I went to the Boscombe surf reef and had to laugh…
A huge high pressure has settled over the south of England and I’ve been enjoying the sun over in Boscombe, Dorset for the last few days.
You’ll probably know Boscombe as the site of the UK’s first artificial surf reef. Way before the project was even completed in October ’09, it had its fair share of naysayers all claiming that the area didn’t receive enough swell or have enough fetch for the reef to produce the promised barrelling waves.
Since the reef has been completed, the naysayers are now claiming that the reef is the wrong shape: too short, too steep, too shallow and thus it doesn’t produce surfable waves, but a short, slabbing dump instead.
Credit where it’s due, all these objections are fair enough and so far the reef hasn’t produced ‘double the amount of surfable waves’, or ‘waves rated 5 stars, if Pipeline is rated 8 stars’. The rest of the world meanwhile watches to see what effect improvements to the Boscombe Surf Reef will bring, and how it will settle in over time.
So after a few days in Boscombe whereupon it has been totally flat and there has been no action on the reef, I’ve been greatly amused, and not by any failings of the Surf Reef, but more like because of its undeniable successes.
Where I live in Newquay, we are facing what many feel is a crisis as the standard of living in town is at it its worst point in living memory. The papers and Facebook discussion forums are full of chatter about the ongoing demise of Newquay at the hands of the bars and businesses that attract binge drinkers, stags, hens, under age drinkers and general ball bags of all descriptions. Shop owners are complaining of cleaning up vomit and other secretions from their store fronts of a morning, despairing residents formed a protest march to the Town Hall in Truro, and meanwhile the town looks like it’s been bombed in places with all the abandoned hotels and developments. Something is very wrong with Newquay and know one has a clear vision of how to fix it.
Rewind ten years, and you couldn’t mention Boscombe without an instant drug association. The town was so run down that it would have made present day Newquay look like The Hamptons. Graffiti, vandalism, rubbish, drunks, druggies; Boscombe had it all.
Now though as I sit outside on the beach at Boscombe, behind me are luxury beach huts selling for £90,000 a piece (they used to be derelict with every window smashed), the Boscombe Pier (which has just won pier of the year), and gentle waterfront restaurants and bars. Deliberately absent are gaudy ‘fun pubs’ and arcades. The place is spotless, everything is intact.
The regeneration is down to the Surf Reef. If you are unaware how it has transformed Boscombe for the better, the £3million price tag may sound steep. But as a two year project that has spurred so much re growth and positive redirection of this town, it’s an incredible win.
It doesn’t matter that barrelling waves aren’t reeling across the bay, because it wasn’t the surf that attracted the developers in the first place but instead the confidence the surf reef has given investors. It’s put Boscombe on the map. Sitting here, it may be flat today but the relaxed and tranquil atmosphere reminds me of beaches in Orange County I visited years ago, or even a cool surf resort somewhere up the Eastern Coast of Oz.
The residents I’ve spoken to are all really pleased with the way things have turned out; they haven’t lost anything and have inherited a lovely beach town. I used to think that Newquay didn’t need. a surf reef as that would have been an insult to the natural resources already there, but now I can’t think of anything that would steer the town towards and beyond the world class surf resort it should have been as of years ago.