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Surfing in the UAE

UAE-based surfer Daniel Van Dooren on taking to the waves off our coast

2017-04-17

By Christopher Maxwell

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© ITP Images

With a coastline stretching more than 800 miles and a steady flow of decent waves, the UAE is a good spot for surfing.

Okay, so coastal redevelopment has lessened the allure in the past decade, but avid surfers such as Daniel Van Dooren believe there is still plenty of action to be had if you know where to look.

Van Dooren began teaching the sport back in 2005 and has played a major role in progressing the nations’s surfing scene. And, although he feels Saadiyat Island is Abu Dhabi’s only decent surfable spot (the capital’s shallow ocean bed causes a lack of wave breaks), if you venture to the northern emirates you’re almost spoilt for choice.

“Dubai is a great place to surf,” he tells Time Out. “The waves are two to three feet every day, which is about waist height. On average you get 90 to 100 days of surfing a year there. Ajman and Sharjah are also good spots, with waves along the whole coast. It’s all exposed to the open swell.

“But you probably want to wear a rash vest or something a bit more covered up. You can’t just go out there with board shorts on.”

And, last but not least on Van Dooren’s hit list of top UAE surfing destinations is our most easterly emirate, Fujairah.


“There are waves right next to Snoopy Island. You do get reef breaks; there’s a nice break there called Tim’s Reef. And whenever you get a big cyclone over Oman you definitely want to head to Fujairah because there’s going to be a good swell.”

With surfing season set to end in May, Van Dooren, who is co-founder of The Surf House Dubai, says now is the time to get out there. You might want to take a few lessons at Al Ain’s Wadi Adventure first, though.
Group lessons start from Dhs100 per person. Wadi Adventure, Al Ain, www.wadiadventure.ae (03 781 8422).

Before you get started...

Daniel Van Dooren’s expert advice for beginners

Check the reports
“The Surf House updates its online surf report at 7am each day with straightforward information about the waves and the best times to catch them (www.surfingdubai.com) using information from
Wind Guru (www.windguru.com) and Magic Seaweed (www.magicseaweed.com). We also have a five-day forecast.”

Don’t surf solo
“Always have a qualified instructor or somebody who has surf experience with you. It’s not advisable to rent a board and head out by yourself if it is your first time surfing. You need about three to five lessons before heading out.”

Know the ways of the waves
“There are rules like any sport. You can’t go out there not understanding the etiquette because you could get injured and get in people’s way. People could run over you, or you could even break your board. That’s one of the main reasons you want to go out with an instructor.”

Learn on a soft board
“A lot of people try and learn on the small, high-perform short boards, but they’re very difficult to use if you’ve never done it before. You won’t be able to catch the waves or stand up. Get a big board with lots of flotation.”

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