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Bournemouth artificial reef unveiled!!! (and swiftly dismissed by locals)

October 22 2009 | Artificial reefs, Jim's Blog,
by Jim

So much anticipation! So much promise! The much ballyhooed, multi-million dollar reef in Boscombe, England is finally here.


It's already been tagged "white elephant" by local press complete with the quote "It is a white elephant. Every day I see more surfers to the right of the pier than the left because, like us, they have already realised that the reef doesn’t work.”


A lot of people had visions of Hawaii coming to England's southern shores. A lot of people paid for those visions, using taxpayers' money to fund this reef.

It's never a good idea to overpromise... this was what was expected: "The reef at Boscombe is designed to provide a grade five wave on a day with a good swell which is considered to be in the "challenging" range (Hawaii Pipeline is a grade eight)." Comparing an artificial reef... any artificial reef, anywhere in the world... to Pipeline on Oahu is not a good idea. There is no where to go but down. Even if it was delivered on time, which it wasn't. Even if it was coming in under budget, which it didn't (currency conversion note: 3,000,000 pounds is $5,000,000) In a sad way this reef was simply oversold.

The "white elephant" story referenced above included a quote from ASR, the company that built the reef. They said “In the case of the Boscombe reef we have built a structure that maximises surfability of conditions that exist in the English Channel.”

Now, it would be quite easy to poke fun at the "surfability of conditions that exist in the English Channel." I think of many things when I think of the English Channel... surfing isn't one of them. Honestly, I was so confused by this reef placement that I sought the knowledge of the smartest person I know regarding swell patterns and global wave activity. I spoke with Sean Collins, the founder of Surfline. He schooled me. I said to him "I can’t figure out why they are building a reef in Bournemouth, England. Do they get any swell there at all?" and the following is his response:

"Yes, it doesn’t look like that exposed of a location as it is up in the channel and faces southerly. But when big storms begin to track down through the northern Atlantic in Fall there may some pre-frontal SSW swell that could penetrate up into the channel into the Bournemouth area. Also longer periods WSW swells will be able to feel the offshore bathymetry to wrap into the Bournemouth area. Additionally this area looks much cleaner with better wind conditions than the more exposed west coast."

My layman's version of that is... they could see some Fall waves. So. Let's not be so quick to label this reef a failure until they've actually seen a Fall. We won't have to wait long as... it's Fall now.

So before we label this the greatest heist since the dawn of bottled water... let's give this reef some time.

Related... stay tuned for the next in the "Do Artificial Reefs work?" series.
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