Surfing in Dubai

Monday, February 29, 2016

We escape from the cold winter days of the Northern hemisphere today to get some shelter in the exotic Dubai.
When we think of this majestic city of United Arab Emirates we all imagine anything, from luxury to architecture and nightlife, but surfing. Well, my friends, today we're here to break some stereotypes down and talk about something most of us thought impossible: surfing in Dubai!

Some years ago in Portugal I had the pleasure of meeting Caroline Wylie, a lovely girl from Scotland, hungry for adventures and sunshine. Some time later Caroline found her home in Dubai, but leaving Portugal didn't stop her chasing waves. With my astonishment, I learnt from her facebook pictures that it was actually possible to surf there!

So, how couldn't I not ask her to tell us more here?
You don't want to miss this article because it really breaks down lots of the main stereotypes about this huge global city of the Middle East. And it made me want to buy a ticket and fly over there right now!

Enjoy :)

Spending the majority of my life in a country with weather which is not afraid to test both your outfit choice and the strength of the walls on your home in the space of one day, it is no surprise that this is unfortunately not going to be a story about surfing in Scotland - I choose to live my adult life in brighter, fairer pastures.

Portugal called itself my home for the best part for three years and it held my hand while I surfed my first green wave. Sagres, that little juicy slice of the Algarve, is home to some of the happiest of memories and most of them are set with the blue skies and golden sands of the South-West Coast in the backdrop. The waves there are not always friendly - they do not always want you to have a good time - but when you surf every day, you get used to those days that the wind wins against the waves. So that, when an offshore day comes around, and the waves and the wind harmonise, it makes sure you don’t take it for granted. I still have entire days ingrained in my memory which revolve around the waves in that particular snapshot of time.

Surfing in Dubai is a little bit like this. Minus the wetsuit. The waves here are not so consistent and they don’t always come when you’re ready for them/when your schedule allows, but when they do come, it’s a simple reminder that there’s a little bit more to Dubai than meets the eye, and to most, it’s a simple reminder that there's a little bit more to life than letting your work define you and govern your time. 
The Surf House Dubai, and surroundings, are a parallel universe to the rest of living in this city. Not only the physical space, but the way it allows those ripples, those oscillations of life to become less high frequency. Surfers meet before/after a session for an acai bowl and an almond milk latte and some chats about their session. The community here is unassuming and friendly and just as in love with the water and its offerings as you’ll see in any coastal town. 

I recently read an article called “Can Anyone Save the Surf Industry” which frets over the consistently declining online searches for buzzwords about ‘surfing’ since 2004, and suggested unprofitability of clothing companies Quiksilver and Billabong, focussing on the ‘mainstream’ surf world which aggressively tries to capitalise on a sport which essentially began when some fishermen decided to stand up on a skinny flat canoe to get their fish home quicker(!). Not quite to this extreme, but because to most people (the ‘you can’t surf in Dubai!’ people), those who have figured out that you actually can, tend to be doing it for less superficial reasons and more for the sense of betterment it brings to their days. What I’m trying to say is, in Dubai, you don’t really have this feeling that the ‘mainstream surf industry’ exists. It is the core of surfing that manifests here, in those, like me, who roll their eyes when Dubai’s wave offering capabilities are questioned.

For anyone wanting to surf in Dubai, the season runs from September(ish) until April(ish) - after this, the water becomes a scolding hot, extremely unpleasant bath. The Surf House rents boards for 75 AED/hour and it’s right on the beach. Dubai is famous for its hyperbolic architecture and not really for its surfing, but one of my favourite things about that juxtaposition is that the way the sandbanks work, the only beach that you can surf in Dubai, is the one that is right next to the Burj Al Arab (the sailboat shaped building). So when you’re in the water, you’re still able to appreciate the contrast of a place where luxury and materialism can be found alongside bare feet, zinc and ripped Levi's.
And really, that’s our world.

Photography: pics 1-2-3 by James Harveypic 5 by Deus Ex Machina Arabiapic 6 by Ruan Botha
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