x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Dubai police fine surfers

Surfers at a beach in Umm Suqeim were fined by police who said they were endangering swimmers.

Surfers make their way back to the beach after being forced to stop surfing earlier today.
Surfers make their way back to the beach after being forced to stop surfing earlier today.

DUBAI // Surfers at a beach in Umm Suqeim were fined this morning by police who said they were endangering swimmers. About a dozen surfers were fined Dh200 each on the beach near the Burj Al Arab, though there were also reports that those fined included people who were only watching and had not been in the water themselves. Driving licences were confiscated from those people who were given tickets, with the promise that they would be returned once the fines had been paid.

"It seemed pretty heavy-handed," said Jason Offord, 38, who has lived and surfed in Dubai for five years. "There were guys getting fined just for having boards in their cars." The raid will dampen hopes of finding a way around official objections so that surfers and swimmers alike can enjoy the beach safely. Some surfers have proposed a flag system to indicate when conditions were more appropriate for surfing than swimming.

Mr Offord said: "I know some of the surfers are sitting down with the municipality to try and work out a way of sharing the beach between swimmers and surfers but nothing has happened yet." Surfers also claim that, far from being a hazard, they regularly save swimmers who get into trouble. "In the last five years I've personally rescued around half a dozen swimmers who have got in to trouble in that area," Mr Offord said. "With the waves and currents there are some areas where it's actually pretty dangerous to swim."

Signs on the beach warn that surfing is banned in areas designated for swimming. A rope placed about 50m out to sea has in effect turned the entire beach into a swimming-only zone. "When it first appeared nobody told us what it was for. A basic flag system and a sign saying 'swim between the flags' would solve the problem and be much safer." Mohammed Abdul Rahman Hassan, the head of marine environment and wildlife section at the municipality, said that surfers violating the beach rules would pay penalties.

"There is a signboard on the beach that clearly states that surf boards are not allowed in swimming area. It is violation of the rules if they continue to surf in such areas." He said that the action had been the result of repeated complaints by swimmers. Mr Hassan added that the coastal management section of the municipality was considering a designated area for surfers. gmcclenaghan@thenational.ae pmenon@thenational.ae