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Surfing UAE

The world’s largest man-made wave pool, designed by champion surfer Kelly Slater on Hudayriat Island in Abu Dhabi, is supplying some of the globe’s most consistent breaks.

One of the world’s most legendary surfers, Kelly Slater has ridden some gnarly breaks over the years. The multiple World Surf League champion was in his element as he took to the waters in Abu Dhabi last year to ride some of the most consistent waves in the world.

The American had not found an anomalous surf mecca in the notoriously placid waters of the Persian Gulf. Instead, he was testing the waters at the soon-to-be-opened Surf Abu Dhabi — the world’s largest man-made wave pool — which he helped to design.

The facility opened on Hudayriat Island — Abu Dhabi’s purpose-built sports and recreation island — at the end of 2023. The awe-inspiring pool generates the longest ride, largest barrel, and highest man-made wave in the world.

The wave is 100 meters long and allows for left and right breaks. Generated by an enormous 100-ton foil plough known as the “vehicle” that rides on rails. The wave intensity can be adjusted to accommodate beginners, but the system was ultimately designed to produce waves for surf competitions.

From the center’s viewing veranda, the wave crests and breaks along the track with a perfect view of Abu Dhabi’s skyscape behind it. From the sidelines with surfers on the wave, there’s an odd juxtaposition created as if the wave is cresting up out of the sky and the surfers are riding across the face of the city.

Surf Abu Dhabi is a centerpiece of developer Modon’s master plan for Hudayriat Island. The wave-making technology is based on Slater’s Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California, which has been widely considered the best man-made wave in the world up until now.

Slater who first surfed a man-made wave as a teen, said his vision has been ‘to create a soliton wave’, a self-reinforcing solitary wave that maintains its shape while it propagates at a constant velocity. That is a wave with a perfect form that would keep its shape as it rolls.

I’ve surfed hundreds of incredible waves across the world, and these waves in Abu Dhabi stack up against some of the best waves on earth.

Kelly Slater

Many still consider Slater as the best surfer in the world. And he wowed onlookers with a demonstration of his skills as he Christened the Surf Abu Dhabi facility last year. He awed onlookers hooking beautiful stalls on the lip of the wave and dropping deep in the barrel for his minute-plus first ride. He was joined by other champion surfers including Caroline Marks, Filipe Toledo, Stephanie Gilmore, Gabriel Medina and Ramzi Boukhiam, who all tested the wave and seemed blown away by its rideability.

“I’ve surfed hundreds of incredible waves across the world, and these waves in Abu Dhabi stack up against some of the best waves on earth,” said Slater. “I’ve drawn on that traveling surf education to design the wave at Surf Abu Dhabi.”

I’ve been to the Surf Ranch in California and have seen the looks of awe on the faces of old pros and amateurs alike as successive perfect waves are formed. Slater explained at the opening that Surf Abu Dhabi uses technology honed at the Surf Ranch over the last few years.

“This will provide endless fun for so many people, creating an opportunity to surf an incredible wave in a special part of the world for both experienced and beginning surfers,” he added. “This marks a new era in what’s possible in the surf world.”

Jassem Bu Ataba Al Zaabi, Chairman of the Department of Finance, Abu Dhabi, and Chairman of Modon Properties, speaking of the importance of the Hudayriyat Island project hailed it as a milestone in Abu Dhabi’s journey towards innovation and progress, embodying the city’s vision for sustainable urban planning.

Part of Modon Properties’ master plan for Huydariat Island includes a velodrome to host major cycling events. It will have a rooftop cycle track for the public. The island will also host the largest urban park in the UAE.

“It’s our dream to share the stoke of surfing with the world, and we are excited to help take the region’s surf culture to new levels,” said Jeff Fleeher, President of Kelly Slater Wave Company.