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Page last updated at 09:59 GMT, Monday, 2 November 2009
Boscombe's surf reef project
A surfer runs into the sea
The surf reef was originally costed at 1.4m but grew to 3m

The project to build the surf reef off Boscombe beach has faced many delays, and was originally supposed to be finished by October 2008.

The project was budgeted at £1.4m but grew to £3m after bad weather caused a halt in construction between November 2008 and April 2009.

Revised plans had hoped it would be ready by August 2009.

Its opening on November 2, after final checks with RNLI lifeguards, is over a year later than originally hoped for.


The reef forms part of an £11m regeneration of Boscombe.

Bournemouth Borough Council hope that it, as the centrepiece of Boscombe's regeneration plans, will help attract up to 200,000 visitors to the area and 10,000 surfers to the reef itself each year.

The regeneration plans also include new business premises, flats, and "beach pods" - or beach huts.

Launched in May 2009, they were designed by Wayne Hemingway and were priced up to £90,000.

About the reef

Bournemouth already has the third largest surfing community in the UK.

The town had been hoping for a surf reef for nearly 10 years before work on it began.

It is the first construction of its kind in Europe (there are only three artificial surf reefs in the world - Queensland and Cables in Australia, and at Mt. Maunganu in New Zealand).

Building the reef was a long and complicated project, and the reef itself consists of 55 sand-filled "geotextile bags".

It covers an area the size of a football pitch, underwater, and is 250m from the shore.

It has been designed by Dr Kerry Black, a research scientist at the National Institute of Water and Atmosphere in New Zealand.

The man-made reef imitates the effects of a natural reef and is built from specially constructed geo-textile (ie "ecologically inert") bags filled with sand.

These weigh up to 2,500 tonnes and are up to 70m long, 2m high and 6m wide.

A cross-section of the surf reef
The surf reef acts like a ramp, pushing waves upwards

How does an artificial reef work?

An artificial surf reef works by amplifying the surf, so is still weather dependent to create the waves.

It acts like a ramp and pushes the waves upwards which increases their size and shapes them into 'surf-able' waves.

As well as the size of the waves, the number of days of good surfing conditions should also increase.

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).

Building the Reef

The reef is constructed in two layers: the bottom layer sits on the sea bed and consists of huge sand bags laying on a mat to prevent them from sinking.

These are held in place by straps resembling "large seat belts".

This is followed by a second layer of further huge sand bags lying on top of the bottom bags.

Folded reef section
A 260-metre-long pipe pumped sand from Boscombe beach out to the reef

They are then tied together and then moved onto the seabed as one complete unit.

A crane folds this into a "concertina", loads it onto a barge and transports it to the site.

It was at this point, in August 2008, that the reef's construction slowed.

Weather conditions to transport and unload the reef on site had to be good enough for divers to attach it to the sea floor using pre-placed anchors.

Further bad weather throughout the autumn and winter meant this was not carried out until April 2009.

Then, in August 2009 the council announced they were carrying out "final checks" on the reef before they could announce its completion.

Will the reef damage marine life?

The team behind the reef say it is likely that marine life will thrive on it, becoming, over time, a busy habitat itself.

Divers report that cuttlefish, spider crabs and a variety of fish have already begun to use the reef as a habitat.

Bournemouth Borough Council say they have worked closely with Bournemouth University and marine biologists at Bournemouth's Oceanarium to monitor marine life on site.

And for a year after the reef's opening, teams from Plymouth University are to monitor its effectiveness.

They will observe the size and power of the reef's waves and the number of surfers using it.

Surf reef safety questions raised
28 Sep 09 |  Dorset


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