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1st Days Surf On The Mt Maunganui Artificial Reef

Press Release 21.12.2005

Breaking News For The Mount Reef

A review of the first days surfing for the Mt Maunganui Artificial Reef by

Extensive photo galleries of Sunday's action can be viewed at:

Click for big version

New Zealand's first artificial surfing reef roared to life Sunday morning producing some fascinating chest to shoulder high waves for local Mt Maunganui surfers.

A small (and rather soft) northeast swell supplied clean one metre swells to the Mt Maunganui Coast. With the artificial reef's large bags almost full and ready to go, the reef finally had a chance to produce some waves. Clean waist to head-high set waves peaked over the reef with some spectacular results.

A large group surfers surfed the reef throughout the day. Body boarders took a particular liking to the reef - the steep powerful waves were perfectly suited to their style of surfing. Most were risking it all by pulling into deep tubes and occasionally making it out the other end.

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Stand up surfers were still coming to terms with the challenging takeoff section with wipeouts a common occurrence. Some managed short but exciting rides.

New Zealand's first man-made wave - how does it measure-up?

The waves produced by the reef were very short, sharp and powerful. Only the larger set waves broke over the reef. Between waves surfers had to contend with long waiting periods during lulls in the the swell. Occasionally swells merged to the surprise of surfers in the form of a single powerful double wave. This often produced some strange looking and powerful slabs of moving water which added to the entertainment value for onlookers who had gathered at Mt Maungaui's Tay Street.

Many of the waves consisted of a very steep takeoff followed by a short fast wall of water. From there it would break through to the edge of the reef and quickly fade into deep water. During the day at least two surfers managed to continue their ride from the reef through to the inner beach. Most waves disappeared before making the link.

Surfers in the water reported a occasional heavy double waves. The Mount Reef team confirm this saying that two humps were formed in the large bag where the inlet valves for pumping in sand are located. These humps should flatten out once some larger swells hit the reef.

Click for big version

It important to keep in mind that the construction of the reef is still to be completed as per original design, and as it stands less than half of the artificial reef has been installed. We must also take into account the nature of the swell on Sunday, which was quite soft and lacked power.

Even in it's current unfinished state it has the potential to attract surfers who are looking for something a little different along with a good challenge. At lower tides the reef can become extremely shallow, the Mount Reef people tell us that it is quite possible that it could suck dry 15 metres ahead of the takeoff during big swells at low tide. This will no doubt attract the thrill seekers look for that adrenaline rush.

With solid clean groundswell conditions present, the reef looks as though it has the potential to work, if not work well, time will tell. Larger swells should also have more of chance to break further seaward and have the energy to link with the inside sections of the beach hopefully providing longer rides, which is the aspect missing at present.

Improving and finishing the Reef - What's next?

The ASR / Mount Reef Trust team have faced an unusual and rare challenge from the BOP waters during the construction of the reef - an abundance of swell. With the lack of southwesterly winds and abundance of northerly weather activity, this has meant a series of small northerly and east swells to contend with. The equipment and barge used in the construction process is extremely limited as far as operating when any swell is present. This has meant long interruptions to the schedule.

"It will only take a day or two to complete the filling of the smaller bags on the eastern side of the reef and to top up the seaward side of the big bags which are about 1.5m lower than the beach end. Another six days of perfect weather after that should see the whole of the western side of the reef completed and the reef finally ready to function as designed. We've been plagued with constant swell throughout, and even the smallest swell means we have to stop work and wait for it to drop", said Mount Reef Executive Officer David Neilson.

“As it stands the reef's three large geotextile bags are almost full, along with two of the smaller seaward positioned bags. Four smaller bags are still to be filled. Because only one half of the reef is in place, there isn’t a focus at the start to gradually build and shape the waves. Instead waves are coming over the deep and shallow sections at the side causing the wave to break half way down the big bag at the humps. This explains why the wave currently lacks length of ride and shape”, said ASR Ltd reef designer Dr. Kerry Black.

Construction is set to begin again possibly February next year with the finishing and filling of bags on the left-hander and construction of the right-hander. Having the whole reef in place will give it an opportunity to function as it was tested and designed to do.

"The reef was never designed to function as a single left-hand break. Once we have the whole delta shape in place the reef will offer a far wider window for multiple swell directions allowing certain swells to peel around either way. At the moment swells with a lot of east tend to slam head on into the left-hander rather than peeling down the bags", says David Neilson.

The reef sea floor features a dramatic slope of 1.0 -1.5 metres on the seaward end of the bags. This is in conjunction with the under filled seaward end of the big bags is affecting the reefs ability to break a wave at the reef start. Filling the smaller bags near this end of the reef, topping up the large bags and putting in the right-hander should improve the length of ride dramatically.

The other interesting factor is the effect the reef will have on the sea floor between the reef and the beach. It is quite possible for a sand build-up to arise in the lee of the reef, again increasing the possibility that waves breaking on the reef will continue and link through to the beach providing rides in excess of 100m.

For more information about the Mount Reef:

About the designers of the Mount Reef:

Photo Galleries of the Mount Reef in action:

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