Artificial reef fails to win surfers' approval

By Joel Ford

Leading surfers doubt whether Mount Maunganui's $1.5 million artificial surf reef will ever create a world-class wave.

The reef - the first of its kind in New Zealand - is about 250m offshore at Tay St.

But when the Surfing New Zealand Pro national competition was held at Tay St on February 10-11, not one competitor tried to surf the reef.

They instead chose to surf the sandbanks to the right of the reef where better waves were breaking.

Members of the surfing community have told the Bay of Plenty Times they are growing increasingly sceptical about the reef's effectiveness.

Mount-based Cory Scott, who is photographer and photo editor for Kiwi Surf magazine, said he did not see one decent wave break at the reef in eight hours during the recent national competition.

"You see better waves breaking at Omanu or Papamoa," he said.

Andy Jordan - a former top-level national competitor and surfboard shaper to local hotshot surfer Matt Hewitt - has tried the reef several times but said he "wasn't holding his breath" for it to work.

Mr Jordan also questioned why the reef was placed at Tay St. "I don't know why they stuck it out there, it's sort of in the middle of nowhere."

James Hoare, who runs the New Zealand Surf School from dunes overlooking the reef, said he had had just two "really good" days surfing there in recent months.

Mount Reef Trust executive officer David Neilson said he could understand the criticism, but defended the overall design and said it was too early to write the project off.

"I ain't going to give up ... I know it's going to work."


Bad Breaks

* Plans for a surf reef at Mt Maunganui have struggled since the idea was proposed in the late 1990s.

* Construction started in November 2005 but is still not finished.

* A large sand bar in front of the reef has stopped waves breaking where they were supposed to.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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