It may not have the muscle of Mavericks or the pull of Pipeline, but Dubai's breaks have helped carve a small surfing scene that, for the region, is in a league of its own.
Despite popular belief that the Gulf is flat, there are approximately 100 days of surf-able conditions during the winter months, at which time north-westerly winds blow onshore, generating waves of up to 4ft. As a result, a beach culture has emerged in the past 10 years that long-time expat and co-founder of surf and lifestyle concept Surf House Dubai, Scott Chambers, describes as second to none.
“Our vision has always been to show the world that you can in fact surf in Dubai,” says Chambers, who grew up here. “People have been surfing here since the late 1980s. It’s grown tremendously from literally a handful of expats at the start to a now-estimated 2000 active regular surfers and an annual event that attracts international attention.”
It also helps that the city's most famous break, Sunset Beach is located right next to Dubai's most iconic landmark the Burj Al Arab, which makes for some spectacular surf photography.
“While the waves might not be as big as in Australia, the accessibility to quality instruction, the equipment available and the culture of the local community is all world class,” says Chambers.
Brazilian-born Chambers and his Dutch-British business partner Daniel Van Dooren have been surfing in Dubai since the early 1990s and have been integral to fostering the growth both of the sport and the tight-knit beach community in Dubai. Established since 2005, their surf school was forced to close in 2013, when Dubai Municipality banned private operators on public beaches. They have since revamped with a new fitness and lifestyle concept and operate out of a villa in Umm Suqeim 2, just off Sunset Beach.
Anyone looking to experience Dubai's beach culture first-hand needs to get down to Surf House Cafe, where the vibe is laidback and the friendly regulars are sun, sand and sea-obsessed. As well as offering everything from organic coffee to healthy salads, surf apparel and late breakfasts on weekends, Surf House Dubai also rents out surf and stand-up paddleboards for just AED75 for an hour.
The in-house studio is home to a range of yoga and surf conditioning classes, as well as surf and SUP training. “We're working closely with the Dubai Sports Council and local authorities to re-introduce surf lessons on Sunset Beach,” says Chambers. “Within the next two to three months we should be able to offer services for novices through to intermediates, all with the specifically designed boards for Dubai’s conditions and ISA-certified instructors.”
Settle in for a healthy breakfast of avocado, eggs and smoked salmon with all manner of surfie folk, then make your way to Sunset Beach, where you can watch the action unfold. A stroll along the Jumeirah Corniche to the east will eventually get you to Kite Beach, where you'll need around eight to ten hours of lessons with onsite school Dukite to master this adrenaline-pumping sport. Feeling peckish? The nearby Surf Shack serves up everything from healthy juices to frozen yoghurt and burgers in between barrels. Keep an eye out for the Salt food truck if you want to join the city's hungry hipsters.
When the surf disappears during the warmer months, it's still possible to catch a wave at either the Wipe Out Flowrider at nearby waterpark Wild Wadi .