WITH just days before the long-awaited launch of Europe’s first artificial surf reef, a water sports enthusiast has branded the £3 million attraction “a white elephant”.
Chris Roberts, whose home overlooks the reef, told the Daily Echo: “It’s on the wrong side of the pier, the wrong way round, too big and potentially dangerous.”
Businessman Mr Roberts, 31, added: “The reef is way too steep and at the wrong angle. Instead of breaking on the reef, the water runs off either side, breaking underwater. If you look closely, as we have all done for many hours, you can clearly see a ‘hand-clap’ effect whereby the water then runs directly into its own path.
“Water does spill over the top but there is no power behind it. When we get a honking south-westerly wind, the wave on that reef is gong to be really big.
“People will be surfing in a very shallow depth and running the risk that if they get it wrong they could fall straight through, which is potentially very dangerous.”
Mr Roberts added: “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.”
But Bournemouth council’s executive director for environmental services, Tony Williams, said: “The location was carefully picked to maximise opportunities of both land and sea-based regeneration, after all relevant studies confirmed that tidal and other conditions were right for an artificial surf reef to be constructed here.”
He said the underwater phase of the reef was complete and safety aspects were being finalised with the help of the RNLI.
“They are still waiting for the right conditions, including challenging waves, so they can conduct their formal training. Safety checks have all been completed successfully,” he said.
Nick Behunin, managing director of ASR, the contractor which built the reef, said: “While people may have the skills to enjoy the surf, few have the knowledge to truly understand the construction of reefs.
“ASR is the world leader in the design and construction of multi-purpose reefs. Each is designed based on the specific location, taking into account a variety of natural elements to ensure it works in concert with the environment rather than against it.
“In the case of the Boscombe reef we have built a structure that maximises surfability of conditions that exist in the English Channel.”