Europe’s First Artificial Reef Fails to Live Up to Buzz

May 20, 2010 Updated: May 20, 2010

LONDON—It has generated the equivalent of £10 million ($US14.7 million) in publicity amid claims it would create a surfing paradise on Britain's south coast. But the problem with Europe’s first artificial reef, built in Dorset six months ago, is that it doesn’t work.

According to a six-month assessment conducted by Dr. Mark Davidson of Plymouth University, “surfing conditions are less consistent than the beach.”

Dr. Mark Davidson of Plymouth University found that surfers use the nearby beach more than the reef, which was designed and constructed by a New Zealand firm called ASR Ltd. at the behest of the local council.

The company’s consultants are now being brought back to reshape part of the reef, as Bournemouth Borough Council is withholding $220,000 from the firm under a performance-related payment clause in the contract.

For months, locals have been complaining about the poor quality of the surf.

One Boscombe surfer told the Telegraph, “The reef is not what it ought to have been—the waves were better before—but it’s been fantastic for Bournemouth.”

Despite the reef’s shortcomings, the hype around it has generated enough buzz to drive up the town’s popularity as a water sports haven.

The council estimates that the reef has generated the equivalent of around £10 million in publicity, which has attracted a large number of people to the area.

Roger Brown, head of Leisure Services of the Bournemouth Council, told the Telegraph, “It is clear that the reef is capable of producing surfable waves. However, these waves are extremely challenging, do not give the length of ride we would expect, and are not as frequent as required.”

He said the project had seen a 32 percent increase in visitor numbers since the installation of the reef, with house prices increasing by 25 percent.