Mohammad Rahma Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai Thousands of surfers from Dubai have launched a public petition to save the iconic Sunset Beach from looming construction, saying it is the only surfing beach left in the city.

The petition, which urges the five-star Jumeirah Beach Hotel to “reconsider” the expansion of its marina along the beach in Umm Suqeim was launched on global online platform change.org. As many as 2,838 members of the 5,000-strong surfing community have so far signed the appeal.

There was no immediate comment from Jumeirah Group.

The petition says: “The Sunset Beach is at risk of being reduced in size and blocked from incoming waves. This would mean the end of Dubai’s last surfing beach and the loss of a great asset to this city.”

The picturesque open beach off the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and Burj Al Arab Hotel has long been a hotspot for the city’s surfers since other parts of the coastline like Jumeirah Beach Residence and the Palm have been closed to them following construction activities.

Previous petition

The petition says a previous appeal to stop development on Sunset Beach was successful as the authorities saw how many people would be affected. “This petition is a request to reconsider the development and perhaps reach a compromised solution that would optimise the sustainability for this stretch of Dubai’s coastline,” the petition said, adding, “We would like this to serve as a reflection of the sentiments from residents in Dubai.”

An Arab surfer said: “Sunset Beach is so easily accessible and it is here that the city’s surfing community has grown. It is the last surfing beach in Dubai and closing it would amount to an end [of surfing] for the city’s surfing community.”

He reckons the impending construction would block 60-70 per cent of the beach.

Surf Shop Arabia owner and Ignite Surfing School founder Carl de Villiers says: “The petition was started by an anonymous surfer. And clearly, it is not a criticism of the development but a ‘gracious request’ to reconsider what is being done because of the popularity of the sport.”

He says the petition comes at a time when fellow surfer Mohammad Rahma has put the UAE on the global map by being the first Emirati to take part in the International Surfing Association (ISA) World Surfing Games in Peru on October 24.

Mo, a former rugby player who was injured in Dubai Rugby 7s in 2010, took to surfing when a surgery for his injury prompted him to run in the sea as part of his rehab. It was here he spotted surfers on the water and decided to give it a go.

In a statement, California-based Mo said this week: “I want to show the UAE that we do have great waves to learn the sport, we do have facilities here to develop surfing and it’s just a matter of someone actually breaking that barrier and showing the world what we as a nation can offer.”

According to de Villiers, who is also Mo’s manager, Sunset Beach can accommodate around 200 surfers at a given time. “You will find people across nationalities and ages — five to 50 — surfing out here and it fosters a great sense of community.”

Surfer Jeremy Klynsmith from the Zoo Skatepark says: “The swell in the Arabian Gulf is very inconsistent, most times there is a very small window that we get waves, sometimes only for half a day. Sunset Beach is the epicentre of Dubai surf culture and because it’s in the city, it means that surfers can easily get a surf in before work or after work whenever the swell shows up. This will not be possible once Sunset Beach is no more and we have to travel to other emirates to find waves.”

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