The UAE is an absolute freak of nature for surfing and incredibly unique as the shape of the Gulf is perfectly long and thin and it funnels the northwesterly shamals we get over the winter months into some good size waves for surfers. Warm waters and mild to wild waves make it a great place to learn to surf too.
Despite numerous construction projects causing the opening and closing of beaches for surfing along the coastlines, the sport has grown in popularity in the UAE with surfers, longboarders, bodyboarders and paddleboarders attacking the waves with vigour whenever a swell is on the horizon. The best time of the year for surfing in the Gulf is anytime out of the summer months, although we do get swell almost all year round but infrequently and for only a few days a month. The best months are however the cooler winter months from November to March.
Occasionally, the east coast of the UAE gets incredible cyclone swells and makes this area look like a topical paradise with long point breaks and epic surf that most people would never expect from the emirates, which is usually looking like a lake every day! A few times a year, the east coast also gets messy storms which produce some rideable waves and surfers flock from across the emirates to score some fun rides.
There is surf just about everywhere in the UAE but in various forms, strengths and shapes and at different times of the year – you just need to know where and when to look. Here is a list of the most commonly known spots:
Abu Dhabi: There is not too much to surf here barring at Saadiyat Island where there is a small wave. It generally breaks far out and fades in to be a shore break. Best on the SUP or longboard. Rumours of offshores islands in the area producing surf too.
Ghantoot: Some small waves here but when it’s bigger it tends to break far out in the middle of the bay and roll in with less power.
JBR: This used to have some excellent waves and the DEWA plant at the bottom of the Marina was a good place to surf but access is now limited by construction.
Black Palace Beach: There are waves in front of the palaces all the way down to the Burj Al Arab but don’t expect to surf them with your surfboard as these areas are privately owned so off limits to surfers. You can however sneak the occasional wave while Paddleboarding up and down the coastline here.
Sunset Beach: Dubai’s long standing main surf beach next to the Jumeirah Beach Hotel with a beautiful backdrop to the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel. This place used to have epic waves however over the years has become incredibly crowded with the beach being permanently changed by the ongoing construction of the bay. It is now a very dumpy wave which can, however offer up some barrels in the right conditions but beware of the dreggy steep waves and overcrowded surf.
Kite Beach: The addition of groynes on this beach has developed a few surf spots so scout the area next time there is a big swell, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the neat left handers coming through.
North Beach: A popular surf spot on a man-made island offering good waves for intermediate and advanced surfers. Its flat bang in the middle of some highly sought after areas for property development so enjoy it while it’s still accessible.
Mamzar: Access for surfing is limited to this beach (you may even be denied permission to surf) but on the off chance you get some waves, this spot has a great peak and works when there is a bigger swell. It can also be a little wind protected during messy swells and offer a slightly cleaner waves with less crowds.
Sharjah: There are 2 beaches here which offer good waves. Al Khan 1 is near to Mamzar (and behind the Sharjah Aquarium) and has a great beginner and intermediate wave on the left hand side of the beach; lots of good lefts on the high tide and mixed peaks down the beach on the low tide. Al Khan 2 has some waves and is close to the port. Not too many crowds on either of these areas so ideal for those surfers wanting to have a mellow surf and some waves all to themselves.
Ajman: This places gets really good when you get a big thick overnight swell and offshore winds. You can get long rides and big barrels in this emirate. Works best on mid tide and the best spots are near the jetty on the one side and the adjacent side next to all the fast food take out restaurants.
Ras Al Khaimah: Some breaks near Al Hamriyah with fun waves and lots of exploring potential. This would be a good one to visit when the swell is on, as there are some hidden spots to find.
Kalba: On the Fujairah/Kalba border there are some fun beach breaks. On the left hand side of the DU building is a long beach which is slightly protected from the wind and offers up some fun waves on a messy wind swell.
Khorfakkan: Some classic beach breaks in this area with a world class A-frame wave which forms on the left-hand side of the bay, only when cyclone conditions hit the East cost of this Emirate which is only every few years…well worth the wait!
Sandy Beach: On the far right-hand side of this popular holiday destination is the premier point break “Tim’s Reef” which is an excellent place to surf when the swell is on. However, it does get crowded with most of the Dubai surf scene driving across Emirate to chase the swell.
Dubai surf scene driving across Emirate to chase the swell.
In between all these places are spots where you can explore on your own, just follow the surf reports, obey the law of the land and go searching! There are also a number of resources for swell reports, surf trips, gear and learning to surf. For more information on the surf scene in the emirates and surrounding regions, get connected on www.surfshoparabia.com.
Words by: Carl de Villiers
Photos by: Abdel Elecho