Sunset Beach, Dubai: one of the best waves for surfing in the United Arab Emirates | Photo: Surf House Dubai

Umm Suqeim Beach, also known as Sunset Beach, is the home of surfing in Dubai. Here's why and how the Emirati surf break became a swell magnet in the region.

Nothing is pure coincidence, but there's hardly any resemblance between the infamous Hawaiian Sunset Beach and the Arabian Sunset Beach. Well, maybe the water temperature.

And that's it. But there are reasons to stay positive and open-minded if you're a surfer and visit or live in the former crane capital of the world.

Despite facing the nearly closed Persian Gulf, the Dubai shoreline gets its best waves thanks to the low-pressure systems forming at the northern end of the Gulf, near Kuwait, and the strong northwesterly winds that blow past Bahrain and Qatar.

But there are no miracles in geography and oceanography.

Waves are created when the wind blows over large surfaces of water, creating ripples, wave trains, and swells after traveling long distances.

The Persian Gulf, also known as the Arabian Gulf, is 615 miles (990 kilometers) long, half the length needed to create a genuine groundswell.

So, like the Baltic Sea, it can only generate short to medium-period swells.

The good news is that it's long enough to produce surprisingly good waves, especially in the winter season, which goes from the end of October to the middle of April.

And if you're picky about the intensity of the swells, December, January, and February are the best and most favorable months to surf in Dubai.

Not bad at all, given the circumstances.

Consequently, around a dozen times yearly, the Emirate's jagged coastline gets solid six-foot waves perfect for challenging surf sessions.

Throughout the rest of the year, the United Arab Emirates's (UAE) most populous territory gets relatively small waves generated by local winds.

If you're okay with grabbing a longboard and making the most of everything available, you'll be happy in Dubai as a surfer.

Moreover, the average water temperature is 83.7 °F (28.7 °C), meaning you'll never need a wetsuit.

Umm Suqeim Beach: the best months for surfing are December, January and February | Photo: Surf House Dubai

History of Surfing in Dubai

A former fishing village established in the early 1800s, Dubai evolved from a pearl culture site to a gold trade and then to the oil extraction business after 1966.

Surfing in Dubai started around 1990-1994, but the first boom really occurred at the turn of the millennium.

Scott Chambers, founder of the Surf House Dubai, and his friends pioneered wave-riding in the Emirate and launched the seeds of a local surf culture.

Today, the one-stop shop is the center of the national surfing community and a meeting point for expatriate surfers.

You can buy, rent, and repair surfboards, book surfing lessons, or eat and drink something at the Single Fin Café, including vegan-based meals.

The downside is that the construction of the Palm Islands and The World Islands created breakwater-like structures that reduce the number of swells reaching the white sand beaches.

As a result, the Emirate's surfing zones were reduced to a couple of rideable breaks.

Still, Dubai is currently home to 2,000 active regular surfers.

The Sunset Open is Dubai's ultimate surfing competition. It has been running since 2010 and showcases the finest local and expatriate talents.

It was initially run at Sunset Beach but has moved to Kite Beach with over 100 participants across several contest divisions.

Kite Beach, Dubai: the home of Sunset Open surfing competition | Photo: Surf House Dubai

Umm Suqeim Beach, AKA Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach is the capital of surfing in Dubai, and it's quite impossible to miss it.

The spiritual home of the Emirate's wave-riding scene sits half a mile (800 meters) north of Jumeirah Beach and the 689-foot (210-meter) high luxury hotel, Bur Al Arab.

Besides surfing, the idyllic beach with impressive Arabian sunsets and crystal-clear warm water is a place for night swimming sessions thanks to its artificial lighting system that is on until midnight.

Before or after a relaxed surf at the transparent waves, you can stroll and shop in the nearby luxury stores, borrow a book from the library station, or replenish your calorie intake with delicious parathas and fish options available in the vicinity.

Sunset Beach likely earned its name due to its location near the Burj Al Arab.

The tranquil coastal stretch offers unobstructed and stunning views of the sun setting or rising, with the iconic Dubai landmark in the background.

Nearly all the surf shots at Umm Suqeim Beach feature the high-rise building, especially the left-hand rides.

Dubai's premier surf spot is a beach break with highly sensitive sand banks that can shift with swells and tides.

The stretch of sand is split into swimming and surfing-only zones, all of which are supervised by lifeguards year-round.

The best wave peaks are located in the center of the beach, while both ends tend to provide smaller, wind-protect waves.

Although it can get crowded, the vibes at Sunset Beach are welcoming and laid-back.

On bigger swell weekdays, you could be among the few getting the best waves.

Shortboards are usually the best choice for the first day of a bigger swell, followed by larger volume models or even longboards on the following days.

When it comes to the tide, the best waves can be ridden on a rising tide.

Swells with more pulse could provide rideable waves even at high tide, but heavy closeouts at low tides are expected during spring tides.

Sunset Beach is just 500 yards away from Kite Beach, a long stretch of fine sand that is the go-to spot for, as its name implies, the local kitesurfing community.

Dubai's most famous surf break is 87 miles (140 kilometers) from a break that pumps perfect waves all year round: Surf Abu Dhabi, the wave pool developed by 11-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater.


Words by Luís MP | Founder of SurferToday.com

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