch.

Jon Weaver, marketing and events manager for Bournemouth Tourism, was quoted by BBC News on Monday: “For once, the weather appears to be on our side. Almost no sooner than the RNLI completed their training, the final stage we had to go through before we could launch, the swell is perfect—decent waves, around eight seconds apart with a gentle breeze.

“This means the reef is now officially open, and ready for experienced surfers to use at their leisure.

“It is important to remember that the reef is not a wave machine. It works to enhance the conditions that occur naturally and so, when there is no swell elsewhere, there won’t be swell on the reef either.”

Tourism officials have enlisted the help of a specialist team from Plymouth University to monitor the reef’s performance for the next 12 months to assess that it is delivering the surfing conditions expected.

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