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"Why we should give Boscombe surf reef time to prove itself"
Over the last few months there has been a good deal of critisism of the Boscombe surf reef and many local residents have expressed an opinion, most of which seem to be based on an incorrect understanding of the reef's capability and potential.
I have written these words in an effort to help the non-surfing community understand what the reef aims to do, and more importantly explain why we haven't seen the perfect barelling waves the local critics seem to be expecting.
Firstly, in response to those who suggested that we had excellent surfing conditions last week and that the reef was not working.
Well, frankly, we did not have anywhere near good conditions last week. Howling onshore winds did indeed produce large waves (reminiscent of a washing machine) but this practically never results in a good surfing wave.
The reef is designed to amplify an existing swell into a steep, fast wedged wave. This will not happen (assuming ASR's design is accurate) until a good solid ground swell appears at the same time as offshore winds. This is the key to the best conditions.
There is no point making accusations about bad design, or the reef being in the wrong place until we see clean, pealing waves breaking towards the end of Boscombe pier with an offshore wind.
I would urge all those suggesting otherwise to be patient and wait. The combination of ground swell with offshores is rare enough on the south coast but as we go into winter it should happen and then we can all make our judgements.
In response to the recent 'white elephant' article, to suggest that the reef is on the wrong side of the pier because the surfers go to the far side is frankly a little naive. An onshore windy wave like the last few days is normally accompanied by a strong current.
Depending on the exact wind direction the pier can act as a shelter and shield the waves from breaking quite so early and messily.
Most of the surfers will select either the right or left of the pier depending on the direction of the current, as no surfer wants to waste all their energy on paddling away from the pier which can get a tad hairy in big onshore waves.
So when you see surfers on the right of the pier more often than not this is due to a current flowing towards Bournemouth, and if they are on the left the current is normally flowing towards Southbourne.
That is not to say that sometimes (normally in calm weather with a good wave period) waves will break best on one particular side of the pier, but in recent weeks chosing a side was almost certainly due to current and tidal conditions.
I have purposely not gone into the science of surfing and forecasting but if you want to understand more I would suggest looking at ASR's website or surfing guidance such as Magicseaweed.
Whilst any local surfer reading this might think it patronising, I very much hope that some of the critical parties out there who have been so eager to dismiss the project might read this and give the reef another chance. Given the right conditions to perform as we all hope it will, it may prove a success for the local businesses and regeneration of Boscombe.
If you would like to follow up-to-date surf conditions please visit my website at www.jellyphish.co.uk.
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