Artificial surfing reefs have both sunk and soared in the past: Pratte’s Reef in El Segundo, California was a flop, but many consider Narrowneck, Australia's human-born reef a great triumph. ASR, the company that built Narrowneck, just completed another successful reef in Bournemouth, England and is now working on a new project: India. The proposed artificial reef will be located in Kovalam on the Arabian Sea, and will mark India's first artificial reef.
While Kovalam's numerous charms have been drawing tourists for decades, reckless development has caused severe coastal erosion in the southern Indian town. As a result, the Kerala Department of Tourism commissioned ASR (Amalgamate Solutions and Research) to build the "multi-purpose reef" with visions of restoring the fading beach and hopefully amping up the waves.
"If building a reef for surfing, we would look closely at the existing tides, wind and ground swell direction," says ASR. "Once we have the data we need, we design the reef to create optimal waves."
Multi-purpose reefs are made from ber high-tech sandbags that are secured to the ocean's floor, diverting wave energy from the shoreline. In addition to bolstering waves and beaches, MPRs make great homes for a variety of sea life: "200 species have been found living on or around the reef built in Narrowneck," says ASR.
The recently completed reef in England is Europe's first MPR, and the local stoke is palpable. "The waves at Boscombe are generally small and break close to the beach, so rides are short. Now that the reef is in place, the waves are more powerful," says Jo O'Connell of Bournemouth Tourism. "On days with good swell, decent-sized waves will peel down the right of the reef, creating a longer ride." Ed Chipperfield of The Sunday Times says, "British surfers finally have a patch of water to be proud of."
India, like England, is not exactly known as an epicenter of surf. "In a country with more than 1.2 billion people, there are only about twelve Indian guys who surf," say representatives from the INDIA Surf Club, which was created by two Florida transplants in 2006. Interest in surfing seems to be growing; however, as it turns out that India has some pretty spectacular waves in Kovalam and other spots like those featured in Taylor Steele's upcoming Castles in the Sky. The government of Kerala is hoping that their reef will be as effective as Bournemouth's, and that improved surfing conditions will boost tourism.
According to Surfing India and the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word "surf" is actually derived from the word "suffe," which was originally used in reference to the coast of, ironically, India. Maybe Kovalam's reef will bring the surf home.