Surf-skiing is a racing sport which now has a growing following in the UAE. Designed for rough open seas, it enables a paddler to travel long distances over water and commune with nature

Imagine the scene. It is dusk and the big Arabian sun is melting into the ocean. On the water a pair of friends are paddling fast out to sea. They are breathing hard, rolling over the waves. Unexpectedly, a dolphin jumps playfully out of the water beside them. They stop, mesmerised by the vast glistening ocean and smile at each other.

It sounds too good to be true, a corny bit of make-believe fit only for the silver screen. The truth is that moments like this are within reach for anyone living in the UAE, thanks to the arrival of the surf-ski.

A surf-ski is a modern version of a kayak, the main difference being that the kayak is a boat that you sit in, whereas you sit on top of a surf-ski.

Surf-skiing is a racing sport, which now has a growing following in the UAE. It's easy to see why. Designed for rough open seas, it enables a paddler to travel long distances over water and commune with nature, which makes it a precious commodity in the UAE.

As well as being a great way to get out of air conditioning, surf-skiing provides the entire body with a thorough low-impact workout. It is excellent exercise for the upper body, especially arms and shoulders.

Interestingly it is also brilliant for the legs and stomach, as they are constantly working to keep the surf-ski balanced. Surf-ski experts say the added dimension of balance gives life and constant variation to the sport.

It is this issue of balancing the surf-ski which makes it harder for a beginner to pick up. While virtually anyone can get onto a surf-ski and paddle a short distance, becoming proficient takes time.

Wayne Randall, who runs Dubai Surf-ski and Kayak Club says: "To make progress you would need to paddle at least twice a week for 30 minutes."

Surf-skiing is a skilled activity; although beginners can enjoy it, masters of the sport have spent months, even years, progressively learning how to negotiate waves of differing scale and increasing their stamina and speed.

Extreme surf-skiers can paddle in huge sea swells and catch runs, which involves riding the top of a swell and using the energy of the wave to propel forward.

The sport originated in Australia where lifesavers were looking for ways to reach victims in the water faster. Surf-skis provided the answer. They are much quicker than sea kayaks and can handle extreme conditions better.

Soon they were used not just for saving lives but also for training. In time surf-ski racing developed. Today there are international surf-ski tournaments around the world.

The surf-ski came to the UAE in 2000 when Wayne Randall, a South African, took up the sport. He decided to get his friends interested after he developed a passion for paddling out at sea. That group of people grew into the Dubai Surf-ski and Kayak Club. Wayne runs the club from his home on the beach in Umm Suqueim.

He started with just two members and now has one hundred and ten. The club success has been, in part, down to its informal atmosphere and the camaraderie between paddlers. Twice a week there are big group meets, where members race. The majority of members are men but there is a small, dedicated group of female members.

Shelly Frost is one of them who frequently beats her male counterparts. "We women tend to have better balance than men. We don't have as much upper body strength but we can really hold our own."

Wayne's club is a growing success and testament to his hard work and commitment. His ultimate aim is to hold a World Championship in Dubai. His club may be growing in size but however big it becomes he will never forget the lifesaving origins of the sport.

He and his members provide a voluntary lifesaving service. The club has saved 25 people from drowning. Wayne himself has saved three lives.