Writer, Surfer

The Inertia

Pieces of Europe’s first artificial reef have begun to wash ashore in Bournemouth, U.K., marking an appropriately limp and sad ending to an ambitious but ill-fated project.

Built in 2009 at a cost of nearly $4 million, the project was supposed to re-invigorate the beachfront area around Boscombe pier, restoring some of the glory it enjoyed in Victorian times as a bustling and popular seaside resort. However, the project seemed to stumble from one calamity to another and has now been labelled by local residents “a sunken monument to council incompetence.”

The structure was designed by a New Zealand company called ASR Ltd and consisted of 55 giant geotextile bags anchored to the seabed, approximately 230m from the shoreline. The bags – each measuring 32 ft long – were then pumped full of sand to create the reef, and, allegedly a perfect A-frame.

The initial cost of the artificial reef was supposed to be around $1.8 million. The eventual cost was more than double the original proposal. A further $14.5 million was spent re-developing the area to accommodate the rush of visitors expected to flock to the area because of the new attraction.

The reef opened in November 2009, but was closed a mere 16 months later for safety reasons. Parts of the reef had begun to break up, creating dangerous holes in the structure which could potentially trap users underwater. A routine inspection at this time found that “substantial changes” had altered the shape of the reef and rendered it too dangerous to surf.

ASR Ltd were approached to repair the damage, but shortly after beginning work to fix the reef they went into liquidation. To date, Bournemouth City Council have been unable to trace the whereabouts of the company director, Nick Behunin.

Now the $4 million worth of sandbags submerged off Boscombe seafront have been left to hermit crabs and starfish, who have potentially had more enjoyment than those who tried to surf the reef.

When the wave opened it was a screaming disappointment. What was supposed to be a long, walled-up A-frame was in reality a short, dumpy close-out. Local bodyboarders enjoyed some mediocre days before and after the reef was officially closed, but for the most part it was an abject failure.

And now, as a final insult, the sea has begun to cough up the carcass of the reef in the form of massive geotextile bags. This has caused simmering anger among local residents to resurface, with many believing that councillors working on behalf of Bournemouth Borough City Council should be held accountable for the disaster. Local resident Aaron Arnull was more downbeat in his assessment, simply calling the appearance of parts of the reef along the shoreline “a sorry end to the whole debacle.”


Only the best. We promise.


Join our community of contributors.