Page last updated at 18:20 GMT, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 19:20 UK

Artificial surf reef is complete


The Boscombe surf reef was first expected to open in October 2008

Europe's first artificial surf reef has been completed off Boscombe in Dorset.

However, the delayed £3m project cannot be officially launched until Bournemouth Borough Council has carried out tests with RNLI lifeguards on it.

Bad weather on Wednesday meant scheduled training had to be cancelled, the council said.

The surf reef, which has more than doubled in cost, is part of an £11m regeneration of the seafront. A launch date has not yet been set.

It was expected to open in October 2008, but construction was halted until April due to bad weather conditions.

Councillor Beverley Dunlop, cabinet member for leisure and tourism, said: "Understandably we are disappointed with today's delay, but this is such a crucial part of the completion process which must be executed properly.

'Not demanding enough'

"Though the underwater phase is now complete Bournemouth Borough Council still have to finalise all its safety aspects.

"This involves testing the reef's lifeguarding facility and so we have to wait for the perfect conditions for the RNLI.

"The lifeguards need to be prepared for every situation in order for us to officially open the surf reef to the public."

Barry Heathfield, RNLI divisional lifeguard manager for Dorset, said: "RNLI Lifeguards work and train in a variety of conditions, however, the new artificial surf reef brings its own challenges.

"Unfortunately today's weather conditions were not demanding enough to put the lifeguards through the specialist training they need in ski and swim rescue surf conditions."

The reef was built by New Zealand-based ASR to enhance waves and improve surfing conditions using 55 sand-filled "geotextile bags" which are 225m (740ft) out to sea.

ASR said it was enlisted to help Bournemouth improve its surfing conditions in order to increase tourism, but that the reef would provide a much more "substantial benefit" to the beachside community in terms of coastal protection.

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